Yesterday, I was having lunch with a dear friend of mine. As usual, I was touting the virtues of yoga. I think I was rambling on about how it helped pull me back to center after the debacled Mexico trip. She expressed interest, and I encouraged her to try it out.
Before I could send her an email inviting her to attend class with me, I got a text saying, “I went to Bikram after lunch. I don’t know what to think. It was so intense.” Turns out, we had been in class (different studios) at the same time!
From what she told me, she did fabulously—never left the room, tried all the poses. Awesome. I have to share a funny tidbit with from her account of what spine-strengthening series was like: “I thought I was going to have a heart attack, but when I looked at the guy next to me I could see his heart pounding through his back. I figured I was OK!” Oh, bless her.
(I’ve actually never seen a heart pounding through skin. Is that something he should have checked out? ;-)
What struck me about our conversation was that all of what she recounted to me was so familiar—the panic, the buckets of sweat, being intimidated, and feeling like failure was imminent. I don’t think it’s uncommon to feel that, even after months of practice. I certainly do, all the time. I suppose the intensity or frequency of the “I’m gonna die!” moments is scaled back a bit now, but hey, they don’t say, “Welcome to Bikram’s torture chamber” for nothin’!
Although I acknowledge the intensity, that there are moments when my body feels it’s going to explode into thousands of sweaty pieces, I can’t minimize the progress. When I started, I never made it through a class without sitting out a posture—I would even occasionally leave the room. Now, the reverse is true: I never leave, and I don’t have to sit out postures. Well, usually ;-)
In recent article for the LA Times, one of my favorite performers, Tom Waits, was asked about learning how to act. He admitted he didn’t really have a method or system for acting, and that it was more like “falling down the stairs. Ideally, you do it gracefully.” Ain’t that just like a yoga class? It’s all just a fall down the stairs. But since it’s the same flight of stairs, maybe we can learn ‘em and make the fall look alright. Ta-da!
And while we’re on the no0b vein, I have an urgent update on Mr. Smelly Dog Tag Jingle: He was back, and he was neither smelly nor jingly. Good for him!
My friend and I made tentative plans to go to her second class together. Heck yeah, there’s Bikram tenacity for you!
("Carefully fall" sign)