Time for an update. After twelve sessions of Bikram yoga, it's fair to say that I am drinking (though haven't quite finished) the Kool Aid. Back in January, I made a New Years resolution to unbind my arms, which have both been afflicted with the extraordinarily painful condition known as frozen shoulder. I started Bikram yoga at my daughter's urging, and I have stuck to it, on average, twice a week since January.
This is not to say that it doesn't take something out of me. I quake before I go. I steel myself to follow through with the ninety minute practice in a studio heated to 105 degrees. It feels like preparing to give birth. I've done that three times. But each time I finish Bikram yoga I feel as depleted and as exhilarated as I did after childbirth. And yet I'm doing it. And I'm glad I'm doing it, and even though I still can't manage every pose, I am beginning to understand the mind body and soul connection which is the definition of yoga.
Yesterday I took my friend Sara, who had been to Bikram before, in a
different studio sometime ago. She was interested to try out this one. As I showed her the locker room, another woman stopped me. "You live in my neighborhood," she said. "And you walk your dogs every day past my house. And you have a daughter named Rosalind."
How did she know all this?
"Are you the pianist?" I asked - with a vague memory going back to when our children attended Haycock Elementary School. She nodded. "You have a son," I said.
"I have two," she replied. "But they're all grown up." She told me she'd been doing Bikram yoga now for two and a half years. "And it has changed my life," she said. "I have drunk the Kool Aid."
After that, we all went into the studio and positioned our mats in the sauna heat. Our ninety minute workout was strenuous and releasing both at once - and seeing Sara go through it for the (not quite) first time, reminded me of how I felt in January when Rosalind first took me. How the heat was unbearable. All I could think of was leaving the room. But now my frozen shoulder no longer hurts. And although it's hot, the heat doesn't bother me. Instead it is familiar, if not comforting. I still don't have the full range of motion in one shoulder, but now I'm less concerned with that, than with my inability to complete certain poses.
There are some poses I positively hate. For instance, the camel. So I took a little break at the camel pose, given my shoulder. I deserved a break, didn't I? "After you finish your water, Amanda," the instructor said, "Please join us. Don't sit out a pose," he admonished. Yoga, he said, was more about mental resolve than physical ability. The idea was to attempt each pose. The camel would be particularly good for me. It would help my flexibility and eventually (ah - eventually) it would reduce excess body fat in the abdominal area. The whole Bikram workout was designed to utterly exhaust us physically so that there would be nothing left to stress us out once we finished. "And I can promise you," he said, "that no one else in Falls Church is working as hard as we are, right this minute."
Boy, did I feel a slacker! How dare I sit out the camel. But in spite of that, having Sara along, made me aware of the progress I'd made in just three months. The first time I came to this studio, I couldn't even think of the camel. I could barely breathe! And although Sara is flexible, having been a jazz dancer, there were times when I thought she was going to leave the room. She looked spent and red faced and utterly exhausted. The mat had become her world and her prison, and yet God bless her, she stayed, and she was glad she did.
Afterwards, both of us sat in the lobby area talking to another woman who had been going to Bikram for seven months. "You seem very flexible," Sara told her.
"I sent my youngest child to college in September," she replied. "I had spent years of my life sitting through soccer and baseball games. I realized it was time to take care of myself."
Her resolve was paying off and we could see that clearly. How rewarding to realize that it is possible to be more fit as you age. Was it possible that Bikram was handing our flexibility back? Yes! But with serious commitment in return.
If you're interested, here is the link to our studio: