5.7
January 26, 2012

Simon Says: The Effed-Up Arc of a Bikram Yoga Inner-Dialogue.

Photo: Ashley Thalman

The Bikram yoga teacher walks into the yoga room, putting on his head mic, and happily—too happily?—says: Are we ready to get hot?
The student stands, brings her toes and ankles together, and thinks: Yes, I’m ready! Let’s do this.

Minutes into class the Bikram teacher says: Just keep breathing.
Already soaked with sweat, the student thinks: Easier said than done, dude.

The Bikram teacher says: Lock your knee!
The student watches her quivering quads in the mirror and thinks: I am!

When propelling the class into a standing backbend,the Bikram teacher says:

Your back will hurt like hell. Don’t be scared.

The student thinks: Uh, that’s counterintuitive.

The Bikram teacher says: Lock your knee!
The student again notes those quivering quads and thinks: I am, dammit!

After the “first official water break” (which, guys, is technically the “only official water break”) the Bikram teacher says: Normal breathing—in through the nose. Out through the nose.
Chest still heaving from Eagle, the student thinks: My nostrils aren’t wide enough. 

The Bikram teacher says: The harder you kick, you can balance here forever.
Falling out of Standing Bow, the student thinks: Bullshit. 

During Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, The Bikram teacher says: If you’re doing the pose right you’ll be a little uncomfortable.
The student thinks: A little?

Standing near the door, the Bikram teacher says: Come up, keeping arms and head together.
The student thinks: I will give you fifty dollars cash right here, right now to open that effing door.

Talking the class through Tree, the Bikram teacher says: Lock your knee!
The student glares and thinks: Damn you! I am!

The Bikram teacher says: Don’t scratch, rub, wipe . . .
The student lays like a corpse, sweat coursing into her ears, and thinks: I didn’t need to until you mentioned it.

Sending the class into Camel, the Bikram teacher says:

Letting go of all that doesn’t serve you.

Reaching for her ankles, the student thinks: You mean my hatred of you? Seems to be serving me just fine.

The Bikram teacher flips off the overhead fluorescent lights says: The best way to improve is to return tomorrow.
The student thinks: Uh, hell no.

Photo: Ashley Thalman

Opening the door to leave, the Bikram teacher says: Namaste.
The student thinks: I suppose . . .
She automatically replies: Namaste.

When the student’s in dry clothes and leaving the studio, the Bikram teacher says: See you tomorrow!
Bewildered that she can’t stop putting herself through this day after day, the student replies: Yeah, I’ll see you then!

It should be said that no yogi but the Bikram yogi can truly understand the above. Most everyone else will see the scene as un-yogic and outright effed-up. And of course they’re right. But until you become a Bikram yogi, you cannot comprehend the weird-ass mind-body thing that develops under those utterly wretched conditions. And not a one of us reluctant Bikramites can coherently articulate exactly why we keep going back.

While my power yoga classes are happy, my Bikram classes are horrid. But since the stuff’s like crack, I go back.

To each their own practice.

Author has been given permission to use photos from: Ashley Thalman Photography.

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