Bikrim heaven


Somewhere in the first Sabastna, I find South America in the ceiling. Sabastna is my favorite pose in the hour and a half Birkrim experience. It signals the transition from standing poses to floor poses but to me it means I just might not die. Not to be all dramatic but I am about maxed. (


I love Bikrim. Love it so much that I go about once every six months. Love it so much that after almost every class I say I will start a new regime, twice a week minimum, then I come back six months later. Great intentions, terrible follow through: story of my life.


Besides the physical exercise and the full body cleansing of losing about three gallons of sweat, the mental side is the biggest benefit of Bikrim. The room is mirrored on three sides and you stare deeply at yourself throughout the hour and a half, at 52 I rarely stare at myself in a pair of shorts for 90 minutes. But I should.


The ceiling has a stucco non-pattern that forms random designs in various shapes. South America is just to the left of the ceiling fan, which is never on. We are supposed to be concentrating on mental stillness and Namaste but my ADD brain spends the time looking for continents in the stucco. This is a big challenge for me to let go of the projects, jobs, relationships, responsibilities and focus simply on the postures and my breathing.


Entering the room is when the benefits begin. Low light, quiet, hot, I immediately start to breathe slower. In small town Sonoma it means I am positioned behind two of my ex-students, across the room is my good friend Frank’s wife, Lorene’s ex-husband is two rows up and that exotic looking cashier from Whole Foods is behind me. I think for a moment how creepy it must be to see your teacher half naked and sweating profusely then I elevate my mind and all worry washes away.


My wife is usually next to me; she’s a regular and the real reason I go. There’s a subtle sensual component to the practice: sweating together, endorphins, exercise, mental connection, minimal clothing. But it’s more psychic-connection-sensual than erection-sensual (good thing too cause there’s no way to hide erection-sensual while wearing only a sweaty tight fitting pair of shorts).


Julie was the first teacher when we moved to Sonoma many years ago; Bikrim was Kate’s thing then. I always found excuses not to go: Too hot, too much of a time commitment, yoga is for hippie-weirdoes-that kind of a thing. Then I started reading Mark Morford in SFGate and realized I kind of am a hippie weirdo.


For many years, Nada was our fearless leader, owner, and yoga professional. She is about as strong a cup of coffee as one would ever want in a teacher. Assertive in a European-put–on-your-big-boy-pants kind of way. She is the finest example that one gets the teacher that one deserves. She corrected me when I was lazy, “Valt-toes pointed to ze mirror” and encouraged me on the rare occasion when I was pushing myself, “Good reach Valt.” She opened the door and fanned the room with cool air just as the 107+-degree heat was getting to be too much. Nada provided the perfect balance of encouragement and motivation.


But now there is a new vibe in the room, Dan Fisherbaugh is in charge and Raina is today’s instructor. New floors, new art, new humidifiers but, thankfully for me, the same ceiling.



During today’s class, while searching for continents, I’m also thinking about getting old. Not the boring-midlife-crisis-buy-a-Porsche-get-a-girlfriend kind of thinking but the bucket-list-what-do-I-want-to-do-in-the-next-30-years thinking. Climb half dome again, go to Burning Man, throw more parties, play more tennis tournaments, help the kids become independent little beings. This is another benefit of having an hour and a half of contemplative time.


50 is the new 30, at least that’s the lie I’m sticking with. Bikrim helps the vessel stay pliable and if I want to be skiing at 80, flexibility is vital. Plus the kids will be gone in a couple of years, wife and I will have to get used to being alone again and Bikrim connects us.


My body is holding up pretty well but I could always lose 20 pounds. The mind is questionable but there is no Bikrim for the brain (actually Bikrim kinda is for the brain). I’m thinking about this eventual retirement thing. I’ll finish the novel, go to Europe, build a cabin in the mountains…


“Bikrim yoga sit up!” Raina breaks my daydreaming with the words that mean Sabastna time is over, 12 more poses beginning with Pavanamuktsana The Wind-Removing Pose. Love this one, knees in tight, right then left then both, head flat on the ground, chin down, pull and flatten at the same time. I am working towards getting every vertebra flat on the floor, but my position looks more like a ten year-olds failed cannonball. I push and stop thinking about South America or turning 53, I breathe, I relax. “And back to Sabasstna” says Raina.


The class eventually ends and we all lie on mats for a few extra minutes. Two people work their way into headstands while I struggle just to roll up my mat. The endorphins outside the room are thick, one of my ex-students says hello and I chat briefly with Lorene’s ex.


“So awesome, love it.” I say, “I’m committing to two days a week minimum…”