Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bikram Yoga Cherry Popped!

Last night was my first experience with Bikram Yoga. My friend Erin tried it a few weeks ago for the first time and has now talked her boyfriend, Joey, and myself into giving it a whirl. To be honest, I've been curious about it for a long time. I've done yoga before in the past, but never in the heated room that Bikram requires. A while back I read an article about several of the best professional surfers in the world doing "hot" yoga and how it can benefit the muscles used to surf in addition to all the other health benefits. So when I got a text message from Erin yesterday at 4:30 in the afternoon asking if I wanted to give it a try at the 6 p.m. class I was not going to let the opportunity pass.

For my first time I wanted to go when Joey was going simply so I wouldn't be the only guy in a class full of women. This worked well with Joey going. Then I was amazed that there were three other guys in the class besides us! And even more surprising; a local bartender that I also graduated high school with was the instructor! Talk about feeling instantly comfortable with your surroundings.... except for, well, the HEAT!

The yoga room is 100 degrees plus or minus a few. There are four space heaters along the back wall all glowing orange, almost as if they are a gateway to hell! The instructor said to sit near the back wall, which Joey and I did, but I found myself directly in front of one of the space heaters to hell. Sitting on my towel and mat and doing nothing I started to sweat immensely. In my imagination it was Satan's space heater's fault! It feels like an oven set to broil with the door open right behind my back. Erin turns around and tells me it won't matter once we get started, but she can see the concern on my face and decides to switch places with me. Now I'm up near the front of class.

We start off and for the first hour everything is fine. I'm actually doing good at this and the instructor gives me the "good job" shout out several times. It is all stand up and balance positions that work your legs mostly and accelerate your heartbeat. I'm guessing I can thank surfing and balance/core training for this stroke of good luck. The positions are somewhat similar, but also different than regular yoga. I watch the two girls next to me and quickly figure out the positions I do not know.

Before I know it, I'm drenched. I mean DRENCHED like when you're at Sea World and Shamu splashes you, but instead of water it's sweat. Sweat like I've never experienced, but there is no breeze, no wind, no cool air to evaporate it off your skin. The sweat is dripping off of me everywhere. Parts of my body I didn't know were capable of sweating are fully saturated. I look down at my towel on the floor and it looks like a thunderstorm just rained all over it!

Earlier when I had explained to the instructor that I had two bottles of water, one with me and one in my truck she told me to get both of them. Good thing because halfway through and I have already killed the first bottle. The class is 90 minutes long. The first 75 minutes seem to fly by, but it is the last 15 that kill me.

First mistake - I start looking at the clock every minute. This makes time stand still.

Second mistake - Trying too hard and not resting soon enough. I think Joey and I are both guilty of this. It got to the point that I felt like I was going to pass out if I stood up. Reluctantly I laid down in the resting position for the last set of whatever it was called position. The last five minutes were hell. First, I thought that if I didn't leave the room I would pass out. Then I was afraid that if I did stand up I would pass out. I was determined to make it to the end of the class even if I was just lying there like a helpless infant on the floor. I really had to trust the instructor that I would be all right in the end. I stare at the ceiling and concentrate on breathing. I try to remember the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke from my days as a CPR/First Aid instructor with the Red Cross. That was 10 years ago and I can't think straight because all I can do is concentrate of breathing. The instructor informs us that we are now done except for a breathing exercise. I think to myself, "breathing exercise? That's all I've been doing for the past five minutes lady!" I pull myself together, sit up and participate in this breathing exercise that actually helps my heat induced nausea subside. She shuts off the Satan's space heaters from hell and opens the doors. We all lay back down and I feel a breeze. Yes, a breeze! Oh thank Heaven for a breeze! Erin gets up before Joey and I and tells us both to make sure our heart rates are down before we get up and leave the room. I take my pulse. It's 64 bpm. I've always had a low pulse. Whatever, I get up and walk out at the pace of a 95-year-old with a walker. Outside the studio I wring out my towel and my shirt. At least several cups of sweat pour out. It's as if I just took them out of a bucket of water. I suddenly start to feel better. Then I feel really great! After all that I thought I'd be sick for the entire night and now I feel great!

I did however, feel the need to drink water for the rest of the night. I think I lost count at 9 glasses of water before I went to bed. Bikram Yoga was definitely a test. I can honestly say it would be easier for me to go run 10 miles than do 90 minutes of Bikram. I'm sure it gets easier as you do it more often. They gave me a free pass to come back so we'll see if I can make it through a second time in a few days....

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