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Five Days of Bikram Yoga (in.a.row.)

Why?  I bought a 10-class pass. It expires in 10 days, with 6 classes remaining. I’m not willing to forfeit that money. Yes, I had three months to use it so I am teaching myself a lesson in the process.
So?  I feel like I’m a good beginner case study, because up until this week, I’d done exactly six Bikram classes, over a four month period.
Day 1
I was slightly worried about my five-in-a-row plan. Would I hurt myself? Would I be able to get through them all? How likely was I to be hospitalized with heat exhaustion or dehydration?
But I felt good in the heat, and strong.  I had some real breakthroughs this session. Something clicks and my body is one step closer in several poses I've not been able to do at all thus far.
Asana #8. Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Paschimotthanasana (Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose). I finally grabbed my heels!
Asana #14. Pavanamuktasana (Wind Removing Pose). HUGE! ACTUALLY GRABBED BOTH ELBOWS. For the record, no wind has been removed from me so far.
Asana #20. Supta Vajrasana (Fixed Firm Pose). Got legs flat and butt on floor, leaned back further than ever.
Asana #21. Ardha-Kurmasana (Half Tortoise Pose). I was able to get much more flat on the floor.
Asana #22. Ustrasana (Camel Pose). This one always makes me feel faint. Got further back than ever before.
Asana #23. Sanangasana (Rabbit Pose). Figured out that hips stay down on feet, mostly stayed in pose.
Asana #24b. Paschimotthanasana (Head to Knee Pose). Got my head and knee to touch with leg almost on floor!
Every day after class there is a fresh, cut up pineapple or other fruit. It’s insanely good and refreshing. I desperately need it after climbing the two flights of stairs from the yoga room to the changing room.
Day 2
I was one of the last to arrive at class this evening. I slunk to the only space left, near the back windows where there are no mirrors. The towel I brought was too small, making it nearly impossible to perform the poses where my legs are four feet apart. Also, I‘m well hydrated and positively pouring sweat, so the towel is sopping wet halfway through class.
It was so hot & humid in Bikram tonight, halfway through the instructor OPENED A WINDOW. This is unheard of! And guess who was right next to the window? Honestly, I thought I was having a heat-induced hallucination.
Also, I nearly drowned in this class when we did a pose where we bent over and all the sweat ran right into my nostrils. Note to self: find headband!
My back is sore, but in a good way. And I'm not nearly as exhausted as I feared I'd be at this point. However, I’d recommend you not get between me and food after I come out of class. Hubz almost got his head bitten off.

Day 3
It was a little tough getting out of bed, having left class just 10 hours before.
But I love Wednesday morning Bikram class because Lukas teaches. He's so helpful, explaining every little thing you need to do with each body part and focus on for each pose. It really makes me work harder. And, he sings. What a voice!
I sing the body electric
I celebrate the me yet to come
I toast to my own reunion
When I become one with the sun

And I'll look back on Venus
I'll look back on Mars
And I'll burn with the fire of ten million stars
And in time
And in time
We will all be stars
As class ended, I was momentarily sad that this week seems to be going so quickly.
I almost forgot to get coffee when I got to work. What is happening to me?

Day 4
I’ve gotten my first Bikram injury. I have serious towel burn on my right elbow.
I did the next step in Vrksasana (Toe Stand pose) today. And my Dandayamana-Dhanurasana (Standing Bow pose) was pretty good. Padangustasana (Camel pose) still makes me nearly faint, even when I’m only doing the first part of it, and I can’t get my hand on my knee in Ardha-Matsyendrasana (Spinal Twist). My favorite pose, I think, is Garurasana (Eagle Pose).
There was no fresh fruit cut up for us today. That’s a first.
Also, I’ve drunk so much coconut water I’m gonna start sprouting palm leaves out of my arms. My solid, concrete, one piece, lamppost, unbroken arms. Wait, that’s dialogue about the leg. Whatever.
I got up from my desk, headed for the kitchen at least twice, but I got sidetracked and never got coffee.  I’m not looking to quit caffeine; it just seems superfluous these last couple of days.
My back is no longer sore. In fact, it’s noticeably stronger. When I open massive doors, shovel mulch into a wheelbarrow and hop astride my bicycle, I no longer sense that weakness. Also, the ever-present slight tightness in my right glute/piriformis – that’s right my constant troublesome spot, injury waiting to happen, Gone!
Dare I put it in words? Bikram yoga is beginning to seem miraculous.

