Two years ago in Seattle, I had a three month love-affair with Bikram Yoga – then I ran out of money. Since then my life has become considerably less healthy – I’m not exactly in peak physical condition after so many smoky boliches, dancing the night away, and watching the sun come up on the ride home. Not to mention the innumerable choripans…
I decided to return to Bikram Yoga to give me some more stability – both physically and in my general life. It felt amazing and awful to step back into that sweltering room and sweat like there is no tomorrow.
Bikram Yoga is a 90 minutes series of 26 postures plus two breathing exercises – all performed in a hot room, exactly 42 degrees hot. The space is lined with mirrors and most participants are as undressed as prudently possible. Even I exposed the soft and dimply parts of my body, in tiny shorts and a sports bra, to stay cool.
The good news is: I had no time to be self-conscious. It was an hour and a half challenge to control my breathing and to bend that way. The sheer effort and focus required to follow the instructor’s directions quickly dissipated my nerves and I resigned to the torrents of sweat sliding off of me.
Jay Fairbank, from the US, co-owns Bikram Yoga Buenos Aires with his Chilean wife Carla Cristofori. They began practising Bikram in Texas in 2002, and were hooked right away.
Always athletic, Fairbank had conquered and become bored with many other forms of exercise before he found Bikram. He says he knew right away that it was the type of exercise he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Within six months he decided to become an instructor, and moved to Los Angeles for the nine-week training programme taught by creator Bikram Choudhury.
In 2009, they opened the first and only Bikram studio in Argentina – right off of Parque Las Heras in Buenos Aires. Fairbank said it started slower than he expected but class sizes have grown exponentially over time – with over two thousand visits in March.
“It’s been fun. It’s been hell. If it was easy, there would not be the value. And I think that goes with your practice also – if Bikram Yoga was easy you would not value it.”
The classes are for all levels of Bikram Yogis, but that doesn’t mean it is painless for beginners. With the overwhelming combination of heat and physical exertion, Fairbank explained that just one class is “not enough to really understand what is going on”.
First timers promotion is seven consecutive days for $65, the price of one walk-in class. They encourage people to go to everyday that first week to familiarize themselves with the series.
As Fairbank says, “Come with an open mind. No expectations. Just come.”
My first class in over two years was as brutal as it was enlightening. I was forced to realise how little control I have over my muscles, as some positions that had been easy, challenged my strength and flexibility again. When I started to panic about the heat, I had to look back on the peace of mind I used to have.
Fairbank became emotional when discussing how much people gain from Bikram. “I still don’t believe it,” he reflected, “Just by going in here for an hour and a half, and working out, people don’t realise, it’s so physical, but something happens in your metaphysical.”
The idea is that you push yourself farther than you think you can – challenge your body to override your mind’s limitations. At the end of the session, as they turn off the lights, and I lay on my mat soaked with sweat and fully exhausted, the most surprising sensation came over me. Gratitude. From myself to my body for taking on the challenge and doing something so good. This is the feeling that will propel me back tomorrow – regardless of how sore I’m going to be.