Today was Day 6 of my 30 day Bikram Yoga challenge, and boy oh boy, what a practice I had tonight. Up until 10 days ago, I was used to Yoga Tropics; a very zen like meditative yoga that I had been practicing for over two years back home in Encinitas, CA. Fast forward a couple weeks where I have now moved to Valley Forge, PA and the closest hot yoga I can find is Bikram. The "original" hot yoga practice of 26 poses for 90 minutes in a 105 degree heated studio. The great thing about the Yoga Tropics practice was that it was 60 minutes of Hatha inspired yoga where the main emphasis was on becoming zen and following your "own" flow. There were no rules. You could practice at your own pace. Everyone was happy and levitating on a daily basis; there was no pretense to this yoga practice as the warmth and love of the instructors oozed out of your pores when you left a practice. Think hippy trippy SoCal free love yoga....insert your own image here.
Now, if you know anything about Bikram yoga, you know that you HAVE to do their 26 pose practice THEIR way or you will get chastised for not following the "Bikram" way. Think of Nazi yoga being taught by fomer Marines. Hoorah! I used to think that was a bunch of phooey; well now I've had to eat my words and your words too at this point....
So, needless to say I felt a little forced to join the 30 day Bikram challenge at my local studio because it was the only hot yoga I could find within a 30 mile radius and since it cost less for me to do the 30 day challenge, than it did for me to purchase a 10 class plan, I figured, what the hell, do it for 30 days. Well, 6 days in and the end of February can't get here soon enough! When I started the challenge last week, I was pleasantly surprised that my first class felt good, and i felt hopeful and even at my second class I still felt good and I liked the instructor well enough. Even though she kept referring to me as "speedy Caruso" since I would move into the next pose quicker than the other yogi's in class. My subsequent classes were with different female instructors, all being cordial, but more militant in their style. There is no meditation music played, no dimmed lights, no candles burning, just yogini's practicing mat to mat sweating it out in a well lit stinky carpeted studio. The zen has left the building.
As I entered into the Yoga studio this evening for the 6:30 class, I noticed a muscular, bald headed man in his late 30's sitting at the front table. He had scattered tattoo's along his calf's and his arms and his strong East Coast accent was evident in his speech as he spoke to a fellow yogini. His name was Leo and he was going to be my instructor this evening. I was actually excited, since I hadn't seen a male instructor at this studio since I started and it would be a nice change up. CHA! Was I in for a practice I'd never forget.
Let me just start by saying that Leo cussed during his practice; the F word alone was used 9 times, Shit and Bitch were said three times, Ass twice and the expression "Suck it up" was heard more than a half dozen times. Along with his heavy accent, Leo would end most of his yoga commands with "You know what I'm saying?" At first I was dumbfounded and shocked to hear this kind of talk during a yoga practice. I seriously was wondering if there was a hidden camera somewhere because it felt like Tony Soprano was going to walk in and whack somebody with his downward facing dog pose. Some of the students would laugh at Leo's barked commands, while others looked petrified in their poses hoping that he wouldn't point out their flawed postures.
Of course, since I was the "new girl" my postures were being mocked and pointed out as what not to do in a pose. I felt completely mortified and beat down by Leo the Lion. Midway through the practice he finally stopped calling me the "new girl" and said, "Honey, what's ya name?" Quivering and trying to hold a balancing pose, I replied. Minutes later as we moved into a different pose, Leo the Lion shouted over to me, "OK, Nance, you've got a gorgeous and beautiful spine, lets just try and get your shoulders up and pull back on your heels and touch your forehead to the floor, pull, pull, pull...c'mon try harder and pull more with your chicken arms Nance, C'mon do it the right way." OMG was all I could think in my head, while my body wanted to dart out of the studio quicker than you could say Namaste. After another few poses of Leo the Lion pointing out my errors, he squatted down next to me and said, "You show really good form and you are very limber. If you took more of my classes you'd increase your yoga postures immensely. You'd be a great student for me to teach. I'll get you in top yoga form within a couple of weeks." With that, he turned and walked away. As I stood up with sweat dripping down my face and blood rushing back to my head, I have to say I felt a little bit better.
My thoughts about Leo the Lion soon morphed into Leo the dude who could help me get my poses in top form. Hmmm....could this be my yoga guru that I'd been searching for? I knew some of my poses were incorrect, but I never had the balls to ask an instructor for fear of looking bad in class. But at this yoga studio I didn't care what anyone thought of me since I was the "new gal" and I didn't know anyone in the classes anyhow. This was perfect for me, exactly what I needed. Upon exiting the class, Leo stopped me in the hallway, "Hey Nance, you did good in there. You should think of taking some personal classes. You're a natural, you just need to suck it up a bit, ya know what I'm saying?" I was hooked, if you complement and flatter me enough, you'll win me over. I'm pretty easy that way. I soon realized that Leo the Lion could be a godsend to me in some sort of demented and unorthodox manner, his yoga style could actually make me a more zen like person in the long run.
As soon as I got home, I went to the Yoga studio website and jotted down all the classes that Leo would be teaching over the next few days and inked them onto my calendar. I'm not going to let this Bada Bing Yoga opportunity pass me by. Namaste.