People who have tried Bikram Yoga tend to have strong feelings about it. They love it or they haaaaaate it.
While admittedly I spent most of my first class at Bikram Yoga Toronto drenched in sweat, lying on my mat and gazing incredulously at anyone who was capable of movement in the oppressive heat, after a couple of classes, I learned the flow of things and for a time was pretty hooked.
At the end of a day of desks and keyboards, it was a relief to stretch and bend, move and yes, even the profuse sweating felt like a great release.
As someone who is naturally about as flexible as a dried-out No. 2 pencil, I was delighted to find that after a few weeks, my toes actually came within touching range.
Often, the most challenging part of the class was simply staying put. There were times when I wanted to just run from the oppressive heat of the room, smashing through the doors and bursting out into the street to gulp in the (comparatively) fresh night air. I would lie still and quiet, letting the sweat roll off me and thinking, It’s just uncomfortable. You’re not dying, you’re not in pain. You’re just hot.
It’s not impossible, it’s just hard. You can do hard.
It might sound crazy to willingly put oneself through that, but finding the discipline to stick it out when things were difficult and having patience when things were uncomfortable or irritating was a victory that translated well into my life outside of the “torture chamber” (Bikram’s words, not mine).
But I think the best thing Bikram did for me was to change the way I felt about my body.
There’s nothing like some extreme heat to make covering up perceived flaws seem less and less important. On top of that, Bikram tends to attract a much more diverse range of ages and body types than other exercise classes I’ve been to. While I swear I wasn’t creepily staring at people in the change room, I think it did me a world of good to see some real-life naked or near naked women, with their cellulite, fat, and sweat-drenched hair decidedly free of airbrushing or photoshop and knowing that all of those bodies with their shockingly different shapes and sizes had just carried them through the same challenges that mine did.
I went from worrying about being judged for not having a manicure to not bothering to shave my legs in a matter of weeks and while my body didn’t get substantially smaller over my time there, my outfits certainly did. It was just too damn hot to cover up, and better yet, I found the most concern I could muster about whether I ought to be ashamed for unleashing my imperfect torso on the world was a hearty shrug.
And that felt amazing.