Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Big Sweat.

I've just forked out a substantial amount of cash to spend 90 minute periods trapped in a 40 degree room smelling the sweat of other people, while forcing my body into shapes which are often painful and almost always completely unnatural. And it's not the first time I've done it, either. Yes - I am one of those people. The ones that like Bikram yoga.

For anyone who's not familiar with the concept, Bikram is a 90 minute yoga practice, done in a room with temperatures up to 40 degrees and stupidly high humidity. There are 26 postures and a couple of breathing exercises which are less attractive to watch and listen to than Brynne and Geoffery Edelsten having sex. It often leaves you feeling dizzy and/or nauseous, as well as unable to walk properly the next day. So why do it?

I was never encouraged to play sport as a child, and consequently (or so I tell myself) I'm completely useless at almost anything that requires any sort of athletic skill. I'm not good at running and my hand-eye coordination is probably equal to that of a small (armless) child or any creature that lacks opposable thumbs. Instead of playing touch footy on weekends as a kid, I always did dancing. All types, and lots of it. I cry if a ball flies too close to my head, but if you want someone to wear sequins and a glittery hat and totally nail a tap dance to La Bamba, I'm your woman. But being a bit too grown up to spend my weekends choreographing hip hop routines to Bel Biv Devoe's "Gangsta", yet preferring low impact exercise and still having some of my dancer's flexibility in tact, I guess it was inevitable I ended up doing some sort of yoga. (It's probably also down to the fact my Mum's a bit of a hippy. Well, she wears Camper shoes and believes lathering body wash gives you cancer.)

It took me awhile to get into Bikram. In my first class, I fainted. I was out cold, and had to be slapped by the teacher in order to wake up. It took me several goes before I could complete a class without lying on my back and wishing I was dead at least once.

I've dragged a couple of first timers along with me, regaling them with horror stories about the time I passed out, the time I had a fit, the time someone else had a fit, only to have the first timer breeze straight through the class, emerging calmly at the end with just an endearing pink tint to their cheeks. When I finish a class, I look like someone's pushed me into the Yarra, held my head under for several minutes, then tied me from a long piece of rope to the back of their car and circled the Tan a few times.

As well as the aforementioned downsides to the practice, there's the issues which arise thanks to other people in the class. Many of them stink. Some of them accidentally flick sweat onto you. Some make sex noises. Others sound as though they're being stabbed slowly and repeatedly in the stomach. So I often ask: why put myself through it?

First of all, for someone whose five food groups are sugar, dairy, hot chips, cider and King Island Double Brie, it's an incredible way to keep weight off. It also keeps you nice and limber and once you've been going for awhile, you can brag about being able to do the splits in the air. But mostly it's the feeling you get after finishing a class. The feeling of inner peace and the sense of accomplishment is what gets me back there time after time. I imagine it's a bit like coming back from war (you can't tell me battle memories are any worse than the flashbacks to accidentally copping an eyeful of the crotch sweat patch of a Fitzroy hippy).