Monday, September 20, 2010

Bitch in Heat: Bikram week 2

It's been two weeks since the Bikram party. Last Tuesday I had a revelatory session where I felt better throughout and finished up feeling happy and energized. The Hot Yoga Guy says this is totally supposed to happen several sessions in. Great, I'm right on schedule! So for the past week I decided to push myself to go nearly every day. The literature out there says you can't really overdo it if you're doing it right, and although the sessions themselves are painfully hard work, there's no soreness or heavy feeling afterward, like I would expect if I were making myself run or bike daily extra hard. Presumably this is because yoga is no impact, the postures rely upon stretching, use the body only for traction and resistance, and the sequence is balanced, covering all areas of the body and matching flexion with extension.

Every session does not feel better than the last. The experience is definitely influenced by the time of the day, level of tiredness from other activities, eating habits. Whether my arms or legs were a little more tired going into it determines the level of torture feeling for me during the standing postures. And yet I am progressively better; already I can get into a better approximation of some of the postures which the limitations of my flexibility impede.

DH and I both look at Bikram as primarily an awesome form of exercise, which is why we're less interested in more meditative forms of yoga (DH says he already really good at "zoning out"). For him, committing to practice has also meant getting away from the rock n roll lifestyle and keeping more regular hours. My hours were already pretty regular-ish, but committing to practice definitely facilitates making other good lifestyle choices. If I know I'm going to be doing Bikram in the near future, the choice is pretty much made for me to do sensible things like drinking water, getting a decent night's rest, not getting drunk and dehydrated, not eating a big pile of awful crap food... Hence there are a variety of incidental benefits in addition to direct physical ones related to practice itself.

I should also mention that over the natural course of talking to people socially about my new hobby, I've run up against anti-Bikram yoga sentiment. One local yoga teacher encouraged me to try other yogas and offered a few specific criticisms. Namely that water loss is not good and that the emphasis on locking your knee is various postures is pretty, not healthy. I am not ultra concerned about the water loss through sweating; doing physical activities or working outdoors (or next to a pizza oven) in the summer will make you sweat all damn day, and that's been working out ok for humans throughout history - and to this day - who don't work at temperature controlled desk jobs. And while not locking the knee makes good sense for something like weight training (leg press, etc.), where the leg is being met with massive, inorganic physical resistance beyond the body's own pushing and stretching, the Bikram sequence as I've experienced it offers gentle induction into the poses, and individual common sense practice (e.g. don't push yourself too hard or too fast) should preclude injury during knee locking or any other position. Nevertheless, I may go give concerned anti-Bikram-guy's class a try some time, if for no other reason than to tell you lovely readers about a new experience, which is, after all, a my raison d'bloge, even if Bikram is ultimately the yoga for me, as I suspect it is.

Actually, there's more to yoga controversy than locking knees. Maybe our friends at Real Art Ways can get bring this documentary to Hartford.

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