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Postcards From The Heat


No Comments 24 August 2009

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.

Yoga Lily

Cleaner than Cleaner than Clean, Postcards From The Heat

Cleaner than Cleaner than Clean

1 Comment 29 June 2009

“Yoga glow” only begins to describe the distinctive lustre of skin polished by habitual Bikram practice. A paleface like me develops a peaches-and-cream complexion. Mediterranean skin has the rich sheen of olives. Pacific-rim skin has the translucence of mango, and the darkest African skin has the radiance of onyx, or chocolates still warm in the pan.

I noticed it first on the teachers. Not one swaggers with the arrogance of the buff, and only a few are gym-rat ripped, but all sport a firm step, straight spine, serene shoulders–and that luminous look. Male or female, under thirty or over sixty, each body is covered in skin that is poreless, plush, soft–all those advertisement adjectives.

The heat is the secret. Sweat exports dirt–aka non-human-body chemicals–from the blood; the use of saunas through the ages testifies to this now-scientifically established fact. Fat also retains imported chemicals, and the heat that melts it removes them too. After months of a nearly-daily practice, I feel cleaner than cleaner than clean.

My dental hygienist, wearing magnifying spectacles to pick my plaque, stopped, piqued: “Your skin looks better than women half your age. What do you use?” What would you say? “I swear by sweat?” To a person holding a sharp instrument in your mouth? “Yoga,” I mumbled.

A few weeks after my mother started dialysis, to clean her body as her expired kidneys can not, I noticed a pink hue to her skin. She also has a sweet baby smell. It is a familiar clean. The other day on the bus, two delectable toddlers sat down near me. I was stunned when I recognized as mine the pearl tones of their hands and cheeks.

One goal of the Bikram practice, teachers will say, is to reclaim the flexibility of a baby. It also restores the innocent’s glow.

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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