Earlier this year while in Manchester, I was introduced to Bikram Yoga. This is pretty much yoga done in a sauna - you burn a shed-load of calories, sweat drips off every limb, and by the time you get to the floor postures you feel pretty much like how I’d imagine a hot exhausted slug would feel on being asked to do sit ups. But the strange thing is I like it.
I’m not a natural exercise person, I’ve decided. I’m more a natural chocolate sort of person, more a let’s sit down and read a nice book rather than throw frantic shapes person. Yet sporadically over the years I have, like most people, tried out an exercise or two.
Gymnastics was my first and true love in the exercise world. I went to a weekly class after school for eight years; I was a whiz at the asymmetric bars, not so bad on the floor, and looked like ‘a dying duck in a thunderstorm’ on the beam, according to the sadistic gym teacher. Several migraines later, I sadly said goodbye.
After gymnastics came swimming – via lessons at school. Once a week we would eagerly be herded into a coach and taken to the local swimming baths. We used to navigate around the suspiciously warm splash pool for our feet, and then plunge into the water, yelling. Not quite sure why it was customary to yell but the rest of the lesson would be spent splashing first one way, and then the other, around and around the pool. They’d also be the intolerable wait shivering at the side of the pool while the teacher demonstrated something like the correct use of a float (held with arms out straight, not as a shield/weapon against another pupil). Woe betides your mother dressing you in tights when you had to wriggle out of your wet costume back into your school clothes. We had all perfected the art of getting showered and changed in one minute flat – needless to say the coach trip back to school was full of soggy small people.
I first joined a gym when I was 15 – mainly because you could smoke in the tiny café area and drink milkshakes – both perfect things to do pre-work out. Needless to say I wasn’t quite into the ‘gym’ thing, although I liked the posters from Athena covering the walls.
At University I tried to take up jogging but swiftly decided it wasn’t for me. I liked the idea of it, but barely travelled the length between lampposts before I had to stop, wheezing. I’ve never lived anywhere nice enough to warrant a jog anyway – around the block usually involves a motorway. Also people running around here tend to look like they have just been involved in something dodgy. And so it was back to very sporadic gym visits – where you’d pay by the month, listen to bad techno over the intercom, and wish you were somewhere else.
And then I discovered yoga (cue some sort of harp music).
My first yoga lessons were in a tiny church hall in Tottenham. The teacher used to come in with her cassette recorder, fuss with it for ten minutes and then fill the room with tinny whale song. It wasn’t the most auspicious of starts, but surprisingly I stuck with it.
I think it appealed as it takes the flexibility of gymnastics, mixes in a bit of meditation and has an instant ‘feel good’ factor when you leave a class. So from then on I left the gym behind and began sporadically attending yoga lessons instead. Over the years I found nicer classes – usually tucked into community halls, where you’d do postures under a framed picture of the Queen. I liked it, but wanted more…
And then a friend introduced me to Bikram. Now this is extreme yoga – and one of hardest work outs I have ever done. But it is amazing! Even if I feel like a hot slug most of the time. I have now signed up until October, and as it is not cheap, I have to go twice a week to make it worth my while. That is a huge commitment for me, but I think it makes me feel more positive; I sleep better, and therefore feel better (as too knackered for pontificating). This is all good! And it means I can stir Cadbury’s chocolate buttons into my morning porridge with no remorse at all.