Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My Top 10: Bikram Yoga Amherst & Sartre's "No Exit"

--> ***Spoiler Alert*** This gets a little “Dear Diary”

Approximately 2 years, 5 months, and 13 days ago I became addicted to Bikram yoga. While I started practicing in Philly, I have experienced most of my classes at Bikram Yoga Amherst. A quick summary of the practice: 1.5 hrs, 105 ‘F, 40% humidity, 26 postures (2 sets of almost everything), and 2 breathing exercises. Certified teachers spend 9 weeks learning the postures and a specific dialog for the class. Therefore, every Bikram studio offers the same practice.

Recently, I have been reflecting on the similarities between Jean-Paul Sartre’s play, No Exit, and the Bikram “room.” One of the main goals of the practice is to stay in the room and stay present. Bikram (the man who created the series) likes to play up the torture chamber aspect of the practice: “to kill yourself for 90 minutes.” Many studios embrace the inferno theme by painting the room’s walls red/orange or flames on the exterior of the building. Thus, the similarities between No Exit and Bikram begin.

No matter what is experienced in the room, you must keep your eyes open. Regardless of how painful and difficult the practice may be, you cannot escape it. Whatever your weaknesses, physical, mental, or both, Bikram will find them and challenge you to overcome them. Yet, your problems one day may not be your problems the next day. Eventually, once you adjust to the heat and the physical aspect of the practice, I believe the issues are mental. And, as Garcin, Inez, and Estelle come to discover in No Exit, “hell is other people.” Perhaps you have constructed the person standing next to you, for whatever reason, as your biggest problem. But, you cannot escape them, and you cannot escape the room.

While many people refer to this style as the “really-hot-insane-militant-yoga,” it is many other things. I have learned more about myself by practicing this yoga, 5-6 days a week, than I can possibly express. This practice teaches patience; doing the same poses day after day, with no variation, requires you to accept that your body will change at its own pace and that every posture has a beginning. This practice teaches humility; you are not in a competition with the person to your right or left. This practices teaches focus; if you remain calm throughout the practice, you will be able to face problems in your daily life more easily.

Needless to say, I believe in this practice. I am certain that I could not have run 3 (soon to be 4) injury-free (fingers crossed) marathons without practicing this yoga. But people cannot be convinced of the changes that are possible in their own bodies; they must experience it themselves.

As I have practiced mostly in Western Mass, I must thank Dan Finn, the owner of Bikram Yoga Amherst. Without Dan’s attention to detail and welcome ability to push me beyond my present capabilities, my practice may not be what it is today. I will miss the "wicked" hot windowless room with red/orange walls, a disco ball, and lava lamps. The Bikram studio on the Main Line has two smallish windows; what kind of hell is that? Well, as I already know, it’s a whole different kind.

Bikram Yoga Amherst
267 Amherst Road/Route 116
Sunderland, MA 01375


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