For me, Bikram Yoga is like meat, or an abusive relationship. I know it’s bad for me, but desperate times call for desperate measures and something (in this case exercise) is better than nothing. It’s like when I’m starving and my only option is a steak, I know it’s not what I want and might make me feel kind of gross, but is better than starving. As for Bikram, if you like a trifecta of domanatrix-hippie-military psuedo-exercise, it’s for you! If you don’t like downdog, chatturanga, or spirituality, and don’t mind sweaty buttcracks and banana sacks then sign right up!
So basically, I truly hate Bikram and think it’s fundamentally wrong, but I went because, for the love of god, I want to find yoga in Paris. I went to Bikram Paris- yep I’m giving the name even though it’s not always in my best interest to point fingers.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with Bikram Yoga- it’s a style of yoga founded in the 60’s where you have a sequence of 26 poses over the course of 90 minutes. The first hour is all standing poses, then you spend 30 minutes doing seated poses and the last five minutes in savasana a.k.a corpse pose.
Maybe this is too much of a rant, but I’m about to get specific because I want to share why I loathe it so much. For this, I shall imploy a list.
1. There is NO creativity involved. Anyone could be a Bikram teacher, all you have to do it repeat the same thing over and over, day after day. Sure, I went to French and English classes so being bilingual might be required but other than that it’s autopilot status. Which leads me to…
2. Why does it cost so much then? $25 for one class? Why? For the labor it takes to wash towels and fold mats? Suck it.
3. The fundamental contradiction against yoga: you walk in and there is a photo of the founder, Bikram Choudhury sitting on a tiger pelt, head intact (as seen above). The guy also has a garage full of Bentley’s and has claimed to have taught Madonna, Nixon, Indira Gandhi, Pope John Paul, and the Beatles (in 1959 before they were actually a group…) The guy makes around $10 million per month. Capitalist healing at its finest *cough*Deepak Chopra*cough*.
4. The smell. At this place, the smell changed daily. There’s always the distinct Bikram smell when you walk into the studio (since it’s heated to 105 degrees F) butttt about 30 minutes into class something would waft into the room. Once it smelled like carrot juice, then soup, then teriyaki, then a skunky curry, then ASS.
5. The teachers are so mean. Yes, I understand that, like kids, people need rules and to be pushed in order to exceed which is why we hire trainers and have coaches, so on and so forth, but Bikram teachers are just out of their goddam minds RUDE. They’ve got to be the people who were teased so much in high school they’re still getting their revenge on the world. Kind of strung out on a faux hippie trip. Kind of bug-eyed. Most often wearing man panties.
6. Instructions and improper grammar. In Bikram, the teachers (regardless of location) will aggressively call you out for having your foot in the *wrong* spot or not moving your towel so you don’t eat it into the smelly carpet, but one of my teachers just stood on her podium (they wear microphone headsets at this place) and harrassed people. I get called out a lot because I constantly modify (which they hate). But god forbid you have to pee (or hide in the bathroom) : “Where are you going!?” … “”Uh the bathroom…(because it smells like f***ing carrots and B.O)” … “Unless you’re going to throw up, stay in the room. And you don’t look like you’re going to throw up. And don’t go downstairs, stay where I can see you,” at which point I decided that I would, in fact, rather throw up than stay in the room, and left. Not before she said “your friend doesn’t need to know about it,” when Annie asked me if I was okay because I was close to passing out from extreme stench. Additionally, they say things that don’t actually makes sense, like, “Put your exactly forehead on your knee,” and “try…more…harder.” They also say stupid things like “DO NOT blink your eyes,” “If you feel like you’re going to blackout, that’s a good thing,” and “You need to do the exact Bikam poses, that’s why you’re here.” The last one was directed at an older, rounder woman on her first day of Bikram who laid down on her mat at one point.
7. Bad positions for your neck. The teachers are always saying to touch your forehead to your knee, not elongate your neck and back like you do in ashtanga. They also do that weirdo breathing exercise at the beginning where you basically roll your neck backwards and forwards and by the end I can barely lower my shoulders. Also, there are like 25 baby savasanas during the last 30 minutes. Why do I have to lay down for 20 seconds right now? Why can’t we just do the next pose? You want to me whip my spine around? I started doing sneaky one-armed pushup transitions in order to protect my spine from curling in difference directions to lay down. It just seems like a counterproductive, non-graceful waste of time.
8. No thigh or butt workout. I mean if we’re trimming the spiritual fat and this is just about exercise, why is there no focus on the butt? Everyone walks around in itty bitty shorts rocking out saddlebags and cellulite (not that there’s anything wrong with that per say) and it’s just like uhhh uhhhhh uhhhhhh I am not sure this kind of yoga permits you to wear that.
9. There is no praise for succeeding in a posture. Just criticism. You know what I love about yoga? When your teachers encourage you to do a posture you’re scared of, show you how, help you, then tell you you did a great job (even if you didn’t) so that you get back on the horse next time. If you tell me I suck, I’m not going to try again DUH.
10. Mirrors: They force you to look at yourself in the mirror, which is sick and I think produces self-loathing and obsession with body image. Reminds me of, who was it, Gwyneth? Who said she ate in front of the mirror. It’s helpful once in a while to see yourself to make sure you’re doing the poses right but mirrors in yoga studios are not needed.
I went 10 times (twice one day, none on Sunday *thanks Jesus*) and by the last day, I modified the crap out of every pose and left early, which was, probably rude and karmically f’ed but I got to the point where I was like, “hmm, I think this might be considered abuse.” I did feel slightly stronger in my core afterwards but I also felt tight and non-energized. The whole thing to me was just weird because of the repetition and all I wanted was my ashtanga poses. Sometimes during the transitions between poses, I would sneak in an ashtanga pose and it would feel so good it was like a nerve-ending party and my back would arch like a cat in (not on) ecstasy. At the end, I would jump up instead of staying for the final Savasana in order to shower and get the hell up out of there. In other places, I like my rest. There, just no.
I had gone in Seattle last year (to the Sweat Box) and had the same experience so I’m not internationally biased. All in all, I swear on my life I will never go to another Bikram class unless someone pays me. Three figures, maybe 4.
If you like it, please tell me why.