"Do you like it?" This is the question I hear most often when I tell people I've started practicing Bikram yoga, and that I'm now a month into the classes. Generally when I start something new, that I stick with, I am able to gush about how much I love it. With this yoga, however, I'm always stopped by the question.
Each class is an hour and a half of rain forest sweating, trying to push my too often ignored body into positions a contortionist would be proud of, and looking at my rolls of fat and many imperfections in the mirror.
Some classes are so hot my primary goal narrows to just breathing and staying in the room. Progress happens in micro units, and being able to do a pose one day is no guarantee I'll be able to do it again. I fall out of the balance poses over and over again. Camel is still my nemesis - the dizziness and nausea sidling up to me even before I'm all the way on my knees. All around me people are completing with grace and beauty poses I'm still trying to start.
Why would I say I liked that? Why do I keep going back? Why do I look forward to going back, even on those days I'd rather do just about anything else.
Perhaps it's the challenge. Every class I'm able to do at least one pose a little bit better than the class before. This week I surprised myself by being able to grab a knee - two classes in a row - that had been previously completely inaccessible to me.
Maybe it's because no matter how hard I work, I'm never sore after. I'm breathing more easily. My hip is healing. My posture is stronger, more effortless.
It might be the teachers. All three are very different from one another, so every class is different. Each brings a very unique energy to class, but all are deeply respectful of our efforts and our presence.
Some days on my way to class I think about how delicious water will taste afterwards. Like the first sip of coffee on a camping morning, water after a Bikram yoga session is ambrosia.
For certain, it's the feeling I get at the end of class and beyond. After the final breathing asana, and we're all in savasana, the teacher will give us a gentle thank you and hopeful message to return to the world with. "Namaste," and sometimes the clear voice of bells, wash the air clean as the teacher leaves the room.
Namaste. The light in me sees the light in you. My spirit recognizes and honors your spirit. I feel like I have more consistent access to my own calm loving light. And from that place I am better able to recognize the light in my fellow travelers.
A practice that stretches mind, body and spirit. A practice that honors exactly where I am and asks no more of me than I can give. A practice that is at once demanding and accepting.
Do I like it? Yes. I like it. A lot
photo from Flickr