Bye Bye Bikram

Today I was kicked out of a Bikram class. That’s right. In a Bikram studio where the classes are already so sparsely attended that there were a mere six students in the classroom with me, the teacher so despised me that she rolled up my mat for me and told me to leave!

What was the problem? All I can give you are the facts.

It’s a new studio, relatively speaking. It’s only been around for less than a year. I am assuming that the teacher/owner is a relatively new teacher, since those are the people who tend to open up the Bikram Studios…students who became teachers for the purpose of opening a studio. She wasn’t young in years, but she had a vibe of a newbie-teacher (I was once a newbie teacher…and I am sure I gave off that icky and uncomfortable newbie teacher vibe at that time…like the icky and uncomfortable vibe given off by a couple sitting next to you at a restaurant who are obviously on a blind date).

I digress. Sorry. Anyway, when I walked in, the newbie teacher/studio owner asked me if I had any experience with Bikram Yoga. I told her I had been doing it for 10 years. Since Bikram is a 26-posture sequence that never ever changes, and since Bikram was designed for beginning yoga students, and since I told her that I had taught a form of hot yoga back a few years ago that was based on Bikram, it’s a pretty safe bet that I knew what I was doing, right?

So, we began with the first “posture”, which is really a breathing exercise. And about two seconds into it, the teacher called me out: “Lauren, why don’t you stop and watch the other students to see how to do this.”



I said, “No, I’m sorry, I’ve been doing this for 10 years. I’m here to do the yoga, not to watch. But thanks.”

Then she started picking on some really inflexible, kind of spazzy guy in the back, and I thought I was safe. Telltale sign of a teacher picking on you: when they say, “I’m not pickin on you, but…” But that was his problem. Not mine. Mine was yet to come…

And by the way, one telltale sign of a newbie teacher is a teacher who picks on students. It is actually a sign, more specifically, that the teacher is having trouble staying focused on her teaching and is allowing herself to get distracted by what is going on around her. But again, I digress. Sorry.

Anyway, everything was going great for the next three or four postures. I listened to every instruction Teacher gave, which is always somewhat torturous for me, since I have heard the instructions 80,000 times by now (they never veer from the memorized monologue…never…ever…unless the teacher wants to take some serious abuse from Bikram Choudhury himself). I put out some really nicely executed poses in exactly the form she demanded – specifically, Utkatasana, Eagle Pose (Garudasana), Dandayamana Bipakdipada Paschimotanasana (aka standing on one leg with the other leg straight out in front of you and folding over the extended leg…or as we say in Ashtanga, “Uttitha Hasta Pandangustasana” – Extended Hand to Foot Pose), and Natarajasana (Dancer Pose, which is called Dandayamana Dhanurasana in Bikram). Those poses for me are the ones I can really do nicely. So, it’s not like I was sucking at the yoga. And the spazzy guy in the back had that covered, besides. So, it couldn’t be that she hated me because I was so “bad” at the yoga…

Unfortunately, after Dancer Pose, I began feeling lightheaded. This was not alarming to me since I have somewhat low blood pressure, and I tend to get lightheaded when I start to lose a lot of water through sweat. And since Bikram is practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees, this is par for the course. But also, I hadn’t eaten all day, although that is also fairly standard procedure before a yoga class. And since this is pretty much “the drill” for me in any Bikram class (the triad of not eating, being dehydrated and being lightheaded from a dip in blood pressure) I know how to handle it…I get low to the ground and let my head sink between my knees.

Teacher called me out on that though. “Don’t put your head below your heart!! Remain standing!” Apparently, the anatomical rules are different in a Bikram classroom than they are in real life. Apparently, the failure of blood to be pumped to the head must be addressed by allowing it to drain to the feet in a Bikram class. ‘Mmkay.

“But I’m dizzy. And this is what I do when I’m dizzy.”

I could see her disapproval, coming off her like the steam was coming off of my skin. And so, I just tried to go with her suggestion and remain standing. But since this does not address the failure of blood to drain into my head, I began to get really really in “I am going to pass out now” dizzy.

But I wanted to behave. So, I drank a bit of water and “remained standing” as required. Yet somehow Teacher was not satisfied with this, and she did what I consider to be the unthinkable in a Bikram class: she came up to me and put her hands on my body. I’m not sure what she was trying to do with her hands – hold my back up straight? Give me a hug? Whatever it was, it is just NOT acceptable in a Bikram class, and 10 years of being a student of Bikram (on and off), I know that to be the case. There are NO physical adjustments, there is NO physical touching. And there is a really good reason for this, even if it is not the REAL reason (although maybe it is): no one wants to be touched when they are sweating in a room heated to 105 degrees, and least of all someone who is trying to keep from fainting in a room heated to 105 degrees.

