My Friend Bikram Yoga by Will Kay

Posted on March 20, 2013


I began Bikram yoga roughly six months ago, since then it has influenced my life in ways I would never have considered. I realise that the previous sentence sounds like the beginning of a gushy article about the benefits of Bikram, but this is more like the anatomy of a weird clingy friendship.

So who is my friend, Bikram Yoga? Materially, Bikram is a trademarked sequence of 26 yoga postures and two breathing exercises over 90 minutes in a silent mirrored room heated to—let’s face it—an inhumane temperature (around 40°C and 40% humidity). In order to practise Bikram you have to withstand extreme heat while peacefully contorting your body into a variety of elegant or supremely inelegant postures (which qualifier depends on you expertise) with sweatiest, most blubbering version of yourself staring back at you from mirrored walls. Which is to say, in order to practise Bikram you have to be a bit masochistic. If you look at the ancient form of yoga (hatha yoga) from which Bikram is derived, it becomes apparent that Bikram would be inherently masochistic. Hatha yoga intends to clear the mind through intense physical focus/pain.

Lady Gaga unorthodox high-heeled practice of Bikram Yoga.

Lady Gaga’s unorthodox high-heeled practice of Bikram Yoga.

The result of this abusive one-sided self-reflexive friendship with Bikram has been, in some regards, pretty predictable. Physically, Bikram has increased my strength, flexibility and fitness. I have lost weight and I have better skin. Mentally, I have a greater concentration span and I am generally more self-possessed. But all of those are pretty normal results of becoming friends with Bikram. P.S. I have to say that I don’t entertain the bullshit that Bikram claims about “toxin cleansing”. That is the vaguest and silliest hogwash. What are these “toxins”, exactly? And how does sweating and contorting “cleanse” you of these “toxins”?

In general I have received most of the purported benefits of friendship Bikram, but there is a whole bunch of other weird shit going on now that nobody warned me about. Although it would seem self-evident that entering into such a weird relationship would have weird effects, clearly, it wasn’t evident to me. Since Bikram, every time I move from a cold environment to a hotter environment every pore of my body just erupts with sweat, so much so that I have found myself changing clothes multiple times on a 20 degree day. This, I assume, is a result of my body preparing for serious sweating, so it gets head start—I don’t know. I have also become mildly attracted to the stench of sweat, which I assume is a Pavlovian response to the smell of sweat in the yoga room which is then connected with endorphins. It’s still weird though.

A selected Bikram yoga contortion.

But perhaps even weirder than these sweat-related issues is that I simply can’t stop thinking about Bikram. I bring Bikram up in conversations all the time. Often despite knowing that the other participant in the conversation has no interest, I can help myself from waffling on about Bikram. It is obsessive. I’ll tune out of conversations to think about Bikram. The thoughts include: “When am I next going to do Bikram?”, “I can’t wait to do Bikram tomorrow?”, “Bikram was so good today”, “I love the way I feel sore after Bikram”, and just the simple “I love Bikram.” That is kind of it, I am in love with Bikram. That is not just it, actually, I am in some sort of fucked-up dependent relationship with Bikram.

Be careful when embarking on a relationship with Bikram yoga. You could be left more flexible, skinner, stronger, fitter, sweatier,  and more attentive, but also totally dependent on, and obsessed with Bikram.

Will Kay is You’re Dripping Egg’s co-creator. His column, Nothing Unnecessary bar the Unnecessary, in which he looks a little to hard at things that just don’t matter, is released every second Wednesday. 

What are your experiences with Bikram Yoga? Voice your concerns/support in the comments.