So, I've been chatting with my friends on Weight Watchers message boards about this yoga style, called Bikram Yoga, that everyone was raving about. One woman said she feels so refreshed and relaxed after the class; another said she felt like she could climb a mountain afterwards. They all say they burn so many calories and it has helped their weight loss significantly. Every comment from every lady was positive; they love it. "I've got to try this!" I thought.
So, I signed up and attended a Bikram Yoga class on Friday afternoon.
Here's the general rundown on Bikram Yoga: it is a series of 26 yoga poses, each repeated twice and at your own level of flexibility/strength. What sets it apart from other yoga styles is that it is performed in a heated room, between 95 and 105 degrees (our class never got above 97). The heat is supposed to relax and heat up your muscles, allowing them to stretch deeper without injury. The sweating is supposed to be cleansing, and all of this together is meant to result in a relaxing, detoxifying, healing, and energizing experience for beginners and experienced yogis alike.
Here's my reality of Bikram yoga: it is ninety minutes of exactly how I envision the most gruesome and torturous levels of Hell will be for the worst of humankind.
When I first walked into the room and lay down my mat, the heat didn't seem so bad; it was like a nice, balmy day at the beach. I thought it was going to be great like all the WW ladies had said, and I was really excited. I set my heart rate monitor to start counting calories, and I sat cross-legged, waiting for the teacher to begin.
The first few poses were nice. I was careful not to overextend myself, and I tried to just relax into them, focusing on my breathing like the teacher told us. As the class went on, however, I began to feel nauseous. The poses became more challenging, my heart felt like it was going to explode out of my chest (although it was still beating relatively slow), and my body felt weak and fatigued all over. I took breaks, drank water, and performed the poses at the easiest level possible, but I can still think of at least four times that I thought I was going to die; and two other times that I prayed in earnest for the sweet relief that death would bring. I have never been so physically miserable during exercise in my life; not even when I did the Memphis in May Triathlon.
When the class finally by the grace of God ended, I stepped out into the blissfully cool 75 degree lobby area, and started to feel my will to live slowly return. I had the same feeling that one has when just getting over the flu; you can still feel the effects of the misery you've been in, but there is a glimmer at the end of the tunnel. I drove home feeling like I had been trampled by wild animals. I never had that feeling of relaxation or exhiliration described by so many others. I was just glad it was over.
According to my heart rate monitor, I burned a total of 525 calories in the 90 grueling minutes of Bikram Yoga. The next day (Saturday), I burned 565 calories in my one-hour Zumba class, which is tons of fun and does give me energy afterward and make me feel like I could climb a mountain. I think I'll stick with Zumba. Just maybe.
It's not that I hate exercise. It's not that I hate sweating during exercise. I just hate Bikram Yoga.