It was a Saturday afternoon, and I packed shorts and a top, my water bottle, a towel and mat, and prepared to drive down a relatively busy street in my city.
I walked into the building, went down the stairs, and saw the sign on the door, “Bikram Yoga.” I breathed a sigh of relief–at least I had found the right place.
It was January 12, 2008.
It was my first Bikram yoga class.
And of course, I was nervous and hesitant. The studio website described the class as a 90-minute invigorating practice that heals all ligaments and organs in the body–the benefits sounded pretty good. However, the heated process sounded rather challenging, and to a first-timer, perhaps even a tad terrifying.
With a deep breath, I turned the doorknob, and entered the studio. I remember being immediately overwhelmed by the temperature in the lobby, much warmer than outside in the hallway. I remember seeing the teachers behind the desk clad in sweatshirts, and wondered how I was going to make it through this. Nonetheless, I introduced myself, and received Ingrid, the teacher’s, description of the first class: it’s hot, if you feel dizzy or nauseous it’s normal, all you want to do is try to stay in the room. Soon, Ingrid handed me a mat and towel and told me to go in the hot room and get used to the heat. “You’ll be fine, just breathe,” she assured me.
Cautiously, I entered the heatbox, and oh man, was I immediately overcome by the humidity! I was slightly worried–how would I be able to stay in here for the entire 90 minutes? I immediately set up in the back corner of the room, closest to the door: a strategic decision, with the mindset that if necessary, I can run out with the least disturbance to the rest of the class–or at least the fewest possible number of people laughing at my escape.
The actual class has not remained in my mind as vividly as the moments before class–perhaps the heat slightly dulled my sensual observations, or maybe I was too fearful of embarrassing myself with my inexperience to observe anything too astutely. Anyways, I do remember that I was exhausted by half moon, not knowing how all these people do it–my arms felt like lead as I raised them above my head. In fixed firm, I remember feeling a twinge of discomfort in my knees and violently jerking my knees out of their misery–only to have the instructor look me in the eyes and tell me to never, ever do that–always come out the same way I went in. (Funny how these moments stick in your mind.)
In floor series savasana, trying desperately to calm my pounding heart and regain my breath, I remember thinking that this was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I had been an avid runner at the time, racing both road and trail, pushing myself through grueling workouts even in heavy rain or snow, but none of my workouts had prepared me for the unique intensity of Bikram: this yoga was on a level all its own.
After class, I was worried–I had committed to the 14-day introductory package–this was the craziest physical pursuit I’ve ever experienced, how was I going to bring myself back for the next two weeks, never mind even the next day? I was terrified at the thought of potentially putting myself through this torture again.
But somehow, I managed to drag myself back into the studio. I don’t know how I did it, but I returned to take a second class. And whoa, it was a completely different experience! None of the overwhelming from the first class, I felt like I was able to follow along and try most of the postures, and–dare I say it–it was even a little bit enjoyable! I was so pleasantly surprised–I came out of class that day bursting with enthusiasm, with the biggest smile on my face. Oh man, I had been bitten by the Bikram bug. On the drive home that day, I remember a quick thought passing through my mind:
“This is something I can honestly see myself doing for the rest of my life.”
At the time, I didn’t dwell too much on the validity of that statement. But well, two years later, I’m still here. Still going at it. Of course, there’s been those exhilarating upward moments, as well as discouraging downward slides, but that’s how it goes. But you know what? Looking back two years later, I can say with relative confidence,
Yes, my judgment on that second day still holds true.