I love the heat and hate the cold. I’m also a little drastic when it comes to exercise, and doctors have told me that my pain tolerance is superhuman. So this past winter, when it was freezing and snowing, and I did everything I could think of to stay warm (besides getting on a plane and moving), and nothing worked, I tried Bikram yoga. It’s yoga, in a 100-degree room for 90 minutes. I’m not a stranger to working out or to the heat, so I walked in thinking I’d get a nice, warm workout in from a quiet, zen-like woman and then go about my life. I was never more wrong.

In walks Leo, this huge, tatted up, south Philly dude reminiscent of Mr. Clean.

“I am not here to read you passages out of a little book to brighten up your otherwise dreary lives. I’m here to make you do the yoga.”

He turned on the heat, I watched the thermometer go up to 90° and then to 100° and up some more to 110° I stopped looking when it got to 117°. I held my body in uncomfortable positions. Then I got into really, really uncomfortable positions. When I slacked off a little bit, Leo knew. He told me hold my leg higher and contract my knee tighter, because he knew that I could.

Camel Pose*

This little yoga session felt like torture. I was pretty sure that I was going to die, right then and there and that my mom was going to stand up at my funeral and tell my friends and family that I died in a yoga class. I hated Leo, I hated myself for thinking yoga would be a good idea. Those 90 minutes finally ended and I felt shaky and drained and tired and defeated. I gave Leo an evil look on my way out and vowed to never come back.

About an hour later, something amazing happened. I felt energized and detoxified and happy. I went back the next day, and the day after that. After a couple of weeks of going regularly, I cancelled my gym membership. I stopped needing massages.  I was permanently fresh-faced. My attitude changed, my stress level went down, and I was more relaxed. The classes didn’t get easier, but they seemed different and they definitely got better.

I’ve become a little less obsessed with Bikram over time, but I still go a couple of times a week, and I still feel like it changed my life and that it might just change yours too. Stop by 1520 Sansom Street if you’re in need a detoxing-stretching session, and really, who isn’t in need of something like that? Make sure Leo is teaching.




*Photo courtesy of www.examiner.com