Hot Yoga in Santa Barbara: My Intro to Bikram Yoga

Note, this is a updated & revised post that first appeared in April 2013.

I hate it when Groupon offers a deal that’s too good to pass up…  Sometimes it’s a killer deal on a dinner & drink special, sometimes a weekend get away; but this time it was a one month unlimited pass to my Local Bikram Yoga Studio.  Normally $120, for just $45 I could get all the Hot Yoga I could stand for 30 days.

I had been wanting to try  Sure, it has it’s opponents and advocates, but let’s leave the controversies for another time.

Before I get into my Bikram experience, let me give you a little back-ground on me: I’m a 42 year old professional male, meat eating, wine drinking, occasional cigarette smoking (I smoke when I drink but want to stop that) and weight lifting “Big Guy.”  6’1″ and weigh 250 on a good day.  In the military, I was a Navy Fire Fighter and did tours in the Persian Gulf and Somalia.   Most people think I played college football because I’m big, have 17 inch arms, can bench press 315 lbs for reps, and squat 450 lbs.

Most people in the Yoga Community seem to have some common characteristics…Yogi’s are skinny, I’m big.  Yogis drive hybrids,  I drive a big SUV.  Most Yogis recycle and want to live a sustainable lifestyle. I don’t.  Just seeing the word “sustainable” makes me want to gag, and I think that men who use the word sustainable are wussies who just want to hook up with hippie chicks.  Yes, I’m judgmental.  And I like hippie chicks.

I thought Bikram Yoga would be a good way to increase my flexibility, and sweat off some pounds…and the fact that I’d be in a hot studio to check out flexible scantily clad sweaty Yoginis; well, that was a plus in my book.

Before this I’d never done more than a sporadic Vinyasa and Kundalini class, or practiced along with videos at home.  The challenge of making my cost per use as low as possible for this Groupon deal appealed to me.

I mustered my courage, and Groupon in hand went down to the studio for my first Saturday practice.  Entering the Hot Room was a shock.  It was peaceful.  I had read the FAQs, so I knew the basics… bring a towel, water & electrolytes, mat, etc.

Being a few pounds overweight, I kept my shirt on… for the first 20 minutes.

I’m thankful that my first instructor (Veronica) said that the most important posture was Savassana (Corpse Pose) and during that first practice, I practiced savassana a lot.

Although I observed some very fit, flexible and attractive people, they did not enter my consciousness.  I struggled for survival, listening to my body and taking rest where needed.  I  shed my self-consciousness as soon as I shed my shirt.  I was not the fattest, I was not the stiffest; all that mattered was that I was there.  I sweat more that first day than I had since that horrible summer in Somalia.  But here I was in a wonderful place; purifying my body, honoring it with work, and challenging myself in ways I hadn’t challenging myself in a long time.

The effect was immediate.  Instead of going home, having my normal dinner of lean protein, brown rice and vegetables, with wine… I had water, rice and vegetables.  My desire for cigarettes was gone, and has been since that first class.

I went again the next day… and the next.  I’ve now been 10 out of 15 days, and what’s amazing is that my craving for wine has almost completely left me.  My desire for sweat and stretch is increasing.

I just had a massage, and my masseuse noted that I have virtually no myofacia adhesions; quite different from the month before.

Thank you Mari for making the Groupon offer and changing my life.  Yes, I’ll be renewing.

UPDATE: November 2014

About 18 months have passed, and I’m now a good 30 pounds leaner.  My blood pressure is in the “optimal” range.  I have an entirely new wardrobe because I ditched all the stuff that got baggy.  My abs are better now than ever before in my life.  I haven’t had any back pain in the last year.  I even completed a 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training.

There’s an expression:  “The hammer doesn’t build the house.”  I understand it’s my work, nutrition and consistency which enables me to make the changes to my physique and health.   It was Mari’s offer which lowered the risk to try something new that got me in the door.  And for that, I’m grateful.


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