I recoiled and gasped at her, “Listen, I just want to get through this class. You have to back off of me. Please.”

And with that she rolled up my mat and threw my money at me.


By the way, this was Bikram Yoga Ridgefield. Ridgefield, Connecticut, just off the main drag on Main Street. Just in case you are interested in going to a tiny, out of the way studio in a far-off corner of Fairfield County, Connecticut, with zero “shakti” (energy) and very few students to provide that shakti…and oh, yes, a crazy, control-freak teacher/owner who is an equal opportunity crazy, control-freak: not just the experienced yogis get trashed, but also the spazzy inflexible guys standing in the back wishing they were a little closer to their goal of losing 75 pounds.

Now, I know what you’re thinking…it’s not the first time I’ve had a problem in a Bikram class. And It’s not my true style of yoga. And I can’t seem to bear the heat anymore (back in 2002 and 2003, when it was my meat and potatoes yoga, I was in a very different “body”…and perhaps I needed the heat…now not so much), much as I want to. And maybe it’s me, not the teachers. Maybe.

But I still scratch my head…why should it be that hard for me to take a Bikram class??? Ironically, the last time that I had trouble in a Bikram class, the class itself went GREAT. I thought it was fantastic. I managed to get through the whole class with what I thought was no teacher-student drama. But in that case, when I walked out of the locker room, I heard the teacher gossiping about me. I’m sure I blogged about it. I don’t feel like linking to it though…too lazy!

Anyway, I think I will stick to Ashtanga and the occasional vinyasa class for now, at least until I get desperate for some heat in the winter. There’s still some uncharted Bikram territory for me in the greater NY area…Bronx Bikram anyone?


About these ads

18 Responses to Bye Bye Bikram

  1. Reposer says:

    Remember the NYT article last year summarizing the various reasons folks can be more susceptible to exercising in extreme heat? Worth running down the checklist (hormonal age for women is def on there) but what stuck in my memory was that everyone, even the most fit (who adjust most quickly) need to acclimate gradually to extreme heat. Rise in blood pressure, dehydration, etc. are concerns for many. Dizziness can have multiple causes, but your common sense action is the standard recommendation. Why/how could she justify discouraging it? What is the rationale? Is there something in Bikram philosophy that contradicts the science behind putting your head down when light-headed/dizzy? Or do they teach that it’s noble to pass out while doing the sequence?
    I hope by now she’s called you in concern and regret to apologize!

  2. yogachickie says:

    Hell to the no, she has not called or emailed…perhaps she assumes (hopes) I am dead from heatstroke? Or perhaps she just could sense that I was never ever ever going to darken her doorstep again? Perhaps I am no longer capable of tolerating a bikram class. It’s militaristic like ashtanga, but I more or less respect ashtanga, so I am less likely to argue back at the teacher if they give me an instruction I don’t like. Bikram seems kind of a joke to me…like yoga kindergarten: you go for the experience but not really to learn anything substantive per se.

  3. Sara says:

    You want a great class in that area? Buddhi Mat is it…owner Lyn and her crew are the nicest. No egos and Buddhi was the first of the hot yoga places and continues to do well because of it. The other awesome class I’ve experienced is over at O2 Living in Cross River. Alison is the one to go with…she is fabulous, challenging, great and at the end of class, at least for summer, she puts a cold washclothe over your forehead and eyes in savasana to help the cooling down process. She is Bikram trained but in no way doing that regimented stuff…and she is also Vinyasa trained so the two together are like heaven. Her classes are packed so get there early :) I would never put up with what that teacher did to you…never. And I am a teacher too and wonder where the hell her compassion is. I also think she’s running with fear of her studio not succeeding. Buddhi has the hot yoga people won over already so that was some chance to take opening a Bikram in Ridgefield.

  4. Sara says:

    PS Forgot to mention there is also a cool teacher in North Salem named Basil…I think the website is He doesn’t do hot yoga but a great vinyasa mix. No need to EVER got back to that Bikram studio really, if you live in the area :) Wonder how long the place will be open. I heard the Bikram owner in Danbury CT is another one to reckon with…she puts the heat up to 110.

