Thursday, June 5, 2008
Turning Up The Heat
I've never sweat so much in my life as I did last night.
No, it wasn't from an extra hard run or a sudden heat wave. Last night I added something new to my cross-training repertoire -- Bikram yoga.
If you're not familiar with Bikram yoga, let me help you understand. Last night, I packed into a relatively small room with about 35 other people and twisted our bodies into all sorts of shapes for an hour and a half. And here's the kicker -- the room is at least 100 degrees.
That's no exaggeration. Ideally, Bikram is practiced at temperatures above 105 degrees, according to the brief online research I did.
I'd heard a lot about Bikram and know a lot of people who've tried it - and loved it. So, willing to give it a try, I decided to sign up for 10-day test drive.
I asked a friend of mine what I should bring. Her advice: minimal clothing and a couple of towels.
She was right. Normally, I'm pretty modest, but somewhere after the first five minutes of class last night, I was glad that I chose to go with only a sports bra and shorts. Even the light wicking material of my tanktop would have been unbearable.
(No, that's not me in the photo, but if I stick with this stuff perhaps it could be some day.)
I found my way to the second row (it was the second of two rows, just in case you think I was getting too ambitious) and placed my mat and towel on the floor. Others in the room did gentle stretches and some just lay motionless in a relaxed position while we waited for the instructor.
Somehow I ended up behind an incredibly toned and flexible man -- who happened to be wearing the smallest and tightest shorts I'd ever seen. He also probably had the fittest body I'd ever seen. As he contorted his body in ways that shouldn't be humanly possible, I resisted the urge not to stare.
Part of me felt awkward standing behind the nearly-naked man, but the other part felt as if I'd have a pretty good example in front of me to mimic his poses. He obviously knew what he was doing. (Turns out he is actually an instructor for another class, so my hunch to follow his lead was right on.)
Luckily, not everyone in the class was so perfect and toned. Sure, some were pictures of ideal body shapes and proportions, but most were what I will call 'normal' people.
The class started with two breathing exercises -- the first of which made me question whether the class was right for me when the instructor let out a guttural, throaty sound on the exhale. The class followed her lead -- letting out noisy, awkward exhales. I resisted the urge to snicker or run out of the room.
I re-focused my mind -- as I'm sure I wasn't supposed to be thinking about the germ-ridden breath of strangers that was filling the 100+ degree, air-tight room -- and concentrated on the deep breaths bringing oxygen to my lungs and blood.
The class got dramatically better from there and we moved into the postures. As a first-timer, I had to pay attention to exactly how my body was supposed to move. I watched myself in the mirrors at the front of the room and tried to replicate what I saw the others doing. We went through the series of postures, tightening and stretching our muscles in ways I'd never experienced.
The instructor guided us calmly through the series, correcting our form as to give us the most benefits. I'm sure the postures will come more naturally to me as my body gets used to working in this way. At least I hope so.
Soon, I was drenched with sweat. At one point, I noticed droplets plopping onto the mat below me. (I looked around to make sure I wasn't the only one experiencing this. I surely wasn't.)
I was sweating from places I'd never sweat before and my whole body was seeping. We were like chickens in a roasting pan, slowly letting out our juices. It wasn't at all like the sweat you experience after a hard cardio workout.
I knew I was getting an intense workout to my muscles, but I wasn't exhausted and my muscles didn't ache from use. They felt energized and lean.
When the 90 minutes were up, my body felt great. I felt stretched and relaxed, both physically and mentally. My skin was softer than I remember it being in a long time. It was like my whole body had gotten a facial.
I never thought I'd be looking forward to spending 90 minutes in a stifling hot room with a bunch of barely-dressed strangers twisting our sweaty bodies into almost-unnatural shapes. But I can't wait to go back.