People often wonder why I keep practicing Bikram Yoga. Year after year. My friends have moved on. They’re discovering new flavours – from the deep stretches of Yin Yoga to the the smooth acrobatics of Vinyasa Flow. Some are flying in the weightlessness of Aerial Yoga while others are testing the limits of their balance and core strength with SUP Yoga. They all claim: “Bikram’s so boring! A 90-minute session with the same postures in the same sequence. Always the same!”.
To me, Bikram Yoga is like a Japanese Bento Box meal. The setting of my Bikram class is the structured box-shaped container a Bento is served in. It’s safe and familiar. The lively chatter of the crowded changing room settles down as I enter the actual yoga space. The room is heated to about 40°C. The unpretentious venue quickly fills up with students. Like assembling an appealing meal, we place our mats methodically in three rows, giving everybody a clear view of the mirror in front. The energy in the room is uplifting. My taste buds are awake.
Similar to a Bento Box’s neat compartments for rice, fish or meat, pickled or cooked vegetables and pudding, my Bikram class consists of the same 26 individual postures and two breathing exercises. It’s a diverse 90-minute sequence, which balances and strengthens every system in the body – muscles, ligaments and tendons alike. We start by warming up the body with Standing Deep Breathing and working through the standing series, before moving onto the floor and finishing the class with Khapalbhati Breathing.
Yet the yoga tastes different every day. The content of the unchanged physical series is varied, because I am different day-by-day. Instead of racing through the asanas mechanically in a fast-food fashion, the teachers encourage me to savour every morsel. I try to bite into each individual posture with focus and concentration. The pose that tasted almost too bitter to swallow yesterday, goes down smooth as silk today.
My palate is certainly improving, as I am slowly learning not to rely on expectations based on past culinary experiences. I’m finding the power of non-reaction and use of my breath to move through any uncomfortable sensations. The emerging flavours can be surprising, shocking even. I’m trying to silence the meanest of food critics inside me, so my patience is continually tested. I’m happy for the constant reassurance and support from the teachers at the studio. My only task remains to show up to sample the contents of the day’s Bento Box with an open mind.
Obviously, it’s not all Bento Box lunches for me. I do venture out to other cuisines. When at home, though, I do enjoy practicing the Bikram Method classes at The Richmond Yoga Centre. Although I know the basic ingredients, their Bento is not your average packed lunch.