Most people think of Yoga as a bunch of out-of-shape people sitting cross-legged and humming. That's about as stereotypical as one can get. I did Yoga for three weeks, twice a week. I was able to run a mile two minutes faster than I usually do. For most people, that's about a lap around a typical football field.
I do Bikram Yoga. Bikram Yoga is an intense 90-minute class in 105-degree heat. We do twenty-six different poses and sweat like crazy. There are about 1200 hundred studios worldwide. New studios are opening everyday from Prague, Czech Republic (September 2006) to Downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico (Opened February 4, 2006).
When I tell most people this, they think I'm crazy. My friend actually asked me, “Why would someone want to bake to death?” Then he added, “You might as well just sit on a stove.” I rolled my eyes and told him I love it. He laughed at me. Three months later, I talked him into going and now he's addicted, too.
Yoga is one of those things I am addicted to. During the class, I am tired and I ask myself why I put up with this torture. Then I get out of class. I'm so relaxed and all I want to do is go back to class.
I have started rebelling in my P.E. Class. When I'm supposed to be playing basketball, I'll be off in a corner practicing my Toe Stand. I'm driving the teacher crazy. He's one of those people who thinks Yoga does nothing for your body. I tell him that I've been in his class for two years and have seen no improvements in my athletic ability. I do Yoga for three months and am suddenly able to run. I ask him why we don't have a Yoga unit in gym. He says it does nothing for my body.
I can easily prove him wrong. Professional doctors have started to study Bikram and have proven there are health benefits. From Bikram Choudhury and Emmy S. Cleaves:
A healthy nervous system will carry impulses to all other organs of the body making them function correctly and in the process making your immune system incredibly strong.
I am not the only one addicted to Bikram Yoga. About 15 million Americans practiced yoga in 2004. In addition, Americans spend about $27 billion on yoga products annually.
My Yoga Studio is like one big family. Everyone there is extremely nice and supportive. Unlike places like my P.E. class, people don't make fun of you if you're a little slower than everyone else. The instructors rock. They aren't there to make you feel bad, which may sound stupid, but there are classes I have taken where the instructor only criticizes. The instructors at my studio are there to help. If I can't do the pose, it's cool and they don't push me too hard. I'm able to work at my pace. They will tell me how to improve. They offer guidance. And, generally, they make Yoga an enjoyable experience. I haven't been to any of the other studios, but I imagine the teachers are just as good.