Surviving Bikram yoga: Day 5

After two days of no yoga, I was READY to go back last night!  My back was so sore and I could feel the crunchies coming back in my shoulders.

When I arrived at the studio, the 5pm class was letting out.  Everyone was commenting on how the room felt especially hot and they looked like they really had a hard workout.  As I entered the room, I could feel it was hotter.  The owner mentioned beforehand that sometimes when it’s rainy outside, it will make the studio more humid and that makes it feel hotter.

It was a rather full room, but not packed.  There were some new people and Pong, the instructor, directed them to the back row so they could watch others in front for pose help.  I’m really working on the first breathing exercise this week.  It is a standing, deep breathing pose called Pranayama.  The first time I did it, I was thinking, what in the world is this all about?  I understood from the instructor that it was to invigorate you for class and stretch your lungs, but I was curious to find out more online.

It is difficult to find a good photo of pranayama breathing, since it’s a technique not a posture.  You can do it sitting I guess too.  In Bikram, it’s done standing.  I found this photo and it shows the two parts of the breathing technique…


As you can see, it looks a little weird.  Basically, you start on the left breathing in and at the same time, you lift up your arms by your ears.  This is a surprisingly stressful activity on the shoulders and arms if you are weak in this area.  I can’t get my arms up with my elbows by my ears yet because I’m not that flexible in my upper back.  Then, you breathe out with a forceful AAAAAH open mouth sound, and push your head back with your hands clasped under the chin.  At the same time, you touch your elbows out in the front.

Then, you just repeat, breathing in, arms up, breathing out AAAAAH arms down and elbows together.  Head up and back to the front.  It makes people a little dizzy at first because they aren’t used to deep breathing.  It’s pretty challenging because you can’t arch your back or scrunch your shoulders up.

Here’s what I found for the benefits of the activity:

It is supposed to be good for the lungs and respiratory system (prevents shortness of breath, bronchitis etc.)
It helps lung reach their maximum expansion capacity
It increases circulation of oygenated blood throughout the body
It loosens frozen/tight shoulders
It relieves irritability and relaxes the mind

I can see that some people just go through the motions with this posture, but it’s actually very important to start your practice rested, oxygenated, and aware.  I know for me personally, I am a pretty shallow breather normally, so this activity has forced me to be conscious about taking deep breaths and expanding my belly.

In other news, it was a crazy night at the studio last night.  Like I mentioned before, the room felt a lot hotter.  About five poses in, people really started to struggle and some started to take breaks on the mat.  One woman, who was new in the back, really was not into it.  Pong kept encouraging people to lay down and not leave the room unless it is an emergency.  You really do have to suffer through a few classes before your body gets used to the heat.  The woman was pretty antsy, shifting around and sitting and pacing.  When Pong told her to try laying down again, she said I can’t lay down it makes it hotter!  So Pong reminded her that heat rises so it would be good for her to be as close to the floor as possible.  There was no winning with this woman.  She all of a sudden exclaims, you’re trapping me!  You’re trapping me in here!  And runs out.  Needless to say, I was shocked.  I’ve never seen an outburst like this in a yoga class before.  I’ve seen people quietly leave, never to return but this was loud!  Then, the woman’s friends all start in and they leave.  Soon enough, the room has turned into a mess of people hysterical about the heat.  I’ve never seen a room’s vibe go so crazy before.

It started to freak me out because it was hot!  I had to remind myself to center, acknowledge that it is hot, let it go, and calm down.  I literally had to slow my breathing, shut my eyes, and calm down.  What the heck, people!  Then Pong came back in, informed us that part of the discipline of hot yoga is learning to be uncomfortable and getting through the mental block of a hot room.  And, also it’s not a good idea to start a fast when you start hot yoga.  Duh.

Drama aside, the class moved on and I actually did end up sitting out of two postures back to back.  I really had lost my concentration with the outburst and it was hard to get back in the groove after that.

It will be good to be back on the mat tonight.  Hopefully, this time….drama free.

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