Day 01

Style: Bikram
Teacher: Martina Elliott
Studio: Rama Lotus

As I opened the door, the fires of hell devoured me. Obviously I was in the right place. Enter: Bikram yoga. The first ninety days began with a Bikram class, so it's only fitting that the next ninety hold true to tradition. Practiced in a room heated to 40.5°C (105°F), with a humidity of 40%, the intense heat can be a dizzying experience. The style is described as a "torture chamber" by its founder, Bikram Choudhury - a controversial trash-talking character from Beverly Hills, known for copyrights and lawsuits against yoga instructors. And black leather baseball hats.

Somewhere along the line in the first ninety days I developed a love/hate relationship with the Bikram style. Though commonly categorized as "beginner level", the poses are actually quite challenging if done in their full variation and the high temperatures can be incredibly overpowering. The first time I tried Bikram I left the class halfway through, almost fainted, then proceeded to throw up a bottle and a half of water. After a few classes, though, your body adjusts to the heat and it becomes very cleansing. Obviously I've never attended a class taught by Choudhury himself, but the teachers I've come across are much less military-training-bootcamp oriented than he seems to be. All in all, Bikram's yoga method is based on the solid, respected lineage of Bishnu Ghosh and his brother, Paramahamsa Yogananda. The heat is his "innovation" and the sequence his creation.

Lying on my back in the heat before the class began, it suddenly dawned on me that it had actually been well over a month since the last ninety-day challenge, and between then and now, I'd unrolled my mat only once. I felt an anxious energy twisting in my stomach. Can I even do this again? My mind was sparked and suddenly a whirlwind of thoughts spun my inner-world, each one doubting my ability to pull this off. Shhh. Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes and focused my attention inward, and moments later the class began.

Each pose is always done twice. The first half of the sequence consists of standing and balancing poses. The second half is done on the mat, with savasana between each posture. The fact that the style is always the same 26 postures every time is criticized as less-interesting and more watered-down by some yogis, but personally I find it becomes very easy to mark your progress. As I continue to practice this style, I can clearly see my balance and stamina improving, my flexibility increasing bit by bit, and my mind slowing its chatter as I sink into a posture, locked in time and space. I've heard it said that eventually a plateau is reached where no more benefit can be gained, but that is definitely nowhere in sight. With everything it has to offer, I'm aiming to develop my Bikram practice over the course of this 90 day adventure.

However, there is one issue I cannot overlook. No downward dog!

(Video after the jump)


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