Monday, June 16, 2014

Treat Yo Self: Bikram Yoga with Claire Adams

Bikram Yoga

I started doing Yoga during my last semester of college, when my scholarship demanded that I register for a full-time course load despite only needing six credits to graduate. That spring also saw me enrolling in group guitar and choir, and taking an hour to swim laps between classes. While not the most traditionally academic period of my life, is was a pretty good way to spend 15 weeks.
At the time, I was working as the editor of my college newspaper and the yoga did wonders for my stress levels (former colleagues may read this and think "that was the LESS stressed version?"). Since graduating I've tried to keep up with yoga, to varying levels of success.

But I've never done Bikram Yoga, or "Hot" Yoga, so-named because it is practiced in a room that is uncomfortably stifling. Bikram apologists will tell you all about the physical, mental and emotional benefits to this practice but I've always been a little nervous to try, as I don't really handle heat well and because holding a pose is hard enough without the added challenge of practicing inside a wet sauna.

After the relative ease of last month's Sushi class, it seemed like the right time to challenge myself. I found a Bikram studio in Salt Lake City's Sugarhouse neighborhood and invited my friend Claire along for the ride.

Claire and I met in college as the result of an increasingly overlapping Venn diagram of mutual friends. Her neighbor Natalie married my roommate Ben and later on her cousin Meredith married my other roommate David.

Truth be told, I've found that approximately 90 percent of the population of Utah either knows Claire personally or is connected to her through one or two degrees of separation. You honestly can't take her anywhere.

Bikram Yoga

She's ok.

For our adventure we checked in at Bikram Yoga SLC, where the nice women at the reception desk assumed we were married and signed us up for the $20 introductory package, which is basically a 10-day all-you-can-sweat pass. We were told to take it easy at first, as the initial detoxification of Bikram Yoga could result in feelings of dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, night sweats, loose and bloody stool and in some cases death (I may have misheard the later entries in that list. My eyes kind of glazed over as they rattled on).

We found a nice spot along the back wall where I could surreptitiously take photographs without being noticed and learn from the example of our fellow classmates, as our instructor said she would not be demonstrating the poses. As I said, I've been doing regular yoga for a while now but I admit to having difficulty remembering which name applies to which contortion. Call me a noob but I just can't keep my Ardha Candrāsanas straight from my Pādahastāsanas.

Bikram Yoga

Before we even started moving I had already transformed into the Swamp Thing. From the second I entered the 105-degree-farenheit room (with 40% humidity) I could feel my otherwise dry and coarse country-boy skin being replaced by an omnipresent and slippery sheen of moisture.

And I'm not talking about summer-afternoon-at-the-ballpark sweating, I'm talking about every square centimeter of your being covered in a dripping deluge of perspiration. By the time I was granted a sweet, sweet release into the comparatively frigid summer air outside I could not have been more thoroughly saturated if I had bathed in seawater.

The practice lasted 90 minutes, a full half hour longer than my typical twice-weekly class, during which my body underwent a blend of sensations that I imagine is akin to that of steamed broccoli. My head felt light, my skin tingled, my energy levels spiked and crashed and my breathing felt wet and heavy. It ended with the glorious sensation of a chilled towel, followed by a sprint into the air conditioned bathroom for an ice cold shower.

Properly pampered, and dangerously dehydrated, we skipped over to the nearest Jamba Juice to conduct our interview over some fruit and coconut water smoothies.

Jamba Juice

Wood’s Stock: Who are you and what do you do?

Claire Adams: My name is Claire. I live in Sugarhouse. You want to know my occupation?

WS: Whatever you feel answers the question “Who are you and what do you do?”

CA: I work with health care data for my day job and I try to survive things like yoga in the night. And it was a close call.

WS: How are you feeling right now?

CA: I feel really good. I don’t know if it’s because of the stark contrast between what I was in and where I am now.

WS: Then how were you feeling 30 minutes ago?

