June 20, 2008

Review: Bikram+Yoga=Hot

I may be new to writing for elephant, but I am not new to the controversy surrounding Bikram yoga, nor the debate about what is real yoga (and what is not). Nicknamed McYoga because of Bikram Choudhury‘s decision to both franchise his studios and to copyright his style of yoga, a set sequence of 26 poses performed in 105 degree heat and 40% humidity, people tend to either love or hate Bikram, the yoga or the man. Personally, one of the reasons I do yoga is to quiet my monkey mind, so getting tooooo caught up debating the values of this yoga versus that yoga seems like an engagement, rather than a disengagement of what I strive to quiet. Nonetheless, reviewing a Bikram studio, without a discussion about Bikram, well that would be ignoring the, um, elephant in the room.

Let me start by saying this: whether or not you like Bikram Choudhury , you will love Rasa Zubkute, who teaches most of the classes at Bikram Yoga on the Hill (she’s the owner too and informed me that Bikram “does not receive a penny” of her profits). Rasa makes sure she knows your name when you’re in her studio, and she keeps you on your toes (not just during the awkward pose series) throughout the class. She pushes you—but she’s not one of those teachers that will ever push you too hard or too far. She is encouraging, reassuring and makes practicing in high heat about as enjoyable as it can be.

Bikram Yoga is a welcome addition to the Hill, a Boulder neighborhood whose proximity to the University has made it an area known more for partying than pranayama. The studio is bright, hip and open, featuring high ceilings and sky lights. I have some of the worst ADD this side of a kindergarten class, but the set sequence never left me feeling bored and actually helped rein in my wandering mind. Bikram yoga is intense; it’s f****ing hot (!) if you want to know how I really feel, but what is it they say in mainstream sports? No pain, no gain. There’s something to that. I’ve found that the extra effort and mental fortitude demanded in a Bikram class is worth it. As Rasa explained: “it’s not for everyone,” but was quick to add that the best things, the most transformative experiences, “do not come easy.”

If you are still unsure about whether or not Bikram yoga is for you, try the first time student one week unlimited for $25. I practiced 4 times last week, which is probably the same amount of hot yoga classes I did in all of 2007. The repetition of the same asanas each and every class allowed my poses to deepen and improve within a week, and I feel great (plus Rasa assured me that camel pose will not kill me). Just remember to drink some water before and lots after, bring a towel (or two), and drink lots of water. Oh, and remember to drink lots of water.

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