16Passing through Dublin last weekend, I was left with enough spare time to book myself for my first Bikram yoga class, something that I had meant to do for a while as I was keen to find out what’s all the fuss is about.
The teacher, standing at the front of the class just delivers a standardised monologue, the same apparently in each and every Bikram class all over the world, and the only way I managed to get any individual attention from her was by purposely making a serious “mistake” (doing Pariankasana, an advanced posture that would bust the knees of most beginners instead of the Supta Virasana posture we were instructed to do). Other than that, and but for the heat, I could just as well have been practicing at home from a video.
Yes, the postures are indeed yoga postures with Sanskrit name, and the sequence is reasonably balanced, so Bikram Choudhury must have learnt some yoga at some stage, but why the heat?
There’s no closing sequence, and the Kabalabati breath practice at the end of the class finally convinced me that this practice is not suitable for me, not even in the middle of the winter, and left me wondering if it suitable for anyone.
Why is it I wondered as I walked back to the train station afterwards, that so many of the popular yoga styles taught in the west (Bikram, ashtanga, Kundalini) are so strongly Pitta inducing, Pingala orientated yang styles? Surely, in the fast paced, harsh, competitive world we live in, these practices, instead of balancing the constant stimulation we receive, exacerbate stress and imbalance by driving us on faster and faster.
And if yoga is, as Erich Schiffmann puts it, the practice of moving Into Stillness, shouldn’t we be looking for balance, rather than turning to practices that further unbalance us?