I officially returned to my first Bikram Yoga class after approx. 4 weeks (or more) off. Somewhere in that 4+ weeks, I attended one Bikram Yoga class and for the rest of the time, we were either on holidays or practicing non-Bikram yogas.
So, it was pretty much over a month off and I pretty much died in that returning class.
My hand started cramping from the 3rd breath, in the first set of breathing exercises. The cramps didn’t stop and extended to pins and needles down both arms during half moon. Both my legs had pins and needles after the first Padahastasana and by the second Utkatasana, I was so dizzy I had to skip it and just stand. I tried to focus on the teacher but all I could hear was a loud ringing in my ears and the teacher sounded muffled, faint and distant.
By eagle, I was on the floor kneeling and I pretty much remained close to the floor for the rest of the class. So much for the “warm up”. I think I overheated in 3 breaths.
After class I got some electrolytes, put it in water, drank it and sat in a corner, continuing to cramp up. Once the electrolytes were in my system, I broke out into hives. My skin was speckled all over, looking like goose bumps mixed with red and white splotches. At least I wasn’t cramping anymore. I waited for the hives to die down before I got up to have a shower. When in the shower, handfuls of hair kept falling out and wouldn’t stop. I collected the hair into a big ball and threw it in the bin. I then got dressed and packed my bag and chatted away, recovered and back to normal.
On reflection, if that were my first ever Bikram class experience, I would have panicked in the room, panicked even more when I continued to cramp outside the room, become hysterical when I saw the hives and then cried in the shower with all my fallen out hair in my hands, run home and never gone back again and then told and retold my story of how traumatic it all was. There was no way I would have seen any of that as a sign that this form of yoga was good for me. Lucky for me, it wasn’t my first time and I noticed something very interesting.
Although my body was showing every sign that it was completely stressed out, not once in all of that did I actually have any emotional reaction to it. Throughout it all, I was patient and simply observed and waited for each thing to pass. That was the first time I witnessed myself, do such a thing. Ever.
I’ve always been melodramatic, miss drama queen, attracting more drama than you would find on East Enders, oscillating between extreme emotions, describing my life as a rollercoaster and yet here I was with zero panic, zero anxiety, zero guilt, zero making myself feel bad for not eating or whatever, zero thinking about other people’s expectations. None of it. I was just there, experiencing what I was experiencing physically, observing it mentally, not reacting to it emotionally at all.
When asked “Are you OK?” in class, I answered that I just hadn’t been back for a while so I wasn’t used to it anymore. When outside and asked “Are you OK?” I answered with a loud and resounding “NO” in the form of a facial expression and a slow shaking of the head. I could barely speak or walk by that point. It was the truth, my body was completely shutting down and was not OK but I never felt any emotional sensations about it, it was all physical and I was doing what I needed to do to help it pass. Drink electrolytes, sit down, cool down. Done.
The teachers often mention that Bikram creates a torture chamber in the room so you appreciate life outside or makes you have a mini-heart attack in the room to prevent you from having one outside, or makes it hard so that life is easy etc. I think you get the picture.
Throughout the years of practicing I’ve noticed those many moments where a panic happens on the inside while I maintain the look of calmness and serenity outside. To me, that was a pretty good result already.
This however was calmness inside and out despite going through physical stress and all without trying. It just happened. For what was little miss drama queen here, I wouldn’t call this “good”, I’d call it a miracle!
All that time of putting yourself through physical stress gets to a point where the stress actually stays physical! There was actually an awareness of: This is my body and I am not my body. Therefore my body can stress and I won’t. Instead I will watch it stress and then watch it calm down.
Truly and wonderfully, amazing. I have witnessed a result of something I’ve learned without knowing previously, that I’d learned it at all!
Yoga does do some amazing things. Now the question is, if I am not my body then, who or what am I?