Monday, October 19, 2009

Bikram Doesn't Blow, But It Ain't in the Budget

© 2009 Leighann Lord

I wish I liked cheesecake. Every time I watch "The Golden Girls" it seems like there’s no problem that can't be solved by chowing down on a generous late-night slice of cheesecake. But try as I might, I can't seem to develop a taste for it. I feel the same way about yoga.

Yoga, like cheesecake, has a devout following and makes people feel good but I haven't had much success. I have a few dusty yoga DVDs (subtext: drink coasters) in my house. They’re probably great if you already do yoga and, with basics firmly grasped, are looking to supplement your practice.

My bookshelf boasts a pristine copy of "Yoga for Dummies." This proves that at one point I was serious about thinking about maybe trying yoga, again. But alas yoga isn't a theoretical thing. It's a get-on-the-mat and do it thing. And I have, with less than inspiring results. I often joke in my act: "I hurt my knee doing yoga. I hyper-extended it. Now I can't 'drop it like it's hot.' I have to carefully set it down at room temperature."

I want to like yoga. I really do. I have friends who swear by it. They claim it gives them flexibility, energy, vitality, tranquility. I could use a big dose of all of that. And so I try yoga every few years thinking it will be different. Maybe now I'll be "ready." In my ideal version of myself, I am effortlessly calm, cool, and collected. I imagine that Yoga will help me achieve and maintain that. Yoga will quell my angst, anger and general impatience with life. And then the sweet voice of the instructor dashes my hopes with an impossible request: "Close your eyes . . . take a deep breath . . . contort your colon into the shape of a pentagram . . . please stop crying, you're disturbing the other students . . . "

This time it's my Husband who's invited me to take a yoga class with him. And not just any old yoga, Bikram Yoga. That's the hot one. Ninety minutes of yoga done on the surface of the sun. I tried it and it didn't totally suck. I love the heat and was careful not to over do it. Yoga is deceptive. You think you're not doing anything so you push it and the next thing you know, you're doctor says you have a partially torn meniscus, courtesy of the tree pose. That'll be $800. Namaste.

It was a big class. Apparently hot yoga is hot. This instructor was patient and kind to the new students. My body did a decent job of keeping up, but my mind? Not so much. Between listening, doing, judging, critiquing, my inner monologue wouldn't shut the hell up. "Are we having fun yet?" the instructor chirped. "No. No, we're not."

Bikram Yoga, developed by Bikram Choudhury, is practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees Celsius. Uh huh. I suspect Bikram's air conditioning broke down one day and he just went with it.

As we struck yoga poses in the heat, images of southern plantations sprang to mind. Is Bikram Yoga like picking cotton without the whip? But instead of a measly 90 minutes the slaves did it all day long. Lucky them. If only their owners had known how healthy working out in the heat could be. The slaves would have had to pay for the privilege.

I optimistically wondered what would happen if I really like yoga this time. It won't be just books and DVDs. There'll be gear: yoga clothes, yoga mat, yoga retreats, yoga friends. I am keenly aware that yoga isn't just a workout it's a life style and I'm not sure if that's in the budget. I'd have to squeeze it in between my food, clothing and shelter lifestyles.

Mostly though, my mind wandered over more pertinent concerns. "Oh dear God! Am I doing this right? Are my hands, feet, legs, arms, head, colon, breath in the right place? I hope I don't look ridiculous." That's what's so difficult about adult learning. We're way more self conscious, cautious, inhibited. There's a certain level of arrogance too. We think being good at one thing, should make us good at everything. Did we learn nothing from Michael Jordan's ill-fated move from basketball to baseball?

Childhood isn't just the last likely location of our innocence. It may also be the last time we can feel free enough to look foolish while trying new things. It's as if the pain and awkwardness of puberty is so scaring, we all vow -- Scarlet O'Hara style -- never again.

It's difficult for a classic Type A personality to relax and go with the flow but I'm trying. I force myself to focus. I tell myself it's okay to look foolish. I'm probably not the only one. If the universe can survive that, so can I. And maybe, if Bikram Yoga works out, there's hope for cheesecake.

Leighann Lord is a standup comedian. See her perform 10/30 & 31 at Gotham Comedy Club with husband and headliner Jim Mendrinos! Check out her upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.

1 comment:

s. dot said...

Great post! Very funny. I can't get with yoga either. I especially loved the part about "setting it down at room temperature"! Oh, and the "Impossible request: Close your eyes . . ." part. Hilarious! You should write a comedy book!