photo(1)My very first Bikram Yoga class took place in Salt Lake City in July of 2001. I was there taking a weeklong course (if you must know: it was in Advanced Hypnosis, from the Anchor Institute).

Over 20 of us had flown in from all over the world for this course. During the day, we went through intensive training, and by the time evening came, we were looking to do something very different with our time at night. The teacher’s assistant, Ruby, asked whether anyone would like to join her that evening and go to a Bikram Yoga class. Ruby was suggesting we practice yoga in a room heated up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.

“I’ve tried other styles of yoga,” said Ruby. “But this is unlike any other kind of yoga that’s out there.”

Having come from Ottawa, I had already read in the local newspapers about Bikram Yoga at the Rama Lotus Yoga Centre, and it was on my list of things to do. I had always enjoyed being in the heat, like in a sauna, and after spending many hours swimming at Carleton University and at the University of Ottawa, I thought I might also have the stamina.

So I told Ruby I wanted to go. The problem was that another fellow student, Thedo also wanted to do the class as well, and Ruby only had a two-seater car. What to do? And something in the back of my head said that I had to do this class.

So I volunteered to put all six feet of me into the trunk of her two-seater car!

(click here to view a 2013 recreation of Ed’s trunk experience!)

Ruby drove her car, Thedo was in the front seat, and I could see a little bit of their heads from the trunk. I don’t recall it being too uncomfortable rolled up in a fetal position in the back of the car. And I don’t remember there being too many hills in Salt Lake City. What I do remember is that we showed up late for class; that I kept a polo T-shirt on for at least the first part of the class; and that I was in my sock feet.

I had already heard that Bikram Yoga teachers could be very strict and bark out instructions like drill sergeants. And while the young woman teaching the class was firm in her demeanor, she was also crystal clear in her instructions. She got us into the postures, and then she got us out.

Did I mention that Thedo was a world-class athlete? He was a world-class athlete who had competed in snowboarding for the Netherlands; he had now become a coach, and was getting his team ready for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Thedo was able to go into a full backward bend in the Fixed Firm Pose and get his head on the floor behind him, with his knees still on the floor ahead of him. Ruby, I could see, could also do this posture. Meanwhile, I was struggling to prop myself up on my elbows amazed that human bodies get actually move into that kind of pose.

“You have to be flexible when you are an athlete,” Thedo said. Apparently, it was part of his training as an Olympic athlete.

I later realized how with Bikram Yoga anybody could eventually, with patience, have that kind of ability and flexibility.

When the class ended, I picked up my discarded polo shirt, and was surprised that it was soaking wet. So much so that I could have wrung a bucket-full of sweat from it! I had also sweated so much that there was a puddle of sweat all around my rented mat on the floor. After the 90-minute class, I wanted to talk to anybody and everybody about what we had experienced. Unlike others, I did not experience fatigue or nausea in the class. Instead, I was aglow with deep appreciation. We talked to the owner again outside of class about this amazing yoga.

While the men’s change room was large, it was a big empty room and no showers. There was an adjoining door where we could enter into a shared men’s restroom where there were urinals, toilets and sinks. Thedo ended up hovering over the sink and rinsing as much of his head and upper torso as he could under the faucet.

Thedo and Ruby were not the only ones from our class who liked Bikram Yoga. Josee, a fellow Canadian from Cornwall, Ontario taking the Hypnosis training with us, had taken Bikram Yoga classes there in Salt Lake CIty during the week. When I told her how awesome my first class was, she surprised me by saying I should go back again for a second time.

Really? A second time? Wasn’t that kind of, ahem, extreme? To go back again for a second class in the same week? Little did I realize the huge investment I would be putting into my body by going again.

That was back in the summer of 2001. And the yoga, still at the Rama Lotus Yoga Centre, is still an enthralling experience today.

Ed Hum