A new fad; hot, sweaty, yogacise.
Bikram yoga seems to be the new trend around Glasgow’s west end and it’s no surprise why, £30 for 30 days of yoga is a deal that seems to good to be true, especially with individual drop in classes priced at £17.50 each. But the philosophy behind it is that you need to commit yourself to more than just the one session, it’s an on-going healing process which takes a little time to master.
“In fact feeling sick is a good thing and is encouraged; apparently it means the healing is working. “
The first class is a challenge, everyone told me so, yet the trickiest aspect for me was trying to hear the teacher’s barked instructions whilst focusing on my own positioning. Whilst yoga classes I’ve been to before have been conducted in a very calm and collected manner with the instructor moving with the class so as to demonstrate the postures, Bikram Yoga instructors simply stand at the front of the clammy room, verbally instructing the class. Personally I felt a marked separation between the instructor and the class, possibly because of their lack of physical involvement and the fact that they are elevated, standing on a pedestal looking over their students. There seems to be a sort of hierarchy in the room, the instructor playing the role of the autocrat, albeit one that is preaching om shanti and peace. Even more advanced students seem to be placed above those who cannot find the focus that the teacher is after. For example, in my first class, the instructor picked out one particularly flexible woman to demonstrate the ideal version of the pose the class has us aim for. What’s more, you are told in your first class that no matter how faint or sick you may feel, you are not allowed to leave the room. In fact feeling sick is a good thing and is encouraged; apparently it means the healing is working.
Because the Bikram Yoga routine doesn’t change but is simply a repetition of the same 26 poses week after week, the instructions become easier to manage, the poses easier to master and there is a real sense of personal development from class to class. But honestly, the repetitive nature of the routine began to bore me and I found myself dreading going to class, practicing the same routine in the hot 40 degree room with a bunch of other yogis who no doubt felt a similar sense of dread. But afterwards, that’s when the magic happens. You leave the class and feel like you’re floating. Maybe it’s simply that you’ve been immersed in sauna like heat for 90 minutes and you’re a little giddy in the head from dehydration, but there is a definite sense of calm and contentedness after class (not during) and I guess this is the ultimate appeal of Bikram yoga. That and the weight loss and fitness aspects that it claims to. I say claims to because although you may feel like you’re working your ass off in a Bikram yoga class because of the gross amounts of sweating and difficult positions, in reality, the calorie burn rate is not much higher than a normal yoga class. So, if you’re looking to shed pounds, you’re better off sticking to classic cardio.
One thing that Bikram Yoga fails to encompass into its 90 minute class is a proper meditation session. Meditation at the end of a good yoga class with a really good instructor is one of the most powerful and appealing aspects of yoga for me. I feel that group meditation provides a real sense of communal energy that always leaves me with a refreshed outlook and certain tranquillity. So Bikram Yoga’s lack of meditation session was a grievance for me. I felt that the whole experience was so different from classic yoga; despite all the different branches, from yin to vinyasa, Bikram yoga seems removed and separate from them all.
“Try as I might, it’s hard to find a routine that was ‘created’ by such a negligent and narcissistic being peaceful and beneficial.”
Above and beyond my personal feelings for the Bikram yoga routine itself, Bikram yoga’s founder and alleged creator, Bikram Choudhury, seems to go against the basic philosophy of yoga and all its principles. For starters, he has attempted to copyright his ‘Bikram yoga’ routine of 26 classic, age-old yoga postures, a feat that has been compared to trying to copyright the Lord’s Prayer. It seems ridiculous to think that Bikram could attempt to copyright a routine of poses that have been practiced for centuries. Bikram has also faced (and denied) sexual assault and rape allegations from at least half a dozen women. Choudhury claims that women love him, implying that he does not need to sexually assault women. He also went so far as to suggest that some of his students commit suicide because he will not have sex with them. Try as I might, it’s hard to find a routine that was ‘created’ by such a negligent and narcissistic being peaceful and beneficial.
So, to conclude, I’m not the biggest fan of Bikram yoga. Although I did enjoy the calm and contented after feeling of class and got on well with a few of the instructors, the whole principle of Bikram yoga seems so anti-yoga and fails to encompass the mindful philosophy which drew me to yoga in the first place. Needless to say, I will not be extending my subscription to the Bikram yoga studio.