4.08.2015

Aspiring to Bend Beyond

I was once capable of bending beyond
Jumping Back Into It with Hot Yoga 

"The company of other inspiring yogis motivated me as I listened to the gentle coaxing of our teacher. 'Raise your hands overhead, stretch, and slowly lean back,' he kindly instructed us. Slowly I felt my back extending as I folded deeper into the pose. It was then I felt myself bending, expanding, growing, transforming, releasing toxins, becoming recharged. Hot yoga was transforming me."


That was not my line of thinking as I worked my way through my first two Bikram yoga classes at the Bend Beyond studio in Bozeman. I signed up for a month membership as my gym membership had recently expired. I'm aiming to go 10 times in the next four weeks and think of this as a fitness challenge as well as an activity to get me through the finicky and often wet spring weather.

Yoga should be easy for me. I was a competitive gymnast for ten years and flexibility was one of my strongest points. As you can see from the photos, I used to be able to bend easily. Additionally, I did yoga regularly for many years but life has a way of changing direction, and I hadn't gone to a yoga class in over six years. I had been going less and less regularly, and the last time I went, it was a challenge. Throughout the session I regularly wondered how on earth I was supposed to "let go" and "clear my mind" if all I could think was, "When on earth are we going to get out of the posture and move on to the next?" While I was still fit, my body had changed and once flexible joints were now much tighter. Yoga wasn't working for me as it once had.

Yoga has gotten so popular in recent years with instructors and studios popping up all over Bozeman. The influx of local yogis has made attending classes unpredictable as it takes a while to get familiar with an instructor's style and which might resonate with what you're looking for. I've found instructors who played bluegrass during practice, those who require rounds of ten pushups in-between postures, and those who have students hold poses for ridiculously long times. All of those things I was hoping to avoid. 

The solution for me was to try Bikram yoga once again. I attended a few classes in the past as a friend of mine was teaching at a local studio. The sessions are always held in a room heated to 104 °F and are always 90 minutes in length during which time students move through a series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises. Yogis practice two rounds of each posture and shavasana, or resting pose, is practiced in between each posture during the second half of the practice. The poses aren't held for a long time and the predictability of each Bikram's practice along with the opportunity to rest regularly appeals to me. This seemed to be the best sort of yoga for my month-long challenge. 

Returning to yoga after all of these years was hard. Couple that with the heated room and the first
session was torture. I don't like heat so the hot, muggy room really made things difficult. It surprised me how hard it was to make it through the series of postures and by the end of the first class I felt almost as worn out as I would have been after a long ski approach in the backcountry. Every part of me was covered in sweat including my inner ears, and I'm pretty certain that was actually sweat from my ears, not sweat that ran into them! The second class wasn't pure torture but it was far from pleasure. I plan on sticking with it despite my dislike of the heat and lack of skill.

I'm curious to see the progress I make during my one-month membership. It is not my intention to be able to bend as I once did, but I would like to see what is possible. Maybe it will transform me and I'll be come hooked. But probably not. My membership ends right before my trip to Montenegro and when I get back it will be prime mountain biking season!