How Bikram Yoga Is Making Me One Of “Those People”

Let’s get one thing straight: I am not an “exercise person.” In fact, if I were dating some smart, hilarious, darling and hot dude who was otherwise perfect but had a penchant for enthusing about his early morning gym regimen, I probably wouldn’t call him again. Overtly healthy people annoy me, maybe because they have an irksome way of making me feel guilty that my favorite leisure activities involve a glass of wine and a Parliament Light. OK, OK, I wasn’t always exactly a lazy slouch: I was a serious ballet dancer until the age of 18, and I ran and practiced some yoga in college. But since moving to New York almost a decade ago, let’s just say my workout history can best be summed up as “slightly cloudy with a chance of pizza.”

So how the hell did I become the kind of person who did one of those disturbing-sounding “Hot Yoga for 30 Days” challenges?
When it comes to realizing that you should actually do more physical activity than lift a cigarette or a burrito to your mouth, I don’t know what the tipping point is for you personally. For me, it was a summer of house guests and hostessing, which involves a lot of food and beverage and very little taking care of yourself or “me time.” So, recently, even though we had what was approximately our seventh visitor in four months, I carved out 90 minutes of time in the evening to steal away to a Bikram yoga class I found via Google. I’m not sure what came over me. I think I just needed a place to hide out.

Even people who are completely comfortable with yoga have reservations about Bikram. “It scares the hell out of me” is a pretty standard refrain. That’s because the class takes place in a room heated to 105 degrees with something like 50 percent humidity and the 26 postures are seriously challenging enough to make you curse like you really mean it. You are sweating profusely out of pores you never knew existed before the first 20 minutes of the class have even gone by. You get dizzy. You get nauseous. Some people panic. You slip and slide. After, you’re sore down to the tiniest muscles surrounding your ribs. Torture, right?

Only for some crazy reason, I didn’t see it that way. Yes, I got dizzy and had to sit down a few times. It was absolutely annoying and uncomfortable to be surrounded by insanely hot, humid air. My heart pounded so hard that I wondered if anyone had died during a class. (As far as the internet knows, no, no one has.) Because, despite all those superficial roadblocks, it felt really, really good. And don’t get me started on how rad it feels to stroll out into a cool night feeling all smug about your accomplishment afterward.

You could say that people love Bikram so much because it’s so freaking horrifying they get addicted to how great they feel after the class when it’s all finally over. I have to admit that was my original hypothesis. But after doing it religiously for a few weeks — I simply haven’t wanted to stop — I can say that there’s a lot more to it than that. Not only has class become way easier (the heat, the poses, all of it), I’m a bit sad, or rather, could keep going when it ends, which I know is a totally vomit-inducing statement, but trust me, it was a shocking and pleasurable revelation. Maybe there is something to be said for positive thinking? And while I still feel elated from the feeling of endorphins and blood pulsing through my body after, I’ve also noticed that it creates some sort of physical equilibrium–lately, my body craves vegetables and fruits and coconut milk, not cheesy, meaty Mexican food. My skin looks better. I stand up straighter. I have more energy. I feel good.

So since I loved it so much I wanted marry it and stuff, I took the seemingly logical next step: Those familiar with Bikram know that studios encourage you to do a 30-day challenge and offer incentives like free classes if you complete the period. I thought this sounded like the most insane, impractical, inconvenient and most offensively goody-goody exerciser thing to do ever. But suddenly, it seemed like a doable goal. I realized that it would take sacrifice: It took extra time to wash my sweat-soaked yoga clothes every day and pack them; I had to work extra diligently in the office to make sure I’d be able to make it to my evening class on time; I couldn’t drink because you really can’t do it hung over; and I had to drink lots of water all day and regiment my food intake — not too long before class so I had enough energy, but not two hours before so I didn’t get sick to my stomach. Any money I would’ve normally put aside for clothes or other indulgences paid for classes instead. Had I joined a cult? Maybe.

No one likes a gloating Gussy, and I certainly hope you’re not getting the impression that was my motivation. For some reason, yoga people are especially infuriating. (Eat Pray Love drove me nuts, ugh.) I’m just so genuinely happy that I started practicing Bikram; I’ve tried to share the love with friends. Amelia tried it and became hooked — at least for a little while. (She has ignored my texts to meet at class the last few times, tsk tsk!) That said, she definitely fared better then my best pal who hated it so much I don’t think she’ll ever set foot in a yoga studio–heated or otherwise–again and now I feel terrible for recommending it to her. The point is, it’s not for everyone. And if you’re already the type who eats well and goes to the gym on a regular basis then good for you; you’ve got a gene that I certainly don’t possess and you’re probably all like, “Wow, you discovered exercise, way to go, genius.” I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you’re not that person, then keep looking. For some of us, the only way to find pleasure in working out and making healthier choices and sticking to it isn’t because you want to lose weight or feel you ought to but simply because you found a way to love it. I think I’m getting there.

The “Love Your Body” section and all articles within it are sponsored by Crystal Light; however, the articles are all independently produced by The Frisky and the opinions and views expressed by the writers and experts are their own.

Photo: iStockphoto

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