March 31, 20ten
I take the elusive 14 bus to Kaimuki and pick up the pass from my best friend's house on top of a Wilhelmina-like hill. I think to myself, "Omigosh, I'm winded and I haven't even put my mat down yet. Poot."
But I trudge on. Class is at 4:30p and it's good to get there a early for a spot by the mirror, if possible by the door. The merciful moments when the instructor opens it is like that first gulp of air after getting worked on a wipeout. You remember, you embrace, you beg her to leave it open, she mocks your pain...love/hate, love/hate.
Since this is the first day in the "torture chamber" and my first entry, a little background on Bikram. Bikram Yoga (a combination of Hatha, Raja and Karma Yogas) was developed by Bikram Choudhury in Calcutta, India. The practice rooms are heated to 105 degrees with 40% humidity. You might say, "WTF, with the heat?!" but it makes sense: Bikram himself said, "a warm body is a flexible body..." and a flexible body is less prone to injury.
90-minutes of long, hot meditation and 26 postures later I stand up from final savasana (corpse pose - relax, it's not as bad as it sounds) looking like I was caught in a flash flood; however, the toxins were frightened out of my body and I'm reeling with positive energy. "Remember how you feel after class," our teacher tells us, "not how you feel during, because if you remember that, you may never come back." FACT.
It's all good, my friends; I'm a Scorpio and extremes work for me. I'm not looking for ballroom, I want Argentine tango; and Bikram is the Argentine Tango of Yoga. For reference, I have "Bikram Yoga" by Bikram Choudhury and for life, a pass to the studio for the next 3.5 weeks.
Here's to wanting to experience life, rather than learn about it in a book!
Breathing Exercise 1
Pranayama Breathing: Standing Deep Breathing.
"Someday, one day, your elbows will touch your ears!," Teach says in an excited, cuter-than-a-button, Japanese accent. With hands interlaced and feet, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes in line, I start: 6 counts in through the nose, elbows up; full s-l-o-w 6 counts elbows down, exhaling through the mouth. Who knew breathing for 12 seconds could be so challenging?
The first set goes without a hitch, the chick next to me is percolating already, geez. "Wake up, body, Wake up! Why the hell am I not sweating, yet?" Calm down, Kat, it's not a race, I say inside my head. Okay, better. The act of forcefully ridding the body of all it's oxygen then inhaling brand new air into the lungs is dizzying. How often do we use 100% of our lung capacity? For me, not often, but through this exercise shallow breathing and stress are replaced by deep sustained breath and focus.
Second set: I catch a hint of myself in the mirror - my cheeks are rosy pink, like a school girl blushing at her first crush, I like what I see and work a little harder (that, and I'm trying not to check out the rest of the students in class, seems like bad yoga etiquette.) 10 more of these babies, and I'm on my way to Half Moon...
Benefits: helps prevent respiratory problems, teaches breath control, stimulates circulation and wakes up muscles.
Ardha-Chandrasana: Half Moon Pose
"Most times, when you reach what seems to be as far as you can go, you can actually go farther, as long as you maintain proper form. It's just your fear that makes you rigid and unable to bend more deeply..." - Bikram
"Left and right, Left and right, Left and right," Someday, Oneday singsongs. Time to prep the spine to move to one side into a curved, unbroken crescent. Though I'm left-handed, my right side is immeasurably better at this. I mentally note this something to work on. "Little bit pain okay!" Alright, Someday Oneday, I don't see you crunched over doing it! Whatever, it's fine -- I stretch, toward that threshold of discomfort. My core is going to crack in two.
I think about Bikram, the man with a 28 inch waist, I seethe and go a little deeper, envisioning better turns in the ocean, and that Brazilian I'm gonna rock when this is over; the lower back paddling pain melts like hot butter. Mmmmm. I catch the hint that this isn't just physical, it's stretching my patience and engaging my focus - works for me.
Benefits: Strengthens every muscle in the body's core, increases flexibility in the spine, and promotes proper kidney function.
More tomorrow. Namaste.