It’s a dreary winter day and I can’t get the chill out of my bones. I’m wearing shorts, leggings, a tank top, a sweatshirt, and all of the above are covered by my sleeping bag of a winter coat. Rushing across the parking lot into the East Bay Bikram Yoga entrance, I’m greeted by a very sweet golden retriever, and also by Juliana, the equally friendly studio owner who will be teaching our class that morning. I noticed that everyone is peeling off their winter layers and getting down to their shorts, leggings and sports bras. Well, not everyone. I’m too cold to take off my sweatshirt, and the men aren’t wearing sports bras.
I’m provided with a mat and towel (they’re available for rent), and as we proceed into the yoga studio the temperature changes from mid-February in Bristol to mid-August in Orlando. My glasses instantly fog up and I’m no longer cold. I’m actually forming mini-waterfalls of sweat from my upper lip to my toes. I pick the first available spot I see, lose the sweatshirt, unroll my mat, and notice the sign in front of me that reads “Just Breathe. Everything else is optional.”
I don’t really ever think about breathing in my day-to-day life. I’m busy! Between sharing Boston Terrier-related Instagram posts with my mom, and getting my money’s worth out of Amazon Video, I just don’t have the time to focus on inhaling and exhaling. However, it’s 102 degrees, I’ve just reached my personal all-time record for sweatiest moment in public, and if I’m going to make it to the end of this class, I’m going to have to take the sign’s advice and just breathe.
Juliana faces us and we begin with Standing Deep Breathing pose, or Pranayama, the first of 26 postures that she’ll lead us through. This pose involves lacing your hands together under the chin, bringing the elbows up and back down with each deep breath. Coordinating the elbow/breath thing is a bit of a struggle - but luckily for this beginner, every posture in Bikram Yoga is attempted twice. If I’m wiggling like a wavy arm inflatable man in the first pose, I make adjustments, channel my inner yogi and attempt a second, less wobbly pose. Whenever I’m visibly having a tough time, Juliana offers super helpful techniques to strengthen my pose game for round two. There’s an even mix of standing and floor poses. If I hold a standing pose for longer than 10 seconds, I’m thrilled. During the standing portion, it’s evident that there are participants of all Bikram-bilities. I’m not the only beginner, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself, but some members of the class definitely struck a fierce Instagram worthy pose.
With each posture, Juliana reminds us to keep breathing. I’m no yoga guru, but I think she’s onto something. When I focus on my breathing, the pose becomes easier. I’m pretty sure the reason behind this is sheer yogi wizard magic tricks. Another theory I have, though highly unlikely, is that focusing on the vital yet wonderfully simple act of breathing calms the mind, which then calms the body, allowing the two to work together on finding the best method to achieve the pose.
For two of the postures, I feel a little guilty for taking advantage of the two pose process and only attempt the pose once. For instance, balancing my entire weight while seated on one foot for the Toe Stand pose doesn’t sound easy. That’s because it isn’t. However, Juliana throws no shade my way for sitting it out. Instead she encourages the class to drink water and take breaks whenever we needed to. Since the Head to Knee Posture seems simple enough, I think I have this one in the bank. That’s not the case at all, though. Juliana explains that since I have long legs for my body, this position may be especially difficult for me. Standing at about five feet tall, I have never been told that I have long legs. Therefore, I’m asking Juliana to be one of my future bridesmaids.
The class comes to an end and though I’m comically sweaty by this point, I’ve made it! twenty-six postures later and it’s now time for Savasana. I thoroughly enjoy this last relaxing pose and lie there until I’m one of the last three people in the room. I leave the studio feeling especially relaxed, especially in need of a shower, and ready to apply this whole new “just breathe” thing to everyday life. It just might work.
East Bay Bikram Yoga
36 Gooding Ave, Bristol