Day 5
The office closed early, so I went to the 4:00 class. The yoga room is definitely hotter, humid as a jungle, and more crowded.
I picked a spot by the west-facing window. I became aware of my mistake when we relaxed, face down after cobra pose and I found that the sun had made the floor quite hot!
What a great session. My body seems to be better at this yoga business later in the day.
I got my hands almost on the floor in Toe Stand. Improved at Cobra and Locust, and my arms are finally getting used to doing this and not feeling like they have been run over by a truck afterward.
I went deeper in many poses. But the grandest accomplishment of all was that I TOUCHED MY HEAD TO MY KNEE in the second to last pose while my leg was flat on the floor. ME! The inflexible girl!
I hit the showers, proud of myself. Wait, why are the tops of my feet stinging? Ah, they have chafing in Bikram yoga, too. That or I burned them on the sun-baked floor.

Conclusions
Bikram is sweaty, uncomfortable, challenging, arduous and laundry-producing. Carrying my yoga mat and towels is a chore. Ninety minutes of class plus changing and showering takes up a lot of time.
I’m not in love with Bikram yoga. But you better believe I’ll be in class on a regular basis. After only eleven sessions, there have been tangible benefits. That’s a pretty impressive return on investment.

21 comments:

Dash said...

I've been dying to try a class, and keep saying once a week I'll do one, but have yet to! This re-motivates me! :)

Katie said...

Wow - this many classes in this many days is fascinating. I think it's interesting that you didn't want coffee after a few days, what a weird effect! But glad you are feeling good.

KateKirk said...

Thank you for the review, though I'm already SO flexible, this amount of stretch/posing would turn me into a paperclip...it's why I can't ever stretch stuff out. I'm sitting here with my forehead on my knees as we speak :)

Kara said...

I'm so excited I found your blog, I was able to find out about some new 50Ks that I hadn't heard of before. I'm running Marine Corps too! I can't wait to read about your training :)

I RUN LIKE A GIRL said...

I love Birkam yoga - but i HATE how long they are. 60 minutes, please! You are my hero for going 5 days in a row! :-)

Sophie Speidel said...

Hilarious. Again. And, enlightening. I would like to like yoga but I don't have time so it was fun to read about your week. Keep it up!! And it was great to see you last weekend :-)

FaithNotFear said...

I've been reading your blog for months now after spending a semester studying in Washington, D.C. Hooray for Twitter allowing me to find inspirational runners like yourself :) I was so surprised to see your post on Bikram yoga today! I did my very first class last night and wow are you right in the way you described it at the end. I had the exactly same thing happen with my own sweat nearly drowning me when I flipped my head upside down haha While it was extremely hot and challenging it was so rewarding to push myself to do something new. I bought a month long Groupon so I've got 3+ weeks left and I'm excited to see what it will do for me after your encouraging results. Keep on Keeping on :) Thanks for writing!

catskillmarina said...

I love Bikram ! The heat just feels so delicious to me. I just wish i had more time in life to do more things. Running is kind of priority for me ....as is hiding in my apartment when i am not at work or running ;-)

Sabrina Moran said...

I LOVE THIS. I am kind of impressed that you learned all the names to the poses, like in an "I admire you," not an "I am jealous of you" kind of way. You guys get pineapple?? My place only gives us grapefruit. I think that they should feed us jewels and precious gems because it costs one million dollars to participate.

Sarah said...

I wanted to like Bikram but my hyper-mobile si joint doesn't like. Glad it's working for you.

amyreinink.com said...

I'm with the hyperflexible masses in having to be careful about bendy stuff. But man, do I love the mental benefits of yoga, and I really liked reading about what you got out of the classes mentally and spiritually. Also, it was nice to experience this vicariously through you, as I'm too cheap to shell out the one million dollars it takes to participate. :)

ultrarunnergirl said...

