It took some time to get used to 40 degrees. As some of the postures became more recognisable, the breathing got harder. The breathing recovered, stronger, and the heat would wipe me out. Achieving comfort between eating well, at the right time, breathing fluidly, keeping the mouth shut, adjusting the weight and tolerating the heat was a mean feat. Over the course of the 60 days I got there and almost instantaneously lost compassion for the ‘me’ in my first few weeks of practice. I tried at times to remember just how tough it had been, particuarly when I could barely feel the heat any more.
I did give consideration to the guy at reception who observed ‘ you must barely notice the temperature nowdays’. He was right – I could feel the room was hot but my breathing and sweat had adjusted to take care of the discomfort. All I had to worry about was improving my postures, breakthroughs were few and far between.
I knew immediately that to not go every day was not such a great move, but with little choice I embraced my fate and ate, drank and partied my way back to a less desirable state of health. Until the Yoga retreat.
I’ve never practiced ‘normal’ yoga – at regular room temperature. I fully expected to be less stretchy, but went with the flow.
Day 1 was very poor. Following the flight and a 2 hour time difference (against), waking up at 6am to get to practice was fuelled with excitement of our new practice. I worked hard to get my legs straight in Janese sandwich but realised early that the teacher had overestimated my abilites based on the 60 day challenge. Fixed firm was a no-go for most of us in the class. I was creaking in places I’d never heard before and cramp was constantly threatening to creep into the arches of my feet. I could hold my standing bows but I couldn’t actually back-bend into them and my toes had mysteriously grown so far from my hips that I practically had to fold my lef in half to reach them.
I’m good at the ‘no ego’ ethos of Yoga and quickly dropped the urge to scream ‘I can DO this!’. Ironically I seem to have become bessotted with the only form of practice where ego is prevalent and competitiveness is throughly encouraged – not ideal for someone who naturally sees the best in everyone else around them.
I learned fast what I can NOT, in fact do that I thought I could. The heat, of course changes this, with heat I can stretch, bend, focus in a hot haze of survival and enjoy and ant-free savasana. I cannot get my foot to my ankle in Eagle without a bucket load of sweat. I cannot bend more than an inch backwards in half moon. I cannot flex my foot back from the ankle, nor lift my leg to parallel. I can barely see the floor in seperate leg head-to-floor, let alone get my forehead down on it. The list goes on…
At the end of each class I was far from exhausted. Recovery took a minute or so and an Orange off one of the trees. I always felt looser as my mind juggled the new sensations I was experiencing without the aid of heat to get me into deeper positions. I had new goals.
Attending each of the availaible classes meant that the instructors got to know me and my practice well. They could show me exactly where my biggest errors were and physically re-aligned me. During step 2 in Awkward pose I had my heels teased up beyond what I imagined posible, seperate leg head to floor I was lifted, twisted and lowered until my hands flew out in front of me – still unable to reach the ever sinking floor infront of me. During Savasana I had my feet massaged.
I learned in this time that my shoulders hunch far further forward than I could have imagined, and my butt sticks out so far behind me in tree that I look as though I’m on a space hopper. For the first time ever I figured out how to get my hips in a straight line, and what that really means to the preperation of a posture.
Forcing my body straight I temporarily lost the ability to raise back to tree from toe until eventually, one day, I was doing it right. On a straight, firm, locked knee. This is of partucular relevance – towards day 50 of my 60 days I began to get sore knees. It was no coincidence, but took me some time to realise that it was around this time I’d begun to lift out of toe. During my ‘on-off’ month I’d begun to wonder if I’d have to give up Yoga – my knees were sore everytime I stood up/sat down and I was begining to get reeled in with scare mongering articles online about how bad Bikram Yoga is for the knees… the only thing against the articles was the lack of experience that the authors appeared to have. Many of these conclusions came from a few practices, if that. To find out, and see the proof, that the ONLY cause of my sore knees was coming out of Toe Stand wrong was a revelation that made the entire holdiay worth it before it even began. Unfortunately now I am back to struggling to lift myself from the ground however the pain has gone.
All in all, ‘cool’ yoga never gave me the Bikram Bliss. I became more in touch with parts of my body that the heat had been releasing without effort from me. I adjusted my alignment to something that would see me through future practice and I learned to avoid injury.
12 sessions of this seemed to yield progress… but how would I fare with a return to the hot room?