  5. Yogi John says:

    I won’t go to Bikram no matter what, no matter where. I think maybe because I don’t like Bikram himself all that much. The militaristic sans spirituality is disturbing. Yes yoga is a practice that makes you healthy and reduces stress, but it is also a wonderful way to connect with yourself and something bigger than yourself. That teacher you experienced maybe shouldn’t be teaching before she has had more time exploring the “yoga is the cessation of the flutuations of the mind” because she sure is good at creating more of that on all levels!

  6. Hey girl… so glad to see you’re still blogging! I’ve become an Iyengar girl myself, though I still take class at a pretty good Vinyasa studio up the block on a regular basis (it’s up the block and my friends teach there.) But I’d totally join you for Bronx Bikram. Name the date!

  7. yogachickie says:

    Omg!! April!!! So good to hear from you! After labor day, I will be able to schedule a trip to bikram bronx with you…let’s definitely do that!

  8. Yogi John says:

    Guess you are not really back to blogging :( Oh well.

  9. yogachickie says:

    I blogged today, Yogi John!

  10. Yogi John says:

    AWESOME to have you back…thanks for posting :)

  11. yogachickie says:

    John…you can follow me on twitter for a more up-to-the -minute real-time flow of thought. @yogachickie on

  12. I am new to this blog. I found you on Twitter. I guess I am going to have to link to this article from my article– Yoga: The Many Benefits of Hatha Yoga. Here is the last paragraph of that article: “Remember that when you are at a class, you are the boss when it comes to your own body. The instructor works for you. If the instructor tells you to run into a wall, it will be your nose that gets broke, not his/hers. So only do what you feel is safe for you and to the degree that you want.”

    I wrote that after reading some things. If you want someone to put their hands on you, just go to the airport. I was reading about a woman in a Bikram yoga class where the temperature was 115 degrees and she was not feeling great. The above reminds me of the complaints in Scientology. There is nothing wrong with the teachings, but people in power abuse it.

    Just like the U.S. There is nothing wrong with the constitution but the people in power abuse it. In a debate, when Mitt Romeny was asked about the constitution, he said to ask Ron Paul since he is a constitutionalist. The president vows to uphold the constitution.

    Also in Scientology they would say that you are a squirrel. And you confessed it to the teacher. That word (squirreling) means to take Scientology and teach your version of it. Bikram has patented his yoga sequence and you were teaching a version of it. I am sure that the teacher was told that if she changes it in anyway, she will suffer a fate worse than death and then when she dies she would go to hell for eternity (If Bikram were a Christian).

    I do not like authority. Actually the teacher may have been concerned about you fainting and getting hurt and getting sued by you. There is a saying about all of the above and about Bikram. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    Bikram’s book was made so someone, like me, can do it on their own. It says “If you can, you should try to heat it to at least 100 degrees F.” He talks about heating up a bathroom if large enough or wearing warmup clothing.

    To end on a positive note there was an article about a guy losing 200 pounds with yoga. But when you get into the story, a guy went to a yoga class, but he was not feeling like he deserved to not be obese. But the female teacher there cared about him (as a person or fellow human being) and that made all the difference. So being obese was not just hurting him but was hurting the teacher so he lost the weight. So it was a story about the power of brotherly/sisterly love.

  13. fran says:

    You sound like a little brat. If the teacher is correcting you it is because you are doing something wrong. You taught “hot yoga”? That is not Bikram. The point of the dialog and listening to the teacher is so you do the poses correctly and don’t hurt yourself. I don’t blame the teacher one bit for tossing you out. Next time, try to let go of your massive ego and just listen to the dialog and do the class. Maybe you’ll learn something.

  14. ashley says:

    I have to agree with Fran. If you’ve been practicing Bikram for over ten years you would know that the number one rule is to lay down in savasana if you’re feeling dizzy or faint, you don’t start doing your own thing – it is very distracting to the other students.

  15. Thy says:

    bikram is for people who have poles stuck up their a$$es like Fran and Ashley. if child’s pose is so distracting, why isn’t it distracting in a vinyasa class? that’s because you’re too effing anal and wound too tightly. let it go and let loose.

  16. Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this write-up and
    the rest of the site is also really good.

  17. Kiki says:

    I love Bikram Ridgefield and the main reason is the teacher/owner. I’m not the only one. I hear people go back there because of her. I think she was concerned about your severe dizziness since she is such a nice caring person.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: