I work as a web developer, where I sit in front of a computer for 8 hours a day and help the university I work at come up with new functionality for their website. All of this sitting is taking a toll on my aging body. Let me give you a brief synopsis of where I was at 4 days ago.
I had very low energy to the point where I just want to go to bed early in the evening. Simple household chores were a large pain in the ass.
Simple movements were difficult. If I had to bend over to pick something up or anything like that, it would be much more difficult than I know it should be.
My back would randomly hurt and crack all the time. Anytime I twisted or bent over there would be a pop or crack in my back. It never hurt too bad but I’ve heard that’s not good. I’d also purposely crack it all the time for something to do which I’ve heard is a sign of a weak back and instinctively seems wrong.
I’m not a small guy. I’m about 6’3″ and weigh around 240lbs so these seemingly simple tasks would seem a lot harder than they needed to be.
On Halloween 2013 I decided that the low energy, difficulty doing simple tasks, and random back pains had gone on long enough. I went to my local Bikram yoga studio. I’ve practiced the yoga in the past and always recognized how awesome it was for my body. The issue was always it’s pretty expensive (compared to a $20/mo gym membership) and it takes up a large chunk of my morning or evening. I’m in a better position to do yoga regularly now that I have a full time job and can manage my time a little better so it made sense to get back to it.
I admittedly was a little scared. Bikram yoga is no joke. It’s hard. I remember my very first class 4+ years ago. It wasn’t pretty. I spent a lot of time on the mat and a lot of time wondering if I was going to pass out or shit myself or throw up. Thankfully for me and everyone in the class, I made it through without doing any of those things. As of Halloween 2013, it had been at LEAST 6 months, maybe even a year or more, since I had done a yoga class so I feared my return class would resemble my very first class.
The first class back felt absolutely awesome. It wasn’t like my very first class. I felt a little nauseous around triangle pose but I focused on my breathing and got through it. Other than that, there wasn’t too much discomfort.
The one thing I noticed the most is how much flexibility I lost in my hamstrings in particular. I used to be able to palm the floor in hands to feet pose when I was regularly practicing. During this class, I could barely touch the floor in that pose. As a result, any of the poses that require a little hamstring flexibility were very difficult. I can deal with difficult though. I loved the way it made me feel. I felt looser, lighter, more awake.
I wanted to keep it going so I went back for more on Friday night (11/1). This class was even better! I noticed gains in flexibility after just one class! They weren’t huge gains, but there was a definite difference between this class and the class I took the day before. I also sweat a lot more during this class than the day before. It was like my pores remembered how to sweat.
Most importantly, after this class I noticed differences outside of the yoga room.
- Bending over didn’t seem as hard.
- I actually liked the way my body felt.
- I could preform random chores with ease.
- My back didn’t crack anymore.
All this after only 2 yoga classes! So I kept the streak going and went a third day in a row. I felt like I kind of plateaued for the time being. The class still felt great but I was super stiff throughout the class. I still felt like I was getting something out of it but it wasn’t the “Holy shit this feels great!” feeling that the first two classes gave me. There could be a million reasons why, but either way I am so glad I made it back in the hot room.
I’ve had a real on and off relationship with Bikram yoga. My wife being a certified teacher, I’ve seen more of the Bikram community than most people. I’ve taken a class taught by Bikram himself as well as classes taught by Emmy, Craig and Rajashree. I’ve read some .. interesting and disturbing things about the weird world of Bikram yoga but there’s one thing I know for sure.
If you want your body to be stronger and a place to work on mental discipline, go to a Bikram yoga class. The yoga works. It is certainly not the only way to make your body and mind stronger, but it’s something that works for me.