Kate and Amy - they say Bikram is always a challenge, even for the bendy people. I neglected to emphasize the Strength component of Bikram - it's still taking me by surprise how strong I've gotten in this short time.

ultrarunnergirl said...

If you're interested in trying Bikram without committing a lot of money, my Bikram studio offers an "Intro Week" - pay $20, come as often as you want for a whole week (I think you also get free mat rental).
http://bikramyogadc.com/classes-fees.htm

merrymishaps said...

I'm in my third week of Bikram and loving it. I purchased an unlimited-month Groupon for $25(!) and have already gone 8 times. And they just had another one for $49/two months, so I'll be able to inexpensively keep up my practice for the rest of the summer.

I can't quite tell if it's fixed any of my running-related problems yet, but I do think it's getting better.

On the mornings I go to classes (6am), I am less likely to drink coffee. I always alternate coffee/tea, but for whatever reason I just don't want coffee at all on Bikram days!

ultralove said...

Sabrina and I agree that you and I should be friends in real life. Also, if you ever need bikram encouragement, hit me up. When I started, I couldn't even touch my toes. True story.

amy said...

Agreed on the strength component of bikram. I think it definitely helps me with core strength, but sadly, I don't become very bendy. Alas, I went back last week after a 2-week break, and I was even less bendy than my usual not-very-bendy self, so maybe it helps me become marginally more bendy.

A World of Gratitude said...

Way to keep up the good work.

Suggetions (take or leave- your choice)...

Camel- try starting off just kneeling, and then doing back stroke like movements with each arm. Hand on thigh or lower, move up, around, and back/down. Repeat one time each side (e.g. R-L; R-L; R-L, etc.).

Then arch back a tiny bit and repeat this. You might find it easier to move hips forward as opposed to arching back.

When feeling faint- tip head up. I don't know how you have it positioned, nor when it comes in the sequence. You might be better served by looking at something fixed, too.

(FWIW- I love camel! I'm content to hang out in it right before bed, but some of my friends go into EEK mode with it...)

Paschimot... and all others- I find it helpful to visualize myself in the pose while doing it. Then breathe! No, really, breathe!

While there are many I'm working on, the combo. of mind (visualization)- body (doing it)- and breath is quite potent.

Also remember that a key component of yoga is strength and ease... as one of my fave teachers tells us, "When you get in the pose, stay there. No one here is working to be on the cover of *Yoga Journal.* Quit fidgeting and just breathe."

Peace.

ultrarunnergirl said...

MerryMishaps/Lauren - glad you are getting into it too. Every time I go I like it more. Keep me posted on how your running-related issues are progressing as you do more.

Ultralove - awesome, a new friend! I love your blog.

Amy - I definitely have a fear of how much bendiness/strength I'd lose if I didn't go for 2 weeks. I went home for 4 days and all I could think of was when I could get to my next class.

A World of Gratitude - thanks for the suggestions. Very much appreciated.

Saundra Cortese said...

It sounds like you are enjoying your yoga sessions! Good for you! Most beginners find the activity quite difficult, but you showed that you can take the heat and the poses. By now, you must be quite used to the high temperature and advanced poses. Just keep it up, and you will surely reap its benefits. Namaste!

Cindy Eyler said...

fun reading your experience. This January I challenged myself to a 40 day challenge. Today I did day 24 of 40 ... each week has been different. Lots of emotional releases and physically I am getting better and better, but it seems sort of slow... just moving with it all! I choose to do 40 days because I hoped I'd get addicted to it. I was not doing any exercise other than lots of walking prior so I basically just leaped ... this week I'd just love to quit -- just not feeling it... but I will continue to plow through it. After my 40 days I might continue on to a 60 day or I will just stick with going 5 days a week with weekends off. If I take off anymore time than that I know myself I'll find a way to quit... I'm in it for the long haul after I've come this far!

ultrarunnergirl said...

glad you enjoyed it. good luck and hope to read all about it. 40 days, great challenge!