Yoga Journal: A Husband’s Journey through Yoga Avici and Anarthaka (Sanskrit for ‘ceaseless pain’ and ‘bullshit’), Week Five (Should Be Four but It’s Not*)
Ninety-nine percent of the human body is made up of six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. Water is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen and the average adult male is composed of somewhere in the neighborhood of two-thirds water.
With a body mass of around 190 lbs, a quick run of the numbers tells me I’m made up of roughly seven and a half gallons of water. At this exact moment, that poses a serious Dhyana-shattering problem because I’m absolutely certain I’ve just sweated out something well north of five gallons of water and we’re not even close to the Savasana yet.
As long as we’re throwing fractions around, I might as well add this little tidbit: Last night I drank about one-half of a fifth of Makers Mark and at least three-quarters of a gallon of Sierra Nevada. I’m dead certain the rest of the class is wondering why the studio smells like a distillery located inside a bowling alley.
I can actually see my reflection in the yoga mat, and I do not look good. I can also see these tiny waves radiate outward every time another sweat drop hits my own personal sweat pond. Normally I bring this little Barney-purple, hyper-absorbent camp towel to class, but I forgot it this time and am definitely paying the price. I’m losing water so fast I couldn’t spit even if I wanted to. Here’s the problem: I want to. I want to spit on Tonya, the instructor. Then, I’m going to leave this class, get in my car, drive to the airport, fly to Los Angeles, take a taxi to 11500 W. Olympic Blvd, Suite 150, and punch Bikram Choudhury right in the mouth.
Bikram Yoga, founded by my new arch nemesis Bikram Choudhury, is a franchise – an evil, mean-spirited franchise. Every Bikram studio has its thermostat set at 105 eyeball-searing degrees, relative humidity pegged specifically to 40%, and is legally bound to be carpeted for some unsanitary, god-forsaken reason. Each franchise owner has been instructed to follow twenty-six asanas that range from simplistic to you’ve-gotta-be-fucking-kidding-me.
Pose Ten, for example, is simply called Dandayamana Bibhaktapada Janushirasana, or, in English, Standing Separate Leg Head To Knee Pose. I won’t go into it, just make a mental note of the fact that you can’t do it.
Like Tonya, each Bikram instructor is indoctrinated to repeat the exact same script at the exact same time each and every class. I’m fine with that – I hit fast food joints enough to know the drill. (“You want fries with that?”). The main difference is that Bikram instructors say nonsensical things like “You should be able to see your foot behind your head at this point” or “The goal now is to have your forehead touch your toes.”
In my five-ish weeks as a student of yoga, I’ve learned that it’s the Yogi’s job to instill a sense of calm and mental transcendence amongst the practitioners. Bikram Yoga teachers are different. You can boil each class down to about six words: “Push. Pull. Hurt. Harder. Change. Again.” Based on those words alone, it probably looks like the instructor’s inflection would mimic that of a Marine Drill Sergeant. In reality, they don’t sound like that at all. Their tone is more like the hollow, emotionless voice you’d hear when someone says “It puts the lotion in the basket” while you’re trapped, naked and starving, in the bottom of an empty well. It’s unnerving, I can tell you that, and it definitely makes you try that much harder to see your foot behind your head.
Bikram Choudhury has been known to yank “Bikram” certifications or sue the pants off studios that deviate one iota from his patented yoga method. The class I went to is certainly about to be yanked because I guarantee you it was easily 115 degrees Fahrenheit and the air was so humid you could chew it. The atmospheric conditions in the studio remind me of some war torn, third-world country that straddles the equator. The only thing missing are ferocious malarial mosquitoes and swarthy third-world kids wandering amongst the crowd trying desperately to sell you Chiclets and carved wooden figurines.
Bikram people are not like the rest of us; they have this slightly glazed-over look in their eyes that’s usually reserved for cult members, the mildly sedated, or cows. It’s weird. There’s also no doubt in my mind that every single female in the class could kick my ass without even breaking a sweat.
Jr. Yogi Tip: Do not make fun of Bikram people.
*About Week 4:
I didn’t have anything to write about because I didn’t attend a single yoga class last week. I blame it on a wedding in Arkansas, food poisoning, a crashed computer and a bunch of other stuff.
I actually did have one enlightening yogic moment during Week 4; I got up Saturday morning, not having attended a single yoga class for six days, and did eight Surya Namaskars (Sun Salutations to uneducated yoga yokels) before heading out to meet everyone at IHOP. Did you know IHOP doesn’t serve waffles? They don’t. I don’t know why you’d care but I picked that little factoid up in Arkansas and thought I’d pass it along.
Chris Knight, a gainfully unemployed travel writer, sometime photographer, and full-time husband hails from Arkansas but calls San Francisco home. In His spare time, he enjoys long-distance hiking, touring the back alleys of his adopted city, cooking Indian street food and antagonizing his dog, John Cash.