Conventional yoga wisdom says that if there is a pose or posture that you ABSOLUTELY detest, you should do it more often. Case in point, in your standard vinyasa (flow) practice you could do downward dog anywhere from 10-20 times. Most people hate their first downward dog of the day, it strains their wrists (which are stiff from typing and writing) it stretches your hamstrings uncomfortably (as they are used to sitting), it makes your arms and shoulders burn until you adjust to put more weight into your legs. The second downward dog however, feels a little easier, on top of that, it stretches your back wonderfully. You may take advantage of your second one to work your legs up and down to help loosen up your hamstrings, or maybe you'll wiggle your hips side to side to relax the tension in your lower back and enjoy as each inhale expands your ribs. By the time you do your last downward dog of the day I swear you will feel as though your vertebrae have all been stretched out a couple of millimeters and any tension in your back is gone. You love downward dog, you can't remember not loving it, but you did. The whole process will start again next class.
So, like I said, conventional yoga wisdom dictates that the poses you hate are the ones you should be doing, but what about styles of yoga? Should you do the one that you hate the most? On Sunday I blithely signed up for 10 days of unlimited bikram yoga at the studio near my house. I figured the heat (bikram is done at 40 degrees Celsius) would be nice, it would help with my flexibility and clear up my skin. I knew that they only did 26 poses over a 90 minute class so I figured it would help me work on my fundamentals.
I have only done two classes and already I hate it.
Firstly, I have learned that I'm not really a heat kind of person, I seem to be all about more temperate climes. I do not enjoy the sensation of sweat dripping down my face and body in tiny rivulets. I do not enjoy the sight of my beet red gasping face in the mirror. Gone is the elegance of yoga, gone is a half lotus pose or an upward dog (they don't do any of the "dogs" in bikram) of which I could be proud. Instead I was surrounded by thinner darkly complected women who's faces flushed prettily and who could hold the poses astoundingly well even though their limbs (like mine) were slicked with sweat.
I also did not enjoy the near constant feeling of nausea that lasted the duration of the practice. These days, in my other yoga classes, I don't have to go down into child's pose (or recovery pose) unless our instructor tells us to. In bikram I felt as though I could happily spend most of the practice lying on the ground, trying to breath that thick, hot uncomfortable air.
In terms of flexibility, it certainly made me more flexible but at what a price. I am so sore today lifting a laptop strains my forearms and climbing a flight of stairs virtually sucks my energy away.
Of course, when I'm not struggling I'm kind of bored with the lack of variety in the postures as well.
So the question is, if I hate it should I keep it up? Is it worth the misery?
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