These Groupons will be the death of me. I thought it was such a good deal, and I know a couple people who seem to really like it, so I bought and signed up for the $25 for 25 sessions, dragging the running Giraffe with me. Without the coupon, their pricing is outrageous, and I having gone, I don't see where the money goes - to heat up the room?
--Scratch that, I looked up Bikram the Man talking about making "about 10 million a month". So, I guess, I know where it goes. Meanwhile, 24 Hour Fitness charges a tiny fraction of that, and offers yoga classes. And babysitting. And they are way nicer. And don't smell like feet. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I went a few times, just to make sure, that I wasn't being a sissy. I didn't want to be a quitter, and I didn't want to have $25 go to waste. So, I guess I AM, in fact a quitter, but the $25 did not go to waste, I now KNOW what it's like, and it's not pretty.
Out of the three instructors I had, two were pretty good, and one was not so good, and really, kinda mean. It was during her long, tedious 90 minute reign that I had a chance to gather my thoughts about what really irks me about the her, Bikram, and the whole thing in general:
1. Who is Bikram? I did some rudimentary internet research, and it appears he is a liar who makes a lot of money. And knows some yoga stuff. I also think he is a tremendously successful businessman. He is also the one personally certifying the teachers - and it appears that his medical background is next to non existant. So, when the instructor started talking about how - the deeper you bend, the harder you squeeze - your various organs are getting compressed, and then decompressed, and all the fresh oxygenated blood is rushing to them, I was a little skeptical.
I feel like thousands of years of evolution have been at work to make sure that I don't squish my kidneys and liver every time I bend down to vacuum the sideboards. I just don't think it's that easy to wring out your internal organs. I don't think pulling my knees to my chest will do it. At some point, I started feeling like I'm really going to need this instructor to show me a medical degree if she's going to keep that up. It all sounded a little too, "The earth is flat" to me.
2. Speaking of freshly oxygenating your organs: I mentioned the room smells like feet. Dirty, stinky feet, that haven't been washed in a long time. You'd think they could spring for a steam cleaning more often, with all that money coming in. 150+ people in a room worth of income. It's costs $28 to rent a carpet steamer at Vons. The smell hits you pretty hard in the beginning, and, then, as you get adjusted to your new steamy, murky, hot surroundings, it mercifully dissipates. Until towards the last 3rd of the class, when you start getting a little nauseated - it comes back, and it hits you pretty hard. It occurred to me I really don't want this dirty foot oxygen anywhere near my organs. Really, the very existence of oxygen, fresh or otherwise is questionable, since 150 people are using it, too, and the room is locked up.
3. You can't leave the room, or at least they try to make you stay. I've seen people leave to puke. I've seen people leave almost every class. Except today, when a person got up to go and got told to sit back down. The instructors vary on their water breaks, too - which, by the way is $3 per bottle if you didn't bring your own. There is NO water fountain there. Why would there be. Some instructors say you can't have water except on scheduled breaks, period. Some let you have it, but never 'during poses'. You're almost always in a pose, unless it's a scheduled water break, so I don't understand how that works. I sipped water whenever I felt like it.
4. I smell lawsuits coming. I didn't sign any paperwork, and the studio makes less disclaimers than the gym yoga classes. Like, none, really - except that if you're new, you shouldn't be in the front row. There are so many people in the room, and particularly when they run the price reduction specials - you really don't know what physical shape people are in. When you tell them they can't leave the room, can't have water, and it's OK to feel nauseated and lightheaded - you are paving your way to trouble. That's your body telling you to knock off what you're doing. It's been perfected over time, and pretty dependable, just like the location and access to your internal organs.
5. And finally - the inconsistencies. The constant, "Push harder, harder, - your joints should hurt, it's ok to feel lightheaded, push on - press on, it's only 10 more seconds.." And later, "yoga is not about depth.. it's about breathing, and stillness, and depth will come through them, so never go past your breath".
So, here's the thing, if you make someone squat, stretch, and try to push to have their forehead planted on the floor, between your feet - punctuated by sit ups, in a 110" room or hotter, and be all militant about it, they are probably going past their breath. Some are close to passing out. Otherwise - why would you tell them to lay down and catch their breath after each try? Hmm.
5. "Breathe through your nose, because breathing through your mouth activates the fight or flight response" - And you get panicky and want to leave. All 3 instructors talked about the importance of sticking it out. About how you want to leave the whole time. All the time. Fight or flight. "Your body wants to leave, and your mind is trying to help. You don't really want to pee, your mind is playing tricks on you. It's trying to help your body leave this room". Umm. I don't know about you, but I can't keep dedicating 90 minutes to an activity that my body hates so much, all the time, now and in the future, that it makes stuff up. Fake peeing is nothing to joke about.
Having read about this Bikram guy, and his 40 Roll Royces collection, I have a feeling it's important to keep coming back to help him add to his collection.
I think Bikram, in trying to marry the peacefulness and stillness of yoga to a very trendy, marketable, allegedly calorie burning, profitable fitness miracle has created a mess. A trendy, stinky, very profitable mess - although I must admit, having sweated out 2 liters of water, and finally stepping out into actually fresh air - I did feel more alive and invigorated. In part, because I escaped and live to tell the story.
I read all sorts of estimates of what Bikram yoga session might burn - as low as 300, and as high as 1200 calories. My feeling is it's in the lower numbers, and your body's natural response to artificial stimuli exaggerates your perception of the benefits. Even at that, it doesn't last. I do feel more bendy, and stretchy afterwards, but I never feel like I used up massive amounts of my energy the way other activities make me feel. I know that in 90 minutes of running, or even lazy jogging I can wreck some calories.
I have yet to leave the yoga studio and feel like I have earned an extra serving of cupcakes in my near future.
In short, even though I don't like it much either, I'll stick to running and 24Fitness yoga classes in regular old boring room temperature.