Bikram Yoga (Part 1 of ∞)
Bikram Yoga is in a word… weird.
The first time I tried Bikram was in April 2015 while searching desperately for answers – from within, of course – on how to proceed forward with the next phase of my career. I would see an early morning email pop in from the lawyers, and instead of feverishly opening it and digesting bad news – it was always bad news – I would put the phone down and head 8 minutes south to the 9am class in White River Junction, Vermont. That first day I’ll always remember because it was mostly women, some men who were wearing tight lycra shorts and no shirts, it was so hot I thought I would die (literally), strange breathing exercises that reminded me of the Walking Dead, even stranger words being spoken by the instructor, and mostly I didn’t get it.
But here I am nearly 3 years later, and I will now write about Bikram going forward at least once per week. Why would I do that after such a questionable start? There’s only one reason I would ever choose to do this, and its not because my wife Maggie is a certified Bikram instructor (although I have to say I think she’s such a bad ass as a result). It’s because all of the vices and addictions and bad habits I’ve accumulated over my 48 years get shredded to pieces by Bikram. So far, it overcomes all. Had too much to eat yesterday? Bikram will fix that. One class. A little too many craft Vermont ales? Bikram. Bad day at work? Bikram. Bored? Bikram. I can only think of a few occasions where it didn’t pull me out of a funk, get me back on track, remind me of my priorities, and make my body feel literally years younger by 11am than it did at 8am.
Most importantly… the fucking gout. I have been afflicted with gout since I was 32. I’ve written about it – it’s indescribably painful when it attacks, and for a while it was attacking every few weeks. If you have had gout, you will understand my use of the f’word to describe it. It sucks beyond anything I really can articulate. Arthritis of the knees followed in my early 40s, and at one point in November 2016, a short year ago, I was stuck in bed and had to move around on crutches for 3 days. This pic of Bo, then 3, is heart-chilling for me. He was bringing me water amongst all of the meds and the crutches leaning against my bedside. I knew something had to give. Nothing was working. At the time, Bikram was a once a week thing at most, and the only thing I noticed is that if gout had been flaring prior to going into class, it was a little less painful when I walked out. And stayed that way for a day, sometimes two. It had the same effect of popping a few Advils every few hours for a couple of days.
When I got back from Pointe au Baril this fall, and the kids were back in school, I decided that I would take the 30-day September challenge. The goal is 30 classes in 30 days. I didn’t make it. But I did 16… and in October I did 17, and in November I did 15. Tonight is Christmas Eve, the 24th, and I’ve done 11 so far this month. I’ll likely end at 14 or 15.
I haven’t had a gout attack of significance since summer. I’ve felt those crystals try their best to form in their little needle shapes in my right ankle, their first point of engagement, but to no avail. Bikram every other day has kept gout in the distance. The arthritis that brought my running to a halt three years ago has all but disappeared… I still don’t run, but I’m feeling ready to once the snow melts this spring.
Is Bikram perfect? Nothing is. Does it work? Seems to. Is it still weird? Yup. But like anything, you get used to it. I’ve come to admire many of the people who are dedicated to Bikram Yoga, often because of what life threw them and what they’ve had to overcome. Sometimes its physical, often mental, always emotional. All you have to do it is make it in and get on the mat and stay there. Breathe through your nose. The rest really does work itself out – even when it seems like it won’t.
More to come.