Friday, August 27, 2010

Cues and Rules

I did it! I completed a week of Bikram yoga! Well 5 days anyway. On the sixth day I ran a 5K in the morning and was just too tired to turn around and go do yoga in the heat. Well, I ran and walked my way through the 5K – but still I finished the race and I finished the week!

It turns out that the advice I give to yoga beginners is actually true! You really need to give yoga a second chance. Your first time can be foreign, confusing and even a little frustrating. But the second time, you know more what to expect, you know how to prepare, and most importantly you are better able to stay present and get the full experience.

There is no danger of me jumping the vinyasa ship and becoming a full-time Bikram devotee. I like the challenge of the Bikram class, but I don’t find that same mental/emotional/spiritual peace that a traditional vinyasa class brings me.

Although, I am still intrigued and will return occasionally to the Bikram classes. If for no other reason than to find the meaning of the “Japanese Ham Sandwich.”

Bikram classes are cued the same in every class in every studio. So no matter who your teacher or what state you are in, you’ll hear “from the side you look like you’re holding a box” and “your body is a perfect capital T as in Tom” as you move through the poses.

A forward fold is cued as “from the side you look like a Japanese Ham Sandwich”. Each day I heard that the only thing I could think was “what the hell is a Japanese Ham Sandwich?”

I’ve googled it, searched it in Wikepedia and even looked at pictures of Japanese cuisine. I have no idea what a Japanese Ham Sandwich is. Therefore I have no idea if from the side I look like one.

The other part of a Bikram class I’m still trying to get used to is all the rules. Number one rule is there is no talking in the room no matter what.  It’s almost eerily quiet before class begins.

Number two is new people place their mats in the back of the room. Seriously, at my last class the teacher told a first-timer to move her mat to the back row.  I felt bad for the woman being pointed out like that in front of everyone, so I tried to give her the “you’ll be ok” look as she moved her mat and towel.

We ended up moving through our poses next to each other and it wasn’t long before I could hear that her breathing was becoming very labored. I kept sneaking glances at her to try and check on her. I noticed she was stopping and sitting frequently, even putting her head down a few times.

The teacher in me was getting concerned, so I risked breaking rule number one and whispered to her to just breathe.  I encouraged her to slow her breath down and the rest of her would relax. It worked and she made it through the rest of class.

Rule number 3 is no wiping the excessive sweat off your body.  We are supposed to learn to be stronger and be able to hold our foot over our head without slipping.

Rule 4 is if you absolutely must drink water, please do it between the poses and not during. Although, I think the instructors would really prefer if you just didn’t drink water at all.

Rule 5 may possibly be no blogging about the experience. What happens in “the torture chamber” stays in the torture chamber. 

Wonder what the consequences are of breaking the rules?


  1. This is great stuff! your personality really comes across! Thanks for keeping in touch!

  2. Hey Jennifer,
    I'm Jilda's "worser half". Jilda has been reading me your Facebook updates on the younguns. They are a hoot.
    I'm now following you too.