I had imagined scribbling the other half of ‘Hot Yoga Thoughts’, to cover the floor series, very shortly after PC 84. In fact I got distracted by other adventures and thoughts, in fact eight PCs in all, so now I should finish this!
The Floor series ……..
Of course Bikram Choudhury, the man who put this Hot Yoga series together, has not exactly covered himself in glory. Having created a specific sequence of Hatha yoga positions to be practised in a hot room, it was rumoured he took advantage of one or two of the female students training to be its teachers. And he didn’t see the conflict between preaching a way of being a good human based on a spiritual tradition going back thousands of years, and using his position to abuse others ….. as well as raking in money for his aggrandizement. Bit like those TV evangelistic preachers on American television you might think? Nothing was proven until the beginning of 2016 when his lawyer won $600,000 for sexual harassment. At that moment ‘Bikram’ studios all over the world made a rapid exit, rebadging and reinventing themselves and whilst I acknowledge that Mr Choudhury’s sequence is extremely beneficial, I don’t have to like the man who created it, do I? Such a scumbag! And if you thought yoga is not for you, try the ‘yoga for beginners’ asana.
So …… onto your mat, quick sip of water, ‘savasana’, dead body or corpse pose. One teacher suggested you should feel like being in a coffin ……. then she said closed coffin and I didn’t like the sound of that! You’re meant to let go of all the thoughts in your mind, forget all the efforts of the last 60 minutes, just relax …. at last ….. peace. But my mind exclaims! What? I busted a gut to make a passable attempt at such-and-such pose and now I’m told to forget the recollection? “Just be in the moment”…. that sort of yoga thing ….. yes ….but what am I having for lunch, monkey mind asks? …. I want to think of anything but lying like a dead body. But when I really really try, I visualize my prone body floating on warm water – and then I make the water extremely shallow and imagine that underneath me is golden sand – about 5 cms away. I relax – my body drops further …. completely!
For those of you aghast that I should be so flippant about this ancient art, I really must apologise; this is just the way it is ….. for me …. and I hope I don’t disappoint you? And I am not some imitation of an Indian ascetic, spending their days at the top of some pole trying not to fart. An ascetic is characterized by ‘severe self-discipline and an abstention from all sorts of indulgence’ – what? No chocolate or sex huh? (note the order of these two indulgences!)
Of course Celina and I moved to Hove because there were two studios offering hot yoga locally. On the south coast the only other one was in Bournemouth – too far from London. And by the way, I hope you don’t think anyone who does yoga is a bit of a woof? In the western world I suspect more women do yoga than men – in fact our class ratio must be about 80:20 – but I challenge any man to do 90 minutes of hot yoga without ‘feeling it’!!
Now we’re off again. Knee to chest, other knee to chest, both knees to chest – back of the head on the floor – what? Not possible! This is known as wind removing pose ….. the right knee ‘massages’ the ascending colon, the left knee the descending colon, then when both knees are raised ……. the potential to fart is enormous.
Onto tummies, arms like the Sphinx, lift up into ‘Cobra pose’ ….. never felt less like a snake, legs together to suggest the one snake tail, thorax off the floor. Can’t breathe …. collapse . We then do one of many situps, firstly trying to touch one’s toes and then try and get the head to knee ….. in sync with the breath …… of course!
We’ve all imagined ‘yogis’ in Lotus pose, sitting serenely with not a care in the world, but Bikram’s Locust pose is something else. Hands underneath your prone body, like playing beach volleyball, …… then raise your legs. Er? OK!
Another posture … the dialogue continues …… ‘arms out to the side, legs together blah blah blah ….. ‘lift off like a 747’ (sort of dates the dialogue doesn’t it?) ……. but it’s a bit like trying to levitate! And I am not very successful at either! Eventually we move on from the ‘back strengthening’ series of postures to ‘Fixed Firm pose’ – Oh! Go on then …..Supta-Vajrasana. You kneel on the floor and with your knees quite close together, put you bum on the ground and fold over backwards, until your shoulders are on the floor. Yum! Never thought I could do and it took a while – it’s all about relaxing. Most men find this difficult initially, especially those with knee injuries from playing football.
Some of Bikram Choudhury’s claims are a little far-fetched. In the next posture, one where you kneel with arms up together, and bend forward until your hands touch the ground, he reckons it’s as relaxing as 8 hours sleep – but it’s over in 60 seconds – yes! OK! Bikram claims lots of benefits for his postures but if this one was true the world would sort of do it once a day and no one would go to sleep!
Camel, a master posture, comes next (see my little drawing below), then Rabbit, where you tuck your head to your knees and raise your bum. The penultimate posture requires your legs out in front and stretching forward. I twisted my ankle badly in battle PT in the army so a little bone sticks out making this uncomfortable.
This little cartoon was drawn by me as Tom, my gorgeous black Labrador, had this relaxed way of sleeping, showing his bits, not a care in the world. The connection with some of the yoga poses named after animals was obvious!
‘Final spinal’, a posture where you sit on your buttocks and twist your spine, always reminds me of a good teacher, Krystina Sedlakova, as her Czech-accented English made the pronouncing of ‘final spinal’ a delight!
One teacher used to rattle off the ‘Bikram’ dialogue as though he was a commentator on some horserace, as in ‘and they’re coming to the first fence and it’s Blue Sky in the lead from Hang Back and the favourite, Golden Boy, in third …… and they’re all safely over and …..’ His went something like (and you have to invent the appropriate voice in your head): “And bend to the right, reaching up and over, straighten your left arm, and change, and bend over to the left, straightening your left arm and now, reaching back drop your head relax Not very ‘Yogic’ you might think …. although occasionally in a class of yoga we do have a ‘faller’!!
The final breathing exercise ……. and we’re done. Hot, exhausted, stretched ‘inside and out’ …… as Bikram Choudhury says ….. ‘bones to skin’. Try it! It’s addictive! You could always start with the beginners’ pose I offered earlier on!
Richard 26th March 2017