CA: I was pretty warm and honestly, during it I felt a little lightheaded and at that point I realized I needed to take it easy. It’s not worth passing out in class to get the pose right. I’ve done yoga before, even heated yoga, but this surpassed my experience so I always like to put myself in new positions to see how I take it.

Bikram Yoga

WS: What surprised you, what was different than your expectations?

CA: It was a lot hotter and more humid than I remember and longer. I feel like they kind of trap you in there for a long time.

WS: Paint me a word picture. What is hot yoga? What is it you did, and they did, and they did to you and you did to yourself?

CA: We started by putting a towel on our yoga mats. I thought ‘I don’t need a towel, I can handle this’

WS: And you were wrong?

CA: I was very wrong. Even when I have done a little bit of hot yoga before it’s just nice and warm, maybe you need to wipe your forehead off, but this, I looked down at my mat at the end and there was a body imprint of sweat. So that’s the end, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The teacher guided us through our routine and we started out with a breathing exercise, which, I was already a little lightheaded by the end of that. Like, you’re blowing out all your CO2 and your body is about to pass out to compensate for that. Then we moved into balancing poses and we did do actually my favorite yoga pose.

WS: Which one is that?

CA: Eagle pose, where you cross your arms and then you wrap your leg around and twist down and kind of hover there. You’re very focused and balanced. So that was a highlight. I didn’t feel like I was as effective because I was so sticky. I couldn’t wrap my leg around how I wanted to.

Then we started cooling down by doing some stretches on the floor and those kind of dragged out. I was like ‘all right, we’ve been cooling down for a long time here.’ I’ll tell you what, at the very end with that cold towel, it had to have some kind of chemical in there. Did you put it on your face?

Bikram Yoga

WS: I put it on my face. Well, first I wrung it out on my chest and that was like ecstasy. I seriously would have killed someone for that sensation. Then I put it on my face. But that was my next question, what did you think of the cold towel?

CA: It was amazing. I was thinking as it was sitting there ‘I hope they put that in the refrigerator or the freezer or something.’

WS: As they were passing them out?

CA: Yeah

WS: I reached out and poked it and just thought “Ohhhhhh yes, it’s cold.”

CA: Yeah, that was a little piece of heaven at the end there.

WS: Did you weigh yourself in the bathroom after?

CA: I didn’t, was there a scale?

WS: It’s been a while since I’ve weighed myself, but I was 10 pounds less then I should be. Ten.

CA: When was the last time you weighed yourself?

WS: Well, I’m usually pretty consistent at 175 so I probably weighed myself like a month ago. But I’ve been 175 for years, and I was 165 after yoga. But it was a digital scale, maybe my usual analog scale rounds up.

CA: Interesting, I wish I would’ve done that.

WS: So let’s talk about you a little bit. Let’s talk about extroversion because you’re the most extroverted human being I think I’ve ever met in my life.

CA: Realy? Because I feel like people misunderstand me in that sense.

WS: Tell me why I’m wrong.

CA: First of all, I’d like you to define extroversion and introversion.

WS: From what I understand, it is not whether a person is shy. That’s a common misconception. It has to do with how a person gathers and spends their energy. So an extroverted person becomes energized by being around people. An introverted person spends energy to be around people, so they’re exhausted by being around people.

So you steal my energy. You get more and more amped as I get less and less social. But would you say that does not describe you?

CA: Using that definition, I would say you’re probably pretty right. I do feel like I get energy when I’m around people and if there’s something to feed off of that’s when I feel…

WS: “Feed off of” is a good word for it. You’re feeding off me, that’s what you’re feeding off of, as I wither and die.

CA: Is it kind of like a parasitic relationship here?

WS: Yes.

CA: It can’t by symbiotic or anything?

WS: No, it’s definitely parasitic. It’s one-way.

CA: So in that sense I would say I’m very extroverted. And when I am alone, don’t get me wrong I do value some alone time, but that’s when I feel lonely. Life is not worth living unless there are people around.

WS: I disagree completely. People are monsters. Do you think you could ever live alone?

