Around the mind and body in 60 days: Attempting the Bikram 60-day challenge
Opening a new calendar on January 1st is a physical reminder that last year is gone and we get to start all over. A clean slate. New Years acts as a mental reset button as we make lists of what we want to accomplish in the coming year.
I had been toying with the idea of doing a 60-day Challenge ever since I started doing Bikram yoga about 6 months ago. So when the studio I practice at, Pure Bikram Yoga, announced a 60-day Challenge starting in January, I signed up. Responses were varied, from my parent’s collective "Okay, we support you, but for the love of god, please eat and take your vitamins," to an acquaintance whose eyes bugged out of her head as she gasped “You’re going to die!” I laughed and countered, “No one’s died doing yoga! I’ve researched it!”
For those who don't know, Bikram is a style of yoga founded in the 1970s by Bikram Choudhury, who has since become somewhat of a rock star in the yoga world. It consists of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises done in the same 90 minute sequence in a hot, humid room. The progression is the same every time no matter where you take the class, so the result is always the same. For me, the routine is a big part of the appeal. I know what I’m getting into, and there is a certain amount of comfortable mental detachment that comes along with it. As one of my teachers constantly reminds us: “My mind, your body – just move."
For those of you who have not attended a class, imagine working out in a sauna. The heat is kept between 105 - 110 degrees while the humidity is maintained between 30 - 40 percent. Think Georgia or North Carolina in July. The theory behind the extreme room conditions is that the heat and humidity allow the body to stretch safely and sweat out toxins and impurities. Still, they don’t call it the “torture chamber” for nothing. For those of you who have attended a class, imagine doing this 60 times in 60 days.
The 60-day Challenge is clear-cut but brutal: 60 Bikram classes in 60 days. To sign up for the challenge, you donate $30 to the non-profit Pure Action, which focuses on bringing yoga into the classroom, into the community and into mainstream science. In addition to helping a good cause, you get a swag bag that includes a tee-shirt and some vitamin packets, cards for lots of awesome local promo deals, and a card for a free class. (In addition, you get a free class card for every 10 classes you complete.) You get assigned to a team (Go, 747 High Flyers!) and you get the gulp-inducing Report Card. Even after talking and thinking about doing the Challenge for a month, seeing all 60 empty check boxes was like falling down into a very dark rabbit hole.
I am not an athlete. I’m 5' 3" and weighed 120 lbs. at my maximum. Because of a congenital heart defect that required two open heart surgeries, I have never been expected to exert myself physically. In fact, my 6th grade gym teacher would not even let me run the requisite 2 laps around the gym at the beginning of class. Golf is the only sport I’ve really ever played, and even after 20 years, I still have yet to break 100. This being said, I did win the 50 yard dash in 1st grade, and deliberately ignore those signs at rides in amusement parks warning anyone with a heart condition to skip this one. I like to live on the edge.
Physically demanding sports and activities have always eluded me. So when I stumbled upon Bikram yoga, I was thrilled to find a gentle physical activity in which I could fully participate. In yoga, you are only competing with yourself. There is no loser or winner. You are the game, you are the player, all the while doing your body good and receiving tremendous health benefits.
Bikram is famous for saying “Give me 60 days and I’ll change your life.” So I say, bring it, Bikram.
Follow Aimee weekly for the next 60 days as she faces the Bikram 60-day Challenge.