Saturday, 25 October 2008

Some like it hot

Today I went back to something I used to love but haven't done in ages: Bikram yoga. Also known as "hot yoga" (to prevent those sneaky trademark infringements), this yoga is performed in a studio heated to 40C (just over 100F) so that you sweat. Really sweat. You have to take a towel to use on top of your yoga mat, to drip on. It's recommended to drink at least a litre of water during class - any less and you end up with a nasty hangover-like dehydration headache later in the day. It is an awesome workout.

The principle is essentially that you can stretch more when your muscles are warm, and given yoga was invented in a hot country, this is more appropriate to the practice. There's a set series of 26 asanas, plus breathing exercises either end, and best of all none of them is flipping dog pose, which I hate. I quite like yogas with set sequences - I used to do ashtanga before the only class available to me ended up a 6am weekday one. No thanks.

I do have certain issues with Bikram yoga in terms of the above-mentioned trademark issue.  Bikram Choudhury came up with the concept and continues to own it, which means that only studios affiliated to him can use the name, the sequence and the narration that goes with it (after a couple of classes you realise that the encouraging dialogue from the teachers is word for word the same every time). There has been plenty of controversy over this, in the sense that the asanas are standard yoga poses, and there is some discomfort over the idea of owning intellectual property in something that has existed for millennia. There's nothing particularly startling over the ones picked, or the sequence, and it seems odd to try to claim the sequence as one's own. Still, given I'm not about to set up a rival studio, I'll go no further with my objections.

It's weird that I enjoy this, because I have an odd relationship with heat - entirely one-sided, as heat clearly doesn't give a shit about what I think of it. I feel the cold intensely and am always the one begging for the A/C to be turned down at work as I wrap myself in knitted shawls. I can stay in a sauna for longer than most people I know. However, I detest sunshine, which makes me feel physically sick in even small doses, and a lot of the time actually hurts my skin (it only takes about 10 minutes for me to burn in the standard English summer, and I can feel the horrible prickling almost immediately). I'm generally OK outside if it's hot and overcast, hence my ability to survive holidays in tropical jungles but not beaches, and I'm static, but as soon as I start to move around, I can't seem to dump heat. Exercise makes me overheat extremely quickly and I hugely dislike the sensation of being sweaty, which to me itches terribly. This all sometimes adds up to me having to put my coat on when I'm in the office, because I get really cold when sitting down, then removing it to walk home. My hands are either extremely warm or extremely cold. Essentially my internal thermostat is whack. Oh, and my bedroom needs to be very cold for me to sleep. I'm strange.

So really I shouldn't enjoy Bikram at all, but I do. I guess once the sweat is literally pouring off, I can resign myself to it until after class. That or the yoga is so hard, I just forget in a way I can't when I'm running in hot weather.

Anyway, you do feel wonderful afterwards, so thoroughly stretched and somehow clean inside. A 90 minute intense detox, I suppose. I'm going to keep going this time, despite it costing thirteen quid a class, which is pretty much why I stopped before.

This afternoon was more of a retox as we showered Helen's forthcoming sproglet. This was beautifully organised by Pauline, down to the sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and a quiz. Unfortunately the pairing of me and Ting didn't do very well at this - round 1 was about television, and seeing as neither of us own one, we pretty much resigned ourselves to losing from the start. And we did. There was plenty of cake to cheer us up, of course. Here's the chocolate peanut butter cake I made, with Ting's yummy mango and mascarpone cake behind:

I had actually made one of these CPB cakes earlier in the week to take into work for a colleague's birthday, but wasn't fast enough to get any photos other than this:

Clearly the knitting girls are much more restrained and genteel than the office locusts.

Since the Bikram class was at 9am this morning (on a Saturday! Ugh! Thank god for the extra hour in bed tonight), when we came out it was too early for my favourite post-yoga food: Vietnamese pho bo from the nearby Kingsland Road (my favourite of the many restaurants there is Song Que). There is nothing like fiery Asian broth to rehydrate and replenish salts after profuse sweating. Presumably that's why they eat this stuff in Asia. Pho bo is almost as reviving here in chilly London after hot yoga as it was in Saigon's central market after a morning's trek in the countryside... almost. But since there's no Vietnamese restaurant round where I live, I had to settle for Thai tom kha kai for my soup fix tonight, with chicken, lemongrass, chilli and galangal instead of beef, star anise, lime and mint. All good though. I'm sat here waiting for it to soothe my aching muscles from the inside out. A most satisfactory day.

P.S. This was high up on a wall I passed on the way to the studio:

Very creepy indeed, and entirely inexplicable.

1 comment:

stash haus said...

Funny how our bodies react, isn't it. I can't sit in a sauna - especially dry saunas. I feel like I can't inhale. One of the hard parts of marriage is the thermostat wars and each person's ideal sleeping environment. I don't remember having thermostat wars before we were married, but now!...