If circumstances prevent reaching the hot box, Bikram suggests practicing in heavy clothes for heat. This summer, unable to get to the studio regularly, I practice in a plush sweater and thickly-knit pants. I have no mirror nor teacher to guide me. My practice is amazingly different.
No surprise that my muscles refuse me more often. My hamstrings rebel against elongating to allow me to lock my knees in forward-stretching pose–so there’s no ascending into that strange weightless high. In half-tortoise, i can barely touch my forehead to the floor. I miss the tranquility of releasing the weight of my head and the sense of my own sheltering arms.
But while some poses may lack their auras, I am seeing more connections between them. The arm flexing of the first breathing exercise opens the shoulders for wrapping in eagle and for hunching in standing head-to-knee. Likewise, the hip-opening of tree prepares the thigh for the work of the spine-strengthening backbends.
I am altogether more aware of my body. I feel my blood rushing–while releasing from eagle and standing bow-pulling, for example. Practice is more sensual too–free of the burden of the heat, of a teacher’s voice in my head, and private, I am alone but have myself for company. I indulge in an extra standing bow, a shoulder stand, a twist on the floor, a more vinyasa flow from pose to pose. Not pure Bikram, but it feels right, and that has its own purity.
I know that I am not doing everything right, and I passionately miss the cleansing of the heat, but this is what I have now. I make do. I do not ask, is this practice better or worse? It is a cup that is both half full and half empty, the usual union of good and bad. Remembering that warms me, almost like heat.