Written by Michael Baker, owner of Bakermedia and web presence manager of Bikram Yoga Shelton
Let me take you back to November 2007. I’m 32 going on 33 and back to my Winter power lifting routine of heavy weight training, loads of protein, creatine and caffeine. Like clockwork, I get a nagging muscle injury just as I hit the heaviest dumbbells on the rack. My gut is growing as fast as my chest, I feel sluggish and I’m thoroughly sick of the treadmill and every other piece of cardio equipment in the gym.
Remember, I’m in my 30’s now and things just aren’t working with my body the way they used to. My routine plateaued years ago, I’m stuck in a rut, I’m wearing extra-large shirts and I can barely touch my shins when I bend over. I have to change this! I’m a broken person! I don’t know traditional vinyasa yoga from bikram yoga. I don’t know anything more than how to get big and how to burn it off running 5 miles every other day and eating egg whites for 2 months. I have to try something different!
I sign up at the local LA Fitness because they offer “yoga” classes. I have done my research and feel yoga is the new thing I need in my life. My wife and I start taking a Saturday class with an instructor that changed everything for us. It didn’t matter if we were out partying until 3:30am the night before (pre-baby :), we would not miss our Saturday yoga class with Kate at LA Fitness. She wasn’t supposed to be there because she was far too good. What a great first experience with yoga! I remember being sore in 12 places I didn’t know existed and then remained sore for 4 days after one of her classes. This was it. There was no turning back…
I go back to the Internet. What kind of Yoga is HARD? What kind of Yoga is INTENSE? For me and most guys I have ever worked out with in a power lifting environment, it was always about the adrenaline rush, a surge of strength, a pump. This Saturday class made me feel great but it was still missing something because it was a little too gentle for the beefcake that I was.
I find “Bikram Yoga”, hmm what is this? Hydrate for 12 hours? Bring a towel and change of clothes?! What the hell is this all about? So we go! I got all my workout gear on – hat, tank top, sweatshorts, SOCKS ahah I never once in my life worked out without sneakers, but I’ve been doing yoga at the gym for 6 weeks so I’m a pro! I was also nursing a nagging shoulder injury and lower back pull for months caused by heavy squatting and shoulder presses.
When the class kicked in, my wife and I couldn’t meet eyes without laughing at the first breathing exercise. I never heard or saw anything like it! But let me tell you, by the 4th pose there were no more smiles! It was serious business to survive in there. My sweatshorts became really long because they were soaked and my hat brim was dripping sweat on to my socks. I was a HOT mess! I left with 4 poses to go because I seriously thought I might die if I finished. When I got out into the cool air and got back to normal, I could not believe what had just happened in that room. It literally beat my ass. I talked about it for days…WTF was THAT!!?? (actually that hasn’t stopped, ask my wife)
I seriously had not felt that way since military police training at Ft. Dix 16 years prior. I equated it to the intensity of low crawling through sand with drill instructors yelling at me and live fire being shot overhead in 100 degree heat! (Well maybe not THAT bad.) It was the hardest physical thing I had ever done aside from military training and it felt incredible.
So I went back, and back and back again. I’ve been back a couple hundred times since, I’m sure of it. Some weeks I tried to do 2 or even 3 classes. I did not quit weights and I am actually stronger now. I also still attend vinyasa yoga regulary and accompany that with traditional cardio methods like running. I find that doing Bikram Yoga helps ALL of them “work better” because it makes me do things I would’ve never done before and it strengthened every aspect of my entire physical being from head to toe. I also grew 1/2″ to a proud, even 5’8″ haha. Strengthening your spine = strengthening your body inside and out. Everything in life is easier when you can overcome and withstand that class, trust me on that one!
I will encourage anyone I know struggling with weight, sleep, stress and even those just stuck in the boring old gym routine to go try it! You sweat out your “junk”, detox your body of toxins, get so sore that sleep is ridiculously easy and when you leave you are on a natural high because of the fresh blood flow. Not to mention, the anticipation of the class makes you drink tons of water, which most people are also void of. I have not had ONE muscle injury since I started. It is also an open door and a segue into a whole new world of all types of Yoga and alternate exercise routines. I consider it a positive, necessary and permanent addition to my life.
Please don’t think you need to be flexible to go. You GET flexible by going. Don’t think people will think you’re “gross” if you sweat a lot because everyone is drenched with sweat. Do it!
Well that’s my Bikram story and I’m really proud of the road I went down. Hope to see you in class soon!