Sunday, 13 September 2009

Cleanse my soul

... in Seoul.

J and I finally made it to the Bikram yoga studio she kept talking about. Our goal was to attend the 11 a.m. class on Saturday morning, but due to some unforeseen circumstances and despite our pre-planning, we ended up missing that class. (Read: we got lost in Seoul.)

We made it to the 2 p.m. class, however, and what I experienced in the 90 minutes that followed is something that might take days to process.

I'd never done Bikram yoga before. J is pro at it, having practiced it regularly back in the States. I, however, had always wanted to try it but never worked up the nerve to do so. When she brought up the fact that she would be attending this drop-in class at the Yoga Palace, I couldn't help but ask to tag along.

Bikram yoga, for those of you who don't know, is essentially 'hot yoga'. The process involves doing a series of 26 different poses (standing and sitting), over the course of a 90-minute class. The catch? The poses are done in a room that's heated to about 40.5 degrees celsius, with a humidity level of about 40 per cent.

You sweat after about five minutes of simply sitting in the room. Can you imagine what it's like while doing the strong yoga poses for 90 minutes?

The class started off simply... a series of poses to begin the intense workout. About 20 minutes into the class, my head started to spin. The instructor said this was normal for new students, because the heat combined with the exercises made for a high-pressured situation.

I was losing my breath, so I asked if I could leave the class to get some air. The instructor and J simply suggested that I lay on my mat to recover for a little while. Which I did... and it helped.

It was a lot easier to get through the second set of poses than it was to do the standing set. The second series included poses that used the mat more, so I was pretty happy.

Throughout all this, I was sweating buckets. Literally... drenched, soaked and dizzy. I looked to my left to see J in poses that I can only imagine being able to perform one day. This is one strong chick. I made a mental note never to get into a physical fight with J. Ever.

I was proud of myself for finishing the 90-minute class without leaving the room. Apparently a lot of people leave during their first try at Bikram yoga.

Some thoughts through this process:

I started off very intimidated and stressed. It looked as though the class was filled with pros. I had to keep reminding myself that I was trying this for the first time and that I didn't need to pressure myself to be perfect. The instructor also gently reminded me of this. "Do the best you can and thank your body for trying," he said. Amazing words that truly resonated.

The second series of poses allowed me to focus on breathing and meditation. I was grateful for this time to myself. My thoughts were grateful. My head felt chaotic going into the class. When I left, I felt relaxed, relieved and thankful.

I came to Seoul to experience newness: new feelings, new emotions, new hopes and to meet new people. This journey has been anything but predictable so far. But like my brother always says, "If life were linear, it would be boring." And he's right.

Bikram yoga is definitely an art, a craft, and, if done continuously, it can be a blessing to your body.

But for now, I'll have to settle for the drop-in class until I find out where I can squeeze it into my budget.

Thanks, J!



  1. wow that sounds intense. But kudos for taking the class! You seemed to have embraced this whole experience in Seoul and I am SO proud of you! and excited to see what you're going to write about next! I really want to take a hot yoga class here too, but am scared I will fall over in heat exhaustion. lol! but I will press on, perhaps doing a few more regular yoga classes won't hurt :) xoxoxo


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