"Don't stray off your mat Babe!", Terri, my trusty companion and fellow yoga tourist whispered as we walked into the studio at Bikram Soho. With that I looked down to see that instead of the usual wooden or rubber studio floor, we were walking across a floor made of what can only be described as a scrabbly mess of curled up rubber coated wire. Terri continued, "Imagine the horrors that lie in the gaps...skin cells, hair"
"Scabs?" I chimed in!
We tiptoed from that point on, eager to place our mats in the correct place, right up against the painted line, as per the diagram on the studio wall, so as not to offend the Bikramites!
When in Rome and all that...
Not all of the students had the figure to be wearing tiny Lycra shorts with ruched sides and microscopic bra tops that barely covered nipple let alone fleshy bosom, (I looked like I was dressed for the arctic in comparison with capris and vest!) but it didn't seem to bother them. And even the stereotypical 6 foot tall, bean thin yoga gods and goddesses were struggling to hide their modesty in such postures as dancers pose where the lady in front of me advertised her Calvin Klein thong that had shifted in flight to expose a very well groomed Brazilian!
Hard to focus on your ujaii breath when all around there is "muff and meat"!
The smell of stale sweat was almost overpowering as the man next to me flapped himself from side to side trying to get into salabasana. It was all I could do to stay in the room! The thing is I don't think the smell was coming from him. I think there was a vague aroma as I stepped with trepidation into my first Bikram studio in 3 years. But as the class went on and the room heated up the odour definitely got more powerful and unbelievably anti-social!
The thing is, your senses tend to become heightened when you practice yoga and I must have been working extra hard because my nose was on overload!
Now it sounds as though I am not a fan of Bikram. Let me clarify by saying if it wasn't for Bikram I wouldn't be where I am today. I was a complete Bikram obsessive for more than four years. I loved the heat and the challenge and the competitive nature of the discipline. Plus I loved the large and airy Florida studio that never smelt!
As soon as I started studying yoga more deeply and started my teacher training I got to see that Bikram was fairly restrictive in its 26 postures and then after discovering vinyasa yoga and ashtanga I understood that you can actually create your own heat.
Anyway, I digress...
Terri and I were hoping for a teacher who had experience in other yoga styles. Our instructor seemed to have experience but she was definitely a Bikram robot, sticking religiously to the script and doing so with the smiliest of faces and chirpiest of tones. At any moment I expected her to come out with " Go back, way back, fall back...and please fasten your seat belt as we shall shortly be landing in Calcutta!" She was Channeling her inner air hostess - Virgin, not BA!! (Terri, you may be the only one laughing at that!)
Smells aside (there is always an uncontrollable farter in every Bikram class!!) it was a really enjoyable class.
Hard to believe from these ramblings I know!
I felt fantastic afterwards and it certainly took me to a depth of posture that is hard to find without the heat...in November in England!
I was completely spent after the ninety minutes not to mention a little emotional and after a long savasana I was happy to slide across the now slimy floor out to the coolness of the studio reception. After a rugby shower and a discussion as to why all the skinny birds parade around naked in the changing rooms for hours after class doing their hair, checking their phone, discussing the advantages of a flax seed only diet with other naked birds, we grabbed our shoes at the door and headed into China Town.
Now you have to check out Y Ming on Greek Street. The greatest crispy Duck pancakes on earth and noodles to die for.
Terri and I put the world to rights over one too many beers, all the while garnering very odd looks from other "normal" colour diners in the restaurant.
You could see them trying not to stare, thinking "Radiation poisoning?" , "Allergic reaction?"
"No, I have a beetroot face because I spent an hour and a half doing seriously hard exercise in a bloody sauna...of course!"