CA: I don’t know. I think I could. I think it would be a very different phase of my life. For the last year, year and a half I was in grad school studying and a lot of my classes where at night. All my roommates worked during the day time and it was kind of a strange time. Our schedules were opposite and I had to really…

WS: Use your words Claire, don’t bottle it in. You had to really what?

CA: I really valued my time with people and I guess I found things to fill it, I trained for a triathlon, I stayed to the schedule because a) I had time and b) I was terrified I would drown. So I spent the time doing that. In that sense I really kind of learned a lot about myself and kind of filled my time with things that were valuable.

It’s kind of a double edged sword. Spending time with people, I think, is never time wasted. I think spending time, just with people, making sure people are happy, that’s never time wasted. As a result, if you do spend time there you need to do laundry, or I should be reading, kind of developing yourself. We are 20s and 30s, a very pivotal time when you really develop who you are and habits that will carry throughout your life and your mind is still sharp, it’s still growing and learning and I think it’s really the time to cram it.

WS: Well I probably misspoke by saying you’re the “most” extroverted person I’ve ever met. I had a friend who literally couldn’t buy groceries by herself. She’d call me to go to the grocery store with her because she couldn’t even run errands alone. So you’re not that bad.

CA: After I threw my New Year’s Eve pig roast, we cleaned up and the next day I can’t even explain, I sat on the couch in a daze and I was like ‘what just happened to me.’ It took a long time for me to even be able to throw a party again because when I throw parties I can’t just go ‘oh, let’s get together and do this.’ If I throw a party, we’re going to make it different, we’re going to make it so people want to come, not these lame Game Nights. I hate that. Any good party has fireworks and good people.

So that was New Year’s Eve, what was it, 2012-2013? When you say New Year’s Eve is it…?

WS: New Year’s Eve is the year prior,  so it would be...

CA: 2012

WS: Well no, I take that back because whenever people talk about New Year’s Eve, like New Year’s Eve 2014, that would’ve been this most recent one, not the one that’s coming up.

CA: So it would’ve been New Year’s Eve 2013.

WS: Yup. Would you recommend hot yoga to others?

Bikram Yoga

CA: I would. I mean, here’s the thing. You’ve got to formulate an opinion on all the holistic type things. Until you experience it you can’t be for or against it. So I would say, definitely great experience, see where you stand, a lot of it I think is psychological, so if you feel good after, do it.

WS: Would you do it again?

CA: I would do it again.

WS: You have the ability to go for the next 9 days for free.

CA: I have the opportunity, to get the full detoxifying experience. I love yoga and I would go again, I don’t think I’d go every day to hot yoga because I think it’s a little, honestly unless you’re drinking a gallon of water I would say it’s probably not the best thing to do every single day, but that’s my own opinion. Do what you can but always listen to your own body.

WS: I really don’t know if I would go back. If I do go back I’ll remember to bring a change of everything because I’ve never felt more disgusting in my life as I did afterward.

CA: That’s true.

WS: Anything you need to promote?

CA: Like what kinds of things are you talking about?

WS: Whatever you want the readers of Wood’s Stock to know about. A new book? Is your album dropping? Have you discovered a website you think is tits?

CA: I would like to promote Radio Lab. It is one of my favorites and I think you can learn a lot from it.

WS: Is it a podcast?

CA: It’s a podcast. My favorite one actually is called The Good Show and it goes through, from a biological perspective, altruism and why people are good and then it ends with game theory, which is always a good thing.

WS: Always

CA: I love it. I can’t get enough of that stuff.

WS: Are you on twitter?

CA: I am, but I never post.

WS: What’s your handle?

CA: What does that mean?

WS: Yeah, you’re not a tweeter. What is your tweet-name. You’re @-what?

CA: (reaches into purse for phone)

WS: You don’t even know?

CA: I think it’s @Cladams104, but let me verify here.

WS: It’s on my business card. That’s something you gotta know.

CA: Twitter is just another thing to keep track of. I’m one QuizUp so if anyone wants to challenge me.

WS: Nerd.

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