Adventures in Yoga: a First Timer's Bikram Yoga Experience

People who are good at yoga are awesome. I'm envious of those who can do things like this and this, and never expect to be one of them! But I can appreciate the mental and physical benefits of practicing. I'm not flexible and tend to have difficulty with hand-foot matches in climbing as a result, and other moves that require flexibility. Being stiff and tight can cause all sorts of problems, and as much as I know that, I still don't focus on loosening up nearly as much as I should.

When one of my good friends invited me to a Bikram yoga class on Tuesday night, I was skeptical, but excited to try something new! She schooled me on pre-class preparation. I was instructed to be as hydrated as possible, stop eating at least two hours before class to avoid vomiting, bring a water bottle to take sips from during class to avoid passing out, and wear as little as I was comfortable wearing. If that isn't enough to make a girl nervous...

Being super hot and sweaty bothers me, and I'll do almost anything I can do avoid it, including moving to Alaska. But after multiple friends raved about how Bikram made them feel, I figured it was worth a shot.

We met at Bikram Yoga of Philadelphia, a beautiful bi-level studio in Center City, for a 90-minute class. The studio felt like the surface of the sun, (even though it was only ~100ºF), and unlike other yoga classes I've been to (power yoga, vinyasa), the instructor spoke quickly, loudly, and excitedly as he led us through the poses. Of course, there were some I couldn't do, but he was helpful and corrected me each time my posture wasn't quite right.

Despite spending the entire class dripping sweat and being uncomfortable, but I'm glad I did it. I left feeling invigorated and temporarily free of the stiffness from my lifting/cardio sessions the day before. Aside from the physical benefits, I enjoyed the mental challenge. Most of us don't enjoy being uncomfortable, and when we are, we'll do what we can to alleviate that feeling. As each bead of sweat dripped off my skin, as my heart raced to pump blood and cool me down, as annoyed as I was with being so hot, I couldn't just leave the room. I had to deal with it. I had to be patient, let go of the little annoyances, and stay focused.

I've heard the harder yoga is for you, the more you might need it, and the more it might help you. It's always been physically difficult for me, but Bikram provided an added mental challenge. That mental training, learning how to talk to myself when I'm uncomfortable, is so important for climbing and in preparation for other big, scary challenges. As it turns out, the things I find most difficult mentally in climbing, yoga, mountaineering, etc. run parallel to many things I find difficult in life. And someday, I'll conquer them all! 

Are you a Bikram fan, or a yoga fan in general? What are some of the benefits you've seen from doing yoga? We'd love your comments!
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