So I was checkin’ my reflection and tellin’ my best friend, “Girl I think my butt’s gettin big.” Clearly, the next logical step was to get so hot that I’d wanna take my clothes off. Off to Bikram Yoga!
At this point I feel that it’s pretty important to say that I Do. Not. Exercise. In. Public. Other than one tiny beginner’s yoga class at a studio full of the sweetest, most gentle instructors on the planet, I haven’t done anything more than walk at a relatively fast sidewalk pace since grade 9 gym class. Needless to say, the hyper-competitive, super-strict, fast-paced, sweatbox that is Bikram Yoga was a bit daunting to me. At this point, you might find yourself asking why I decided that my second-EVER public workout should be in such an intimidating environment. I’d like to say that I’m willing to suffer for the sake of journalism – but really, the studio is just really close to my apartment.
After arriving at the studio and changing (aka taking off the leggings and sweater that I was wearing on top of my workout clothes duh) I walked into room and – wow. It’s 42 degrees and what have I gotten myself into? Somehow, rather than turning around and admitting my mistake, I find a spot for my mat, and lie down in the dark like everyone else.
I’ll spare you a pose-by-pose summary (Bikram Yoga is always the exact same 26 poses, in that order, in every class around the world) or a detailed description of how my whole body came to be more soaked in sweat than it’s ever been in my life, I’ll just say this: I didn’t leave the room, and I didn’t die. To me, that equals success. I did, however, get really dizzy and have to sit out some poses when everything started turning black.
Also, I had worried going in about the potential eruption of body issues that could come from being surrounded by sweaty, toned bodies, flexing and wearing very little clothing. Yoga, and I think especially hot yoga, has a very specific and problematic idea of what a “perfect body” should look like, so the possibility of judgement coming from myself and others felt pretty intense. Instead, I found everyone really seemed to be in their own heads, not much concerned with other people. Of course, how much of that can be chalked down to my own thin privilege, I can’t say. However, I will say that I was pleased to see an array of body types at the studio.
Bikram Yoga is supposed to be an intensive workout and absolutely is “not a meditative class” as it says on their pamphlet. But do I feel like I got as much out of it as I would have if I’d gone to a gym, or even just exercised in my room like I’m used to? Honestly – no. The next day, I had been expecting to wake up completely sore, given the near torture of spending 90 minutes workout out in such extreme heat. I was expecting muscles I didn’t even know existed to be aching – but I felt fine. Sure, that’s probably because there are things that I’m not doing right – but do I really want to have to work really hard while seeing less benefits, just so that I can eventually learn to do it right? The aforementioned laziness can probably answer that one for you. Bikram is yoga without mediation, and for me – an intense workout without the results. That, together with recent sexual harassment and rape claims against founder Bikram Choudhury, leaves me exceptionally wary of this particular brand of yoga.
Oh yeah, didn’t I mention that next month’s issue of Vanity Fair includes an exposé about five women who have filed lawsuits against Bikram Choudhury – the extremely controversial, multi-millionaire founder of Bikram Yoga who reportedly says things like, “Because I have balls like atom bombs, two of them, 100 megatons each. Nobody fucks with me” “Why are your legs spread? Women should not spread their legs any time, anywhere! Only in emergencies” and “What happens when they say they will commit suicide unless you sleep with them? What am I supposed to do? Sometimes having an affair is the only way to save someone’s life.”
The accusations against Choudhury are all similar – that he took “special interest” in them during one of the bi-annual Bikram Yoga teacher-training retreats (a 9 week retreat that costs $11,400), allegedly telling them things like “I can see something inside of you that no one else can,” before gradually moving toward serious sexual and verbal assault, and in at least two cases – rape. These disturbing allegations are merely the latest, adding to the list of accusations against Bikram including “racism, misogyny, sexual harassment, homophobia and threats of violence.”
And with that, Bikram Yoga is definitely not for me. Yoga classes are expensive enough as is – I don’t need the added feeling of disgust of giving money to a man like Bikram Choudhury.
How about you? Have you tried Bikram? Do you look into the owners/ founders of your gym / yoga studio/ wherever else people exercise? Do you have your own story of a new workout you’ve tried? Let us know in the comments or, if you’d like to submit an article, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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