25 Sep Refreshing your Mind and Body with Bikram Yoga
Originally published in ‘The Guardian’ 1 Apr 2019
“When I could barely look in the mirror, hot yoga untangled my darkest thoughts”
– Laura Barton
Hot Yoga, in particular ‘Bikram’ Hot Yoga can be controversial, repetitive and very sweaty, but a daily Bikram yoga class improved my mental health, helped repaired my body and soul, restoring my confidence.
Late 2012 was the bleakest time I had ever known. Over weeks that became months, I waited for my divorce to be finalised and meanwhile my mind unravelled. I found it hard to write, think, eat or take pleasure in anything; I could not imagine what it would be like to feel happy again; I could not find any hope or purpose.
I struggle now to remember why one Monday morning around that time I decided to head to a hot yoga studio in east London and sign up for a 30-day trial. I do not remember the class, how much I sweated nor how terrible I was. But I do know that I began going to hot yoga every day. Sometimes, when my head felt as if it might collapse, I went twice. I skipped parties, left social events and got up hideously early to attend. There was something about the hot room that held me together, that stopped all the dark thoughts tangling around my insides.
The kind of hot yoga I chose was the Bikram method: a set of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises performed over 90 minutes in heat that hovers between 35°C and 42°C with 40% humidity. It is a contentious form of yoga following its founder Bikram Choudhury’s failed attempt to copyright his method, and the numerous claims of sexual assault against him beginning in 2013. Many studios have understandably sought to distance themselves from the Bikram brand, renaming the classes “Hot 26”. Something in the rigorous repetition of those 26 postures freed my mind, dragged me out of the mire of my thoughts and back into the present. I was able to focus on how each day my body behaved differently…