A Brilliant Idea
“Sally, do you know what to expect from this class?” the scantily clad instructor asked me in front of the other twenty students.
‘Yes. It’s going to be very hot.”
I was standing in the middle of my latest brilliant idea. Since I am traveling a good deal in the next two months, taking my traditional coursework in graduate school was not an option. So rather than bowing out this quarter, my program director at JFKU and I created an independent study course about leadership. That would have been enough, except I wouldn’t qualify for financial aid unless I took one more unit.
That’s where my brilliant idea came in.
Rather than design another cerebral course, I decided to create somatic balance. After all, I am enrolled in Integral Psychology. I must treat and respect the whole person. So I decided to study and enroll in Bikram Yoga.
My girlfriend, Liz, has been an advocate of Bikram Yoga since last June. She claimed she was inspired by the spiritual display at Harrison’s bar mitzvah, and returned to New York to find her own path to serenity. She seemed authentically altered after six months of her regimen.
“Isn’t it, you know, really hot?” I asked Liz on the phone one day.
“You get over that pretty quickly,” she said, dismissively. ” I can only describe it as really cleansing. And my body is transformed.” I stopped studying my pores in the mirror and took mental note. This could be an interesting study. Take and study Bikram for nine weeks and see if there is any transformation in me.
It all seemed like a good idea until I stood in the second of two rows, noting that all of the students were dripping sweat and we hadn’t even starting moving yet. Stay positive, my mantra came back. You’ll breathe again in ninety minutes. At least it didn’t smell as bad as I had expected.
“Now, Sally. Just watch the person in front of you. You may find you get dizzy. You may get nauseous. At some point you may not know your left from your right. But stay with it and you’ll do fine.”
Nauseous? Left from right? I had never been attempted to experiment with drugs in college because I had no desire to lose control. Now I had paid $23 for a week’s supply of delusions in a room over 100 degrees.
“For the first half hour, no one is to drink water. It breaks the unified energy.”
I was thrilled when the small hand hit the six and I could chug a quarter of my water. The next half hour wasn’t so bad, either. Then I started studying the clock. I eyed the door, wondering how it would feel to have blast of cold air hit my body. But I wasn’t allowed to open it. I went for the positive outlook again. I pondered worse situations. Being a POW in Vietnam certainly had to be worse than this. They could never get away from the heat. But, come to think of it, they were locked in a room, too.
As the clock ticked each minute felt like a full hour. My heart rate was elevated – my body’s way of telling me it really wanted to go home. Was anyone else about to faint? Was there any air anywhere in the world?
Finally, we were released from captivity. As I walked out of class and sat on the bench, the air feeling like I had just stepped into northern Wisconsin in January, I was startled by a thought: I had forgotten about everything in the outside world. I hadn’t considered my events, my interviews, missing my kids, Harrison being sick at home, dinner that night, or drinks later. I had simply in that hot room.
My defenses had also dropped. It is amazing what happens when one is in survival mode. I didn’t rate my body in the wall of mirrors, criticizing my lack of flexibility or weight that needed to be firmed. I was just me, and I loved myself. I also felt a peace in the entire room, an acceptance of others.
“Bikram says it is easy to experience peace in a dark room lit by a single candle, background music playing nearby,” the instructor told us. “But to feel peace in a crowded subway, or while holiday shopping, or in dealing with a difficult client – that takes discipline. That is what Bikram Yoga offers you.”
I can’t walk so well today – my thighs feel like a rubber band wound tight. I’m not so sure about 9 weeks of this class, but I’m all in. We’ll see what my version of transformation feels like.