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Eugene Weekly : Feature : 2.10.11

Loving Your Body 2011

Chemical Love Flash, Bang, Bam!

Sweat Your Butt Off Yoga at a cool 105 degrees

Diamond Dilemma Buy your baby an ethicalûValentines bauble

The Love Truffle And other sweets for your Valentines sweetie

Sledgehammer Love They laughed when I picked up my big tool

Sweat Your Butt Off

Yoga at a cool 105 degrees

by Shannon Finnell

As someone who took her jogging instructors dictum øthere is no better stretching warm-up for running than running" as a sacred pronouncement from God, and has also had the displeasure of sprawling on the side of a highway with sun stroke and vomiting to the point of dry heaves, I cant say I predicted that Bikram yoga would be anything short of torture. So on my visit to see if hot sweaty yoga was as sexy as it sounds, I took a friend who could drive me home just in case I passed out.

Amy Hopkins of Bikrams Yoga College of India. Photo by Trask Bedortha

Bikram yoga is a specific 90-minute series of yoga poses practiced in rooms heated to at least 105 degrees. Its not that sexy. Because the combination of heat and pressure on the abdomen can induce vomiting, participants are discouraged from eating for a few hours before class. The internet is full of horror stories about mean instructors who yell at participants fleeing the heat. So of course EW decided to send its newest reporter out to see if the yoga tales were true.û

Instead of a stern warning, the instructor, who went by the name of Marty, at Bikrams Yoga College of India welcomed us by describing the studio routine and then told us what we were to do in class: Stay. øYour only goal today is remain in the room the whole time," she said. øDo as much yoga as you can, but your one goal is to stay."

Comforted by permission to stand on our mats and take a break if the routine overwhelmed us, we walked into the wall of heated air. Even compared to the warm reception room, the studio was hot ‹ 105 degrees hot, and a bit of a shock to the lungs. And while it seemed like a sanitary studio, any room occupied by stretching, sweating folks for seven hours a day is going to smell slightly like the inside of a shoe. Most of the practitioners were women, which I expected, and relatively few were college-age, which surprised me.û

The beginning, standing third of the class was pleasant enough, even for someone who probably hadnt stretched thoroughly since 2001. Marty gave instructions in short, clear sentences, not as warmly as her welcome outside, though she did stop to tell a couple of jokes. My body stretched about as gracefully as a tree stump, but I could feel each pose challenging my muscles. I didnt pass out, vomit or even need to sit.

Sweat dripped off every inch of skin of every person in the studio. In the focused silence, I could have sworn that I could hear drops of sweat hitting the towels; this was no more erotic than the occasional toot that erupted as the class compressed their abdomens.

Toward the end of class, the poses became more difficult. I dont think Ive ever spent more than an hour in 105-degree heat, at least not without ducking into a car or building with air conditioning. This heat fatigue was something new, and I needed to take a few breaks from the poses. Just as I was beginning to wonder who this Bikram sadist was and why he decided 90 minutes in 105 degree heat could possibly be healthy, the class was over.

Leaving the ashram cured all of the heat-related panic welling up inside of me. The winter air outside was a shock. A woman who had yoga-knotted herself up during class smiled knowingly. øIntense, huh?" she said. øI ran out the room my first time. It gets a lot easier."

The next day, my muscles were that rewarding sort of sore, which Ive never experienced from stretching alone. Several days after the class, I still felt more aware of my body when I moved. This intensified mind-body connection whet my thirst for more hot yoga.

Our instructor suggested that to benefit from Bikram yoga, its ideal to come to class much more than a couple of times a week øor youll lose what youve gained." While this might also pitch a gym package, it makes sense that a practice that requires one to adjust to extreme heat and improve on something that you wont be good at in the beginning is going to take some regular practice ‹ and a lot of sweat.û