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I love Bikram yoga. Especially in conjunction with the extended rainy season we seem to have earned for ourselves around these parts of late. I walk in to the heated and darkened studio and lay on my mat and feel a delicious tangle of warmth and happy tingle down my spine.  My cold toes begin to thaw and I know I’ve come to the right place.

It’s quiet here and the no-talking rule is lovely.  All social obligation is thereby lessened and you can just sink into the warm.  I close my eyes and just relish the quiet.  Quiet is a commodity not oft-found in my life and so the luxery of it is tangible.   Sometimes I pray during this time, other times I try to just lie still.  I can feel my soul being refilled as I do.  I love this pre-Bikram time so much, I often come quite early in order to just rest in the warm.  I keep my eyes closed as the rooms fills.  I hear the people noises settling all around me and I smell wafts of fabric softener as those nearest me spread their towels out over their yoga mats.  On a less enchanting day, I may smell the pungency of garlic from someone’s bold and daring and perhaps inconsiderate breakfast.

Soon our teacher comes into the room and we sit up, alert to hear our instructions.  I look around me and see all walks of life represented here.  There are the young and fit, the old and overweight.  There are men and women and there are the flexible and the uncoordinated.  There are those nearly naked, their perfect flesh proudly displayed and there are others whose bodies are almost fully covered.   It strikes me that this is the only time in my practice that I notice such things.  Soon, I’ll be immersed in an activity so physically intense that I’ll only be able to concentrate on myself and holding the poses the instructor describes so melodically.  Anyone who has come here has my respect, regardless of their current physical stature, because they are taking a step to enhance their health.

We proceed to breathe, to contort, to balance in ways we weren’t sure we could, to push, to strain, to stretch and before we know it, 90 intense and fully engaging minutes have elapsed.  Rivulets of sweat course down our bodies and we feel strong.  More than that, we know we are strong.  Our bodies have pushed past limits and have grown healthier, tangibly.  We’ve sweated from places we didn’t know we had pores.  Some of us feel like exiting the building, fists pumping savagely toward the sky in a modern-day triumph over perceived physical obstacles.  Here’s one new – perhaps daunting – thing we’ve tried and completed and we are proud because our bodies are strong and healthy and beautiful.

I love bikram yoga.