I’ve sampled a lot of yoga in my day. I’ve practiced in gyms & cabins, done Flow & Yin, tried classical & tantra, and seen the best and worst of Ashtanga & Iyengar. After a decade or more of searching I’ve found a yoga style that I enjoy practicing and teaching in Embodyoga. But I have a secret- sometimes I sneak out to a Bikram class.
If there is a spectrum of yoga practices, the tantra “yoga from the inside out” nature of Embodyoga is about as far as you can get from the “classical yoga-meets-MTV” style of Bikram. In my regular practice every movement starts with the breath and pranayama is just a regular part of life; in Bikram, you get breath in the first two minutes, the last two minutes, and for the 86 minutes in between you are on your own. When I practice each posture is a learning opportunity and chance to explore; in Bikram you pretty much just follow the rote commands of the scantily clad person on the podium at the front of the room. Embodyoga always asks you to soften your knees; Birkam commands you to lock your knees, lock your knees, lock your knees.
None the less, I still find myself in a Bikram class from time to time. Here’s why:
Mental Disengagement: When I explained my yoga background to my first bikram teacher, she said “you can forget all that, this is basically ‘Simon Says’ for 90 minutes.” Frankly it’s too hot to think about much. Spending that much time not worrying about the past or the future, just being in the moment? Score.
Calories: At my size I burn around 1000 calories in one class. That can make up for a lot of dietary sins.
Meditation: I get to class early so I claim a favorite spot in the back. That 15 minute wait in a hot room with subdued lighting and gentle murmuring of students is my most reliable meditation time.
Orgy Atmosphere: Spending 90 minutes in a room full of half-naked, writhing, sweaty people is nice break from the mundane. It’s a close as I’m likely to get to a Roman orgy.
Hydration: I drink about a liter of water before class, a liter during class, a liter right after class, and a liter within an hour of leaving class. So long, toxins! It also helps with…
Keeping it Regular: Right in the middle of the practice when it’s getting hard to focus I always hear the instructor say “this posture massages your colon”. They are right. You are guaranteed to have a skip in your step the next day, after a few bathroom breaks, of course.
Warmth: I live in New England; in the winter it gets dark at 4:00 and it is cold all the time. My Bikram class card goes untouched between April and October, but when the cold sets in I’m ready to head back to my 105 degree class.
Now if someone can just explain a Japanese Ham Sandwich I'll be set.