Contorting into a backwards bend in 43 degrees Centigrade humidity, inhaling a rancid-insole smell and concentrating hard on just trying not to vomit, faint or topple into the person next to me... my first Bikram yoga session was shaping up to be an all-out BLAST.
I'd seen Bikram as the workout of choice for lithe women with juice machines and honey-highlighted locks-the kind I half hope (and half fear) that I might magically morph into one morning. Plus, I'd seen a 20 days for 20 quid deal and it was so frosty outside that I was debating whether I could incorporate a balaclava into my officewear - the idea of a bit of warm and cosy stretching was pretty enticing.
So I rocked up after work one night with my litre bottle of water and my two large towels, and stripped down to a vest and leggings. Looking around the crammed room it was immediately, and somewhat thankfully, obvious that for every Jennifer Anniston type on the front row there was a hairy-backed tubby just behind. Two minutes into the session, while we were still just doing the loud wheezy breathing bit, I started to long to be in my pants. In fact, I was about one centigrade away from being as naked in public as I've been just three times in my life; at birth, taking on a dare on a school trip to the Outer Hebrides and on a Croatian nudist beach (where my friend and I lasted about ten minutes, before fretting that our bits might burn.)
Bikram is not a place for the body conscious-or perhaps conversely it's the best place for them, because it's pretty hard to hold onto any hangups about the mottled texture of your thighs when you're doing your damnest to drive your forehead into your shin, and everything's so sweaty that it feels like a toenail might slip off in a moment and bob across the floor like an untethered buoy.
That said, mine is a pretty private stomach. People can see it when it's stretched out like a mangled sheet, preferably after a skipped meal, and it just about has a nice little sickle of shadow under the lower ribs. I'd love to take it out dancing in a crop top, for example, but there's always the worry that it would look a bit like uncooked pizza dough being spun around by a drunken Italian chef.
So, having accidentally pitched my mat next to a fairly attractive, sinewy and very serious looking young man, I felt paranoid that my sideways bends were producing some kind of accordian of slippery flesh down one side of my body. However I stopped caring about what he thought when he proceeded to do a massive fart. In fact, for the rest of the session I was subjected to what amounted to a noxious trumpet concerto. Then, while attempting to focus on a point in front so as not to keel over during tree pose, I realised that the woman ahead of me had a fairly large hole in the seat of her leggings. And she wasn't wearing any pants.
So, Bikram was proving to be fairly traumatic, and not quite the glamorous experience I had envisaged. I hobbled home afterwards feeling fairly violated, and looking like I'd dunked my puce head into a bucket. But then-something happened. I felt a kind of lovely rush, a sense of total relaxation combined with reinvigoration. Everything ached, but in a satisfying way. Essentially I was smacked out on endorphins and probably delirious with mild dehydration, but I liked it.
I went back for another 90 minutes, then another, then another. I even bought myself a bloody mat. But my deal's over now, and it just lolls against the telly and eyes me forlornly as I toxify myself with barbeque sauce and glasses of wine. Still, I feel sure that we'll share some sweet, sweaty moments again soon
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