So far, I’ve blogged a fair bit about my passion for climbing and what it’s taught me. However, one of my first real head-fake lessons came from Bikram yoga. Bikram is a series of 26 yoga postures and 2 breathing exercises done in a 105 degree heated room. Yeah, that’s hot. (No, not that kind of hot – if you think about doing yoga to catch the eye of that cutie, just read this Best of Craigslist ad, Yoga Mat for Sale).
Bikram has a lot of rules and is not without its critics. You’ll have to research it, experience it, find out for yourself what you think of it. I simply offer up what it taught me. And why it keeps me going back. Not religiously, but periodically. Especially when I know my ego needs a kick in the pants.
When I first entered the hot, steamy, humid, somewhat smelly room, it takes your breath away. If it’s winter, you might think “Yee-haw, a free trip to the Caribbean! With an essence of body odor!” If it’s summer in DC, your body might wonder if you checked your sanity at the door, since you just left the same weather outside.
When the instructor walked into my first class, she told the newbies that our sole goal was to stay in the room. If we felt nauseous or dizzy, we could sit down, but we were absolutely not to leave the room. It’s been years ago, so I can’t recount the details of how my first session went, but I do remember thinking that they weren’t kidding. It was all I could do to stay in the room. But if you can imagine what this feels like after 90 minutes of torture….
Then you might imagine the incredible feeling of peace and relaxation that hit every ounce of my body – my joints, my back, my brain, my toes, my face, my elbows, down to my finger- and toenails. Relax that jaw – did you know you were clenching it? Let the tongue rest in the back of your mouth. That incessant inner monologue, the one that won’t shut up and leave you alone – there was no place for it in that room. It gets crowded out by sweat, by nausea, by sheer effort. I remember a friend telling me once when she tried it, that she had never been so uncomfortable, yet so entirely present in the moment in her life.
Since that first class, I now hold “staying in the room” as a mantra. Finding, following, living and sustaining your passion is no picnic. It’s no walk in the park. It’s not glee and happiness all the time. (That’s what you get after having been tortured by Bikram, sitting back watching an episode of Glee, while drinking an ice-cold mango/peach coconut water. Because the first time you tried drinking a beer after Bikram, you about passed out.)
Sometimes, it seems like no one gets you. Sometimes, the day starts out on the wrong foot, the metro’s Red Line fails, your boss throws some unexpected task your way, your customers are unhappy. Sometimes, you can’t fire up your imagination to write a blog entry, to get anything off of your to-do list. Whatever. Those days, you just have to stay in the room. Take all of your focus and bet it on keeping your balance. Don’t fly off the handle. Don’t aggravate the situation. Just be. Just stay in the room. I didn’t know how to do that before. But I promise you, Bikram will teach you – no YOU will teach you how. If you just stay in the room, what awaits you on the other side of your effort is not unlike that final blissful savasana. You can thank yourself for your courage, your patience, your strength at the end of the day.
Others have written about the challenge of staying in the room, like Bikram Yoga Chick.
Some, like Big G’s Bikram Infinity, protest that it’s not about staying in the room, it’s about learning to enjoy the process. (Perhaps if you’re sadistic, you might think. But I can vouch for a certain Pavlovian response when that heat, humidity and smell hits my nostrils. My muscles get twitchy, hungry for the effort and the release.)
Hannah, Just Breathe writes about using that process to connect with herself. Front row. Eyes in the mirror.
It’s your comfort zone. Expand it. Just be sure to drink a lot of water.