I Tried Bikram Yoga & Failed Spectacularly
Inspired by Matt’s brave / miserable attempt at Pure Barre, I decided to try Bikram Yoga with my wife this weekend. As she put it, “she’s ONLY been trying to get me to go for four years”. I figured it would make for a pretty good experience and/or blog post. I’m a moron.
In case you’re not familiar with it, Bikram Yoga is some patented form of yoga where you go through 90 minutes of hell in a room heated up to 105 degrees and 40% humidity. 26 poses and 2 breathing exercises. Some people swear by it. By the end of the class, you’re drenched in sweat and are supposed to have removed a bunch of toxins from your body. How bad could this be?
Short answer: very bad.
For the record, I had never in my life even been to a yoga class. I’ve tried it a couple of times at home with the wife, but nothing too extravagant. It’s just not my cup of tea. As some dude in the class later told me, “You pretty much jumped into the deep end.” Yeah.
In the week leading up to the class, my wife kept teasing me and telling me that I for sure was going to have a rough go. She wasn’t exactly trying to help with my confidence — in fact, she was pretty much doing the exact opposite (and getting a kick out of it). “You know, a lot of masochists actually go to Bikram, I think it really appeals to them.” Oh really? “Yeah, I mean, I think they really enjoy it, since it’s basically torture on the body.” Thanks babe.
I countered all that negativity by looking up articles online, gathering information, and hoping I could get a good sense of what I should expect. Most articles came down to “it’s going to be very hot, so drink lots of water, breathe through your nose, and you will feel great after.” Overall, pretty encouraging stuff. I even looked up YouTube videos so I could start visualizing the experience:
Friday evening rolls around and we make our way to the Bikram Studio. We open the door and the first thing that hits me is the stench. We’re out in the lobby and it already reeks of sweat and B.O. No biggie, I expected that. The instructor at the front desk is super nice, friendly, and lets me know I’ll have a great time. Alright! Already feeling good.
My wife and I walk into the yoga room. I’m suddenly hit by another wall of funk, this time accompanied by a wave of heat and humidity. But you know, not as horrible as I expected. Confidence = 9/10. LET’S GO. There are about three or four other people already in the room, so I’m a bit relieved to know I won’t be embarrassing myself in front of a huge crowd. We sit down on our mats and do some warm-up stretches, and my wife immediately turns to me with a smile and says, “This isn’t even hot. They haven’t turned up the heat yet.”
WHAT. Confidence = quickly shattered. 2/10. Done.
A few minutes later, the instructor walks in and turns on the heat, which I can only describe as being generated by the fire of a thousand suns. There’s a vent directly over my head. Hades has basically opened up above me — this is not what I was expecting. 105 degrees my ass. “No worries, Cain, you’ve got this,” I tell myself. And so we begin.
The first set is basically a couple of breathing exercises. On their own, not too bad. In 105 degree heat, though, it only took a few minutes before it felt like I had asthma and was being asked to breathe through a wet blanket. Breathe innnnnn, breathe outttt. With clasped hands, we raise our arms and point to the ceiling, then lean left, right, front, and back. My lungs are on fire and my arms feel like they’re going to fall off. “But these are only stretches, how can my arms already be so tired?!” I kept asking myself that, hoping I could convince my body that it was freaking out over nothing.
Eventually we move on to a “Half Moon” pose or something, and I find myself bent over with my forehead basically pinned up against my shins. This hurts. Keep going, I remind myself. “Awkward Pose” time, which is basically a squat. In 105 degree heat.
This is where it gets bad. I make the mistake of looking at the clock. Sweet Jesus, I’ve only been in here for 30 minutes. AN HOUR TO GO?! What did I get myself into? 35 minutes into the class, and I feel like fainting. My legs do not want to listen to me. At this point my technique can only be described as resembling Bambi trying to walk on ice:
My wife is standing next to me, working harder to stifle her laughter than to actually do the yoga. She’s barely sweating. I, on the other hand, am already on my knees taking what at that point was probably my 3rd break. My shirt was off and I was already debating whether or not I should just rip off my shorts, too. Uh oh, I’m seeing stars. UH OH, REALITY IS FADING AWAY. Cue the music. Play this and read on:
“I think I already lost, man.”
“No problem, I’ll come back and check on you in a bit!”
I truly believe I am about to die, and I don’t care. I’m laying there, slowly trying to catch my breath, praying that God takes me quickly. This is it, boys. So this is how it all ends. Yoga. And the entire time I’m laying there, I can’t help but keep thinking about that fat guy with the gut in the video just putting me to shame. But, but, but … how?! How did he do it?!
5 minutes later, I’m able to stand up again. 10 minutes later, and I’m feeling better. The instructor walks out and tells me to try it again. “You can lay there and sleep if you want, just make it through the class! I’ll wake you up if you start snoring.” I fight the urge to run out of the studio and, for whatever reason, actually go back into the class. OHHH GODDD IT’S STILL SO HOT. I’ll just lay here.
I spend the next 20 minutes on my back in what I eventually learn is “Shavasana”. I call it the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” pose:
Even then, just laying there, doing absolutely nothing, I’m dying. It’s still too hot. I refuse to move. Hell, even if I wanted to, I can’t. I turn to look at my wife, and she gives me that quick look of “Poor baby / haha you honestly thought you could keep up?” I just smile back and try not to cry. I’m drenched in sweat, and my eyes are burning.
When there are two poses left, I decide I’ll get up and give it another shot. The instructor congratulates me for not giving up. Bro, I gave up. I gave up a LOOOONG time ago. This is me just trying to salvage whatever is left of my broken ego. But I appreciate you trying to make me feel better. But let’s just be clear — I definitely, 100% gave up.
The class ends and we walk outside. At this point, energy is slowly making its way back into my body, but I’m absolutely ashamed of my pitiful performance. People are still congratulating me for making it through my first class (sorta). I point to the floor and tell my wife, “I laid here for like 10 minutes. I hope there are no security cameras because they’d have just captured 10 minutes of me laying here inches away from death.” She dies of laughter. I waddle to the changing room, glad this is all over. I walked in looking like myself, and walked out looking like an old, dehydrated Keith Richards:
So yeah, Bikram Yoga is no joke. I honestly don’t know how someone can make it through a whole class without collapsing. It was unbearable. And yet, I find myself wanting to try it again just to make up for the complete and spectacular failure on my part. At least I know what to expect. But yeahhhhh, that probably won’t happen.