Pique'n Yer Interest 

The life yogic: bend this way

Page 2 of 3

"Some Bikram studios can't get insurance because doctors say it's too stressful; I see so many injuries in my work [massage therapist] from 30-day yoga challenges - torn hamstrings, back problems, c-spine tweaks from crazy extended neck positions."

"I tried Bikram. I'm emotional but not that emotional; I felt so awful at the end I cried."

"Bikram is westernized yoga. We're conditioned to 'working out' so it fills our demand for immediate results - moving, sweating profusely, not just holding a long stretch and meditating."

Whoa - surprising vitriol. But Bikram, an extreme genre practiced in rooms warmer than body temperature (a modality its very rich founder has famously and litigiously franchised), is an unfair target. Criticism began with a 2004 New York Times article entitled "When Does Flexible Become Harmful? 'Hot' Yoga Draws Fire," and continues sporadically to publicize the woes of a statistical few. But no one forces folks to find out if Bikram is indeed for them. Perhaps, like myself, they shouldn't even have been there.

A decade back, my first-ever yoga experience was a dawn Bikram session at the behest of a girlfriend. Hot yoga? Never heard of it. "It's great," she'd enthused, "you'll love it!"

Never mind that we'd drank copious amounts of wine the night before. Never mind that the compensation I decided upon wasn't rehydration, but an eye-opening triple espresso enroute. Never mind that I don't do well in heat. What I remember: a great chatter of anticipation among the assembled women (I was the only guy); chicks swooning when the sinewy teacher dude in pastel wife-beater finally appeared; someone deciding it wasn't hot enough and plugging a towel under the door; the ends of my fingers dripping before we'd even started; having no idea what was going on during the militaristic routine and thinking Downward Dog was sadistic; seeing my reflection in a pool of my own sweat (not pretty); becoming woozy about a half-hour in and having to step out for a few minutes; stepping out again 15 minutes later; leaving the studio for a third time, with 20 minutes left, and sitting on a bench; waking there, slumped over, as everyone filed out. I'd blacked out completely.

Jeezuz . From morning coffee to medical emergency.

Clearly the comic fault of my own ignorance and naïveté, I nevertheless deemed the scene cultishly mad and it tainted my notion of yoga. It would take a few years for the scales to fall from my eyes...

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