While Claire W. trudged up the hill, past the "stupid people," in Prospect Park, I soaked myself in my own sweat. Face flushed, heart beating, and sweat beading down my back I slowly and methodically made my way through the 26 poses that make up Bikram yoga.
Now, I am not a particularly profuse sweater, but Bikram promises to leave you slick and somewhat light-headed depending on your level of experience. I've taken about 5 classes now, and I'm hooked--I often find myself wandering over to the 105 F studio at 27th and 6th after work.
I've tried Vinyasa yoga before (not heated) and was somewhat ambivalent. I took a few classes, but didn't get the same amount of satisfaction. I've tried to pin down what it is about Bikram that makes me come back for more.
Perhaps it is the physical manifestation of my efforts--a large amount of sweat--that I can wring out of my towel and clothes.
It might be because it is so much more regimented than Vinyasa. All teachers (as far as I have experienced) are created equal, simply because there is no time for personality. All 26 poses are done twice, for a given amount of time, that amounts to 90 minutes. Bikram does not deviate from that regimen.
It could also be the rhythm. I respond well to rhythm. Many of the instructors I've had count during the breathing exercises, or during the poses, so that you know exactly how long you need to be where you are. Or how slowly to exhale, so that you don't spend precious seconds without air in your lungs.
Also, unlike Claire W.'s running exercises, there are no pedestrians or strollers to deal with (that would make for something completely different, I imagine).
Regardless of the reasons, I feel fantastic. Everyday. I might hate the practice while I'm in the middle of it--a big, hot, sweaty mess--but I'm always glad to have put myself through it.