I love Bikam yoga. I love coming in off the gum-speckled street to the set of narrow stairs that leads up, up, up to that place of warmth and peace. I love sitting down at the bench in the foyer to take off my street shoes. I love the signs cautioning us to turn off our cellphones and to stay silent in the hot room. I love that the studio is not a place for chit-chat or for socializing. I love walking silently on my now-bare feet first to the hot room to stake out my spot – always near a window, if I have my druthers – and then to the change rooms where I perform all the last-minute ministrations before I depart from the land of the normal temperatures for at least 90 lovely minutes.
I go to the hot room for at least five minutes before the start of class, ten, if I’ve been uber-organized that morning. I lay down on my back in savasana, or dead body pose, and feel my toes uncurl in the warmth. I imagine this is how it must have felt in my mother’s womb. Hot and damp and silent. I find that the more I come here, the more my body craves for me to come here. I breathe in deeply the peppermint oil that I’ve rolled on my neck and feel my sinuses clear. I love the sensation of hearing new people come in, settling around me. I love it especially when some clean, dear woman fluffs her freshly laundered towel right next to me and a puff of fabric softener poofs in my face. Those conscientious laundresses are my favorite ones to work out next to. The garlic-for-breakfast types are my least. I love zoning out and then opening my eyes long minutes later when our teacher comes into the room, greeting us, to discover that the room has filled in the duration. I like the surprise of not knowing who’s near me. I especially like the surprise of discovering that a friend is near me, and that all this silent while, I had no idea.
I love that the longer I come here, the faster the 90 minute classes zoom by. I love the slightly dazed sensation I feel when the melodic instructor tells us that there are only one pose and one breathing exercise left to complete. I love – so much – the way my body bends deeper into the poses over time and that celebratory moment where I find my body finally and at long last doing some position that has eluded me for so very long. There is great and quiet triumph in these moments.
But the thing I’ve been loving most about Bikram yoga these days is what it’s been doing for my back. Though I haven’t been careful in my day-counting, I’ve been living in near chronic pain for about a year and a half or perhaps two years now. My good days have been sixes. My uncooperative back has been cramping my style in no uncertain terms. But for about a month and a half now, I’ve upped my practice to four times per week and I feel like a new woman as a result. This quiet place has done for me what a series of chiropractors, doctors and physiotherapists have been unable to. Have I mentioned that I love it?