I took a Bikram Hot Yoga class today. That might not be anything super remarkable, but I have been physically out of commission for 6 years for injuries and medical issues that kept me from the gym. However, it should be noted I have been healthy enough to do something again since last year, but thanks to the fear of covid and failure, I had every reason to continue stew in my own waist line.
Bikram is famous and popular among middle America. Netflix it famous again for another fifteen minutes with a documentary of it’s alleged predatory founder Bikram Choudhury. Bikram yoga is a specific series of poses in a hot room that will reportedly spark healing energy in the body.
After being off the matt for six years this was good for me and I will keep going back because it is serving me in this moment. But, I am plagued with the idea that there is such a perceived cult belief in the character of Bikram as a human and as a philosophy.
I practiced yoga for about fifteen years. Yoga has been around for five millennia and remarkablly enough a lot of the stretches are the exact techniques I did way back in junior high school gym. There is a common core to the practice and ideology that you can see threaded through Bikram.
My biggest fear was the program would be the hardest yoga I ever took on, called Ashtanga. Ashtanga (also referred to as power yoga) is one of the more widely kinds of yoga in the world beside Bikram. And, it seems like the Ashtanga kids and the Bikram kids do not like to play in the other pond. Because the other guys are doing it wrong. But no, the class was routine and relatively simple even though she tried to tell me it was a difficult class; maybe because it was ninety minutes long?
The person leading the class had a thick accent and I did not understand a single thing, but most of the poses were basic. If she called them different names I did not hear it. I also knew there were various forms of the same moves that made them easier or were more complicated that never came up. So, then I wondered what would Bikram say?
Let’s not get it twisted; er, wait…. Different Yogis can absolutely have different fundamentals and practices with any name that want on it. Be it Ashtanga, Hatha, or whatever. Bikram can do it any way he wants.
It was important to me because I came from a different school of yogi. Because of medical limitations I knew how to maneuver at my level. I saw other people struggling and the instructor did not provide anything outside of the chart above to make sure they were safe within their ability.
Of course, observing that meant I was not focused on myself and my practice. I will say that Bikram is the wanna-be of the practices because it panders to a dumbed down version of yoga. This was my initial and very limited introduction.
I was there for the ride and anyone hedging on making it out to try being physical again, should get out there and look for their jam. As the big picture of covid and epidemic v. pandemic wanes it is time for people to go out and start generating some happy hormones.
In the end, maybe my opinion is colored by Netflix? Maybe it is tinted by the practice I have been doing for a long time? Maybe that prejudice has leaked into my thinking? Maybe I think I am more woke than I am truly self aware? But, if it gets you moving and burning calories, get out there and but that covid fat today! And no matter what you will feel better in the long run.