Postcards From The Heat

Yoga Practice: Saturday Night’s Alright

No Comments 28 September 2009

Saturday night, and what did I make a reservation for? A chic café, profound play, maybe an avant-garde extravaganza? No: I committed myself to sweat through Bikram’s beginning yoga class at 7 p.m.

I know. A few weeks ago, I bragged in this blog about looking good, and now I spill the sorry fact that I ain’t got no date on a New York City Saturday night? So you’re going, like, what are you doing, girlfriend? Why don’t you have someplace better to be? Making a reservation for a yoga class? Really! Get a life!

But it was the only place I wanted to go. I was sure I would be the sole soul there and end up getting a private lesson.

So of course I found 24 other people in the studio parked on their mats. What were they doing there? How could they bear to reveal their no-date-no-life status?

Then I started looking at them, all revealed, all almost bare, the fit bodies and the unfit. All waiting patiently. All ready, pumped even. None embarrassed, not by fat, nor cellulite, not be being there. They did not seem to feel they were in the social losers’ parking lot.

The teacher strode in with a welcome, saying, “I love teaching this class because the people who are here on a Saturday night really want to be here.” Teach was right. Every person I glimpsed during practice was working hard, dedicated to improving themselves. Kind of a worthy goal, and sensible too.

Kind of cool, really, to be in the sweatbox in a Saturday night. Kind of hot, really.

So you know what? If I ever do get a date, I might suggest we make a reservation for a Bikram class. I’d get to see what he’s made of.

And hey, this is New York City–why live here if you can’t do something peculiar on Saturday night?

Yoga Lily

Postcards From The Heat

Bikram Benefits: When the Worst Class is the Best

2 Comments 21 September 2009

For seven weeks I did not get to the hot box for practice, so I was dreading my first class back. I picked an off hour, a mellow teacher. She had mercy. Still.

I did not tremble. I rattled. My bones clattered. My very atoms ached trying to stay together.

I did not sweat. I shvitzed. Every corner of my body dripped. My elbows and chin, a raised knee, outstretched fingertips, my nose upside down.

I did not faint. But I swooned. I capsized time and again. Shooting stars zoomed through the room, glittering and white.

My face did not turn pink. It had the color and swell of an expensive steak cooked rare.

I did not have trouble holding the postures. I could not hold them long enough to have trouble holding them.

But I did every last one at least once. That was my goal.

My hands were still shaking twelve hours later. I devoured a hamburger doused in salsa and cheddar. I chugged down maybe two quarts of orange juice, lemonade, coconut water, iced coffee.

My second day back the next day? Heat waves wafted off my skin like those above a blacktop highway at noon. The veins in my neck throbbed, and my heart pounded like a tom-tom signaling disaster. I panted like a St. Bernard stuck in the city in August. The teacher offered coconut water, cheerleading, help in gaining control of my breath, a kind hand, calm.

Why do I do it? I don’t ask myself.

Two days and my skin is radiant. My back is straighter. Energy tingles between my ribs. My thighs are springy. To remember my toes cresting my head in dancer is a joy. These trump the list of kvetches.

And of course there’s my pride in enduring. The worst class is really the best class for that feeling alone.

Yoga Lily

Postcards From The Heat

Yoga Lessons: String Theory

No Comments 14 September 2009

I bring an invisible friend to class–nothing as dramatic as an oversize bunny named Harvey who burbles with karmic wisdom. It’s a simple prop: a string. Up, down, or sideways, it guides my practice.

Sometimes the invisible string is vertical, like a surveyor’s plumb line–the weighted cord that divines the center of the earth. The plumb line’s purpose is to enable us to build something in true vertical alignment–such as eagle pose. When the teachers instruct us to line up, I place fingers, wrists, elbows, spine, knees, and ankles on a plumb to straighten myself.

The string also appears, more naturally, atop my standing bow-pulling pose. On the archer’s bow, the string runs tip to tip. In my bow, it stretches from my forward fingers to my big toe up back. I align crown and coccyx directly under it. This mental exercise keeps me physically centered, so that my weight does not tilt me to one side as I first flex the bow, then lower it, pivoting until the string is parallel to the floor.

In the more difficult forward bends, the string runs through my spine and extends outwards in both directions. So when I roll downward in separate-leg head-to-knee pose, I align to my spine my front heel and back, and my big toes. When my hands finally touch down in prayer position, they are also on that line. Similarly, when I descend in half-tortoise, my nose and fingers follow the string, which ensures that a tight hip or reluctant shoulder does not pull me askew.

The string can serve in tree, too: When the tailbone wants to curl out, a plumb line through the spine can urge it to drop down into the straight spine that is at the heart of the pose. It is an invisible string, after all, and can aid any pose. Even rabbit. Even if you name it Harvey and carry on a conversation with it during practice about the meaning of life.

Yoga Lily

Postcards From The Heat

A Bikram Benefit: Picking Wild Raspberries

No Comments 07 September 2009

Agility enabled me to pick wild raspberries this summer. That, and wrapping myself up chin to toe, against poison ivy, thorns, slugs, bugs, and sun. Forget idyllic summer morning, I wore hiking boots, high socks with heavy jeans tucked in, and a shirt with cuffs to my knuckles and the collar to my ears. Only my forehead was bare, so the marauding mosquitoes feasted there while I clambered and scrambled after the ruby fruit of high summer.

What does this have to to with yoga? The perils of picking wild raspberries are many. The best brambles–sprawling and laden–are rooted in rocky hillsides, and sure footing is essential to get to and through them. Some are so dense and precariously situated even deer do not feed there. The requisite strong thighs, flexible ankles, and tenacious feet come directly from balancing postures.

My yoga has given me the arm flexibility and core stability needed for bushwhacking through prickly branches while dodging their whiplashings and remaining standing. And I could have used my fingers to rake off clusters of glowing berries, but that would have bruised them. The delicate touch that is needed to pluck a ripe berry drew on the muscular skill developed by that famous Bikram finger clasp.

Huge slugs harvest the brambles by the pond. These are two-inch behemoths the color and curl of parched leaves, but with a creepy translucence. I quickly learned to inspect each treasure trove before plundering. Vigilant eyes are not a result of my yoga, but the ability to fling a slug off my finger and not flee is the product of an intrepid will, of the very sort I use when arcing deeper into camel.

The moral of the story? If you wish to gather wild raspberries, do your Bikram yoga.

Yoga Lily

Bikram Yoga NYC opened its doors in August 1999 and became Manhattan's first Bikram Yoga Studio! Owners Donna Rubin and Jennifer Lobo had both been avid practitioners of Bikram Yoga in other cities and knew that no city needed Bikram Yoga more than New York!

Our blogger, Yoga Lily has been practicing intensively in our studios for more than two years. She was inspired to begin this blog by the myriad benefits the yoga brings her. Yoga Lily lives in Manhattan with her two daughters, an oversized German Shepherd, and a Russian Blue cat.

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