Around the Mind and Body in 60 Days: Week four and the Church of Bikram
It’s happened: I’ve become a yoga-thumper. When one of my oldest friends, who has a one-year-old, calls stressed about money and physically exhausted, I tell her to go to yoga. My brother, who has extremely high blood pressure, doesn’t know it yet, but I’m determined to drag him into the torture chamber one of these days.
And even though I am gentle with myself and listen to my body, I am starting to see and feel vast improvements. Who knew I had back muscles? Who knew I could have abs? They say that the more yoga you do, the more your body craves it.
This is absolutely true.
I spend the early afternoon lunching and shopping with the sister-in-law before an afternoon class. I’m jazzed, until I find out the heater is broken. I outwardly express my disappointment, while inside I’m relishing the thought of a cool class and utter a silent thank you prayer for blown fuses. Class will go on at a balmy 90 degrees, so in I go.
And then, the weirdest thing happened: I actually wished it was hotter. I found myself thinking it odd that my toenails weren’t sweating. The teacher threw in an extra set of triangle pose, since class was “easy” today. Normally, triangle pose can be known to take down a few yogis, but the entire class did the entire three sets. I even worked on my Toe Stand.
As great as class was, I couldn’t help admitting that I like the heat. I need the heat. Darn you, Bikram! You’ve turned me into a hot room junkie jonesing for my next hit.
It’s Sunday, so I let myself sleep in. The plan was to get to the 10 a.m. class, but some wicked insomnia has me dragging myself out of bed at 10:30 — not sore, just a little under-rested, perhaps. My body and mind attempt a double team:
Body: Why don’t you skip today? I know you still feel okay, but maybe a day off would do you good?
Mind: Body might be right. Besides, if you don’t go to the grocery store soon, you’re going to be eating string cheese and peanut butter.
Me: Come on, you guys. I let you sleep in. We can easily make it to the noon class.
Body: Okay, but only if you walk the dog for me.
Mind: Alright, if you really think you’re up for it. Besides, we do want that t-shirt.
Me: Thanks. I promise you both will feel so much better after class.
Body: You say that every time.
Mind: Somebody’s been drinking the coconut water.
Me: Well, isn’t it true? Don’t you always feel better?
Body and Mind: Yes. Damnit.
Class is its usual restorative self. No matter how many times I go in feeling like the rusty Tin Man, I come out feeling like the whole Wizard of Oz gang as they skip on down the yellow brick road toward the Emerald City. In my movie, Bikram is the wizard and I’m off to see if he can grant me more flexibility and a healthy, long life, or at least a decent Toe Stand.
I do not go to yoga. I spend the day working from my home office in my pajamas on a deadline, venturing out only to get some Chinese take-out. I’m hoping the mental and physical break will reset my body clock so that I can get back to my morning classes. When I am still wide awake at 4:30 a.m., I give up and go back to the strategy of “one day at a time.”
Teachers always say it’s important to leave all mental baggage outside the hot room. Sometimes this is easier said than done. During class, it dawns on me that it’s now February, which means Valentine’s Day is approaching. Not exactly the best time to be single and 36.
As amazing as my life is, and because of how full my life is in other areas, I cannot help but feel the acute, but palpable absence of significant other, not for status or security, but because love is one of the great human experiences. Class, for me, is a subdued one. I think about my life and ask the universe for a smidge of divine intervention in the love department.
Later, I call my mom and have a mini-meltdown, during which she suggests going to church. I reply, “I go to church every day. It’s called a yoga studio.” And it’s true. I will continue to attend the pure and honorable Church of Bikram praying to simply keep the faith even when I feel devoid of it.
“Yoga” means “Yuj” in Sanskrit, which translates literally to “to yoke”, as in to yoke your mortal self to the Universal Spirit. Now that is an ideology I can get behind. Can I get a Namaste?