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I went to my first Bikram Yoga class about a week after I finished the California bar exam last spring. After I graduated from law school, we moved to California for Velvet Husband’s job, I got us settled in our new city, worked at a law school, and took the bar exam in February 2010. Between the cross-country move, getting us settled in San Francisco, taking the bar exam, and waiting for the bar results to come out in May (I passed!), yoga seemed like a bright idea. But what kind of yoga? After catching up on reality television and facials, I decided to give Bikram a shot. Here’s what I wrote on my previous blog a little over a year ago after ninety minutes in a very hot room:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

“Should you desire tranquility, prepare to sweat white beads.”

Hakuin

I’ve been meaning to try Bikram for awhile, but I’ve stood by my garden variety excuses: too expensive, too busy. No time for excuses now, because I got a pass to a cute little studio called Fluid Yoga located in the Inner Sunset–30 consecutive days for $30. And “too busy” left the building when I walked out of the Oakland Convention center on the last day of the bar exam. So with no viable excuses and a fab 30 for 30 deal, how could I resist?

Just like Houston seems to have a Starbucks on every corner, San Francisco has a yoga studio to suit every personality and preference. After researching yoga studios, I woke up this morning from a blissfully dreamless sleep craving a new, more enjoyable challenge. Thankfully, the bar exam dreams nightmares that have plagued me lately complete with failure, missed test days, and broken alarm clocks have subsided. For now. Water bottle, towel, and mat in tow, I hopped on the 43 bus to the studio.

The Fluid Yoga studio is small, bright, clean, and spa-like. Perfect for a novice like me, especially given my preference for clean lines and light airy spaces as opposed to stuffy and overdecorated spaces. Large windows usher in just enough sunlight to make me feel connected to the world around me, but I never felt distracted by any noise outside either. It’s especially clean and fresh for a place where people are dripping with sweat — unexpected and much appreciated! {Note: I currently attend Bikram at a different studio because of its proximity to our flat. I still heart Fluid Yoga!}

The class was intense, sweaty, spandex-filled, and quiet except for the encouraging female instructor who calmly led the class and made gentle posture corrections. By the end of class my face was beet red, I was sweating from