What Happened in My First Yoga Class?

After much persistence from my college roommate, I finally agreed to take a hot yoga or Bikram yoga class with her. The studio was located behind a grocery store close to our college campus. We walked in, were greeted by a friendly receptionist who took down all sorts of information about us. Including our medical histories. I wondered if too much yoga induced some kind of coronary attack. I knew I shouldn’t be so sour about taking a class. It’s just that I know myself, and that self is not a very flexible person.  Did they expect me to be able to bend myself into a pretzel?

As we were ushered into the large studio room, I tried to leave all my skepticism at the door. Yoga is supposed to be good for the body and soul. I was preparing for an invigorating experience. An experience that would lead me to become one with my body and in touch with my inner self.

English: Portrait of ShamanDhia after Bikram Yoga

Portrait of ShamanDhia after Bikram Yoga (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The instructor walks in and she is looking buff. I thought to myself that she could do all sorts of bendy things. She tells us to spread out on our mat. Spread out? This room is so crowded that I am essentially sitting on my floor mate’s lap. ‘Also, make sure you have plenty of water,’ she says.  I didn’t think too much of her hydration advice at first. I mean, isn’t that standard for exercise programs? Drink lots of water?

And then the heat was turned up and I perspired about a gallon of sweat from my body within the first ten minutes of class. That studio room was HOT.  How could I survive a full hour of this, when within the first fifteen minutes I was almost ready to give up, if not worse, die! How embarrassing would I feel if I just got up and walked out of the room, like a complete, un-athletic failure? No, I have to stick it out.  Even if I can’t bend down and touch my toes, I will try my best!

The warm up session was easy enough. It consisted of a lot of stretching on the floor.  Then we got up and did some stretches standing up. We reached up to the sky. Then we bent down to touch the earth. I liked that first part of the class. After spending days on end hunched over my desk typing away at term papers, or bent over with my nose in a book studying for finals, my back was smiling. When the class was sufficiently warmed up and loose, we got into the serious part.

Our instructor started to show us all sorts of complicated poses. Exalted warrior, standing tree – it wasn’t the actual poses that I disliked; they were easy enough to get into (it was a beginner class, they didn’t have us standing on our heads!). But it was the amount of time that you had to hold a pose that was so frustrating. I felt I spent more time concentrating on not falling over than actually finding inner peace.  Yoga requires a lot of balance and flexibility, which I guess you build up once you practice over periods of time.  Kind of like me with my running workout. I used to not be able to run a mile, but after training, I completed a half marathon. But I feel with yoga what you need is a lot more PATIENCE. Which, I admit, I have none. So as the fifth minute (I know, maybe this is an exaggeration) of holding ‘tree pose’ came around, my patience was really being tried.  Oh, we can release the pose now? Thank goodness!

Maybe the enervating factor of Bikram yoga is the heat. Sweat was literally dripping down my body.  I guess it was hard for me to concentrate on my balance when I had sweat dripping down my brow into my eyes, literally rendering me blind.  And, is it just me or is anyone else feeling a bit dizzy? Does this mean I should stop and drink some water?  Maybe, I’ll just take a little break.

Paramhansa Yogananda at a yoga class in Washin...

Paramhansa Yogananda at a yoga class in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last 15 minutes of the class were drawing near. Finally the cool down! Though, it was impossible to ‘cool down’ in a 105 degree room.  But at least, I was feeling slightly less nauseous at this point. So here we all are and the class is sitting butterfly style on our mats. I’m trying hard, as the instructor is telling us, to press my knees as close to the floor as I can.  Did I mention I’m not very flexible? The instructor spots me (darn, I thought my back-of-the-class place would render me nearly invisible!) struggling to bring my knees parallel to the floor. She creeps up behind me, and starts pushing down on my knees. The class was nearly over; I thought I was done experiencing pain! After I felt that my hips were just about to pop up, the instructor finally leaves me alone and continues on to her next victim.

After 90 minutes of blood (not really), sweat (definitely yes), and tears (maybe a little), the class is over and we are released into normal temperature. My whole body is achy and sore, I feel like I am about to vomit, and my head is so light headed that I need to sit down for just a minute to collect myself.  My roommate on the other hand announces that she feels great!

Once we are back in our dorm I weigh myself, and am pleasantly surprised to find myself five pounds lighter than before! I’m sure most of that weight was water weight that I sweated out, but hey, five pounds is five pounds!

In conclusion, I’m glad I experienced the fine art of Bikram yoga, but would hesitate in considering taking another class. Yoga surely is a great exercise, it promotes better posture, strengthens your body, frees your mind, and lets you breathe easier – but from my own experience, it’s not for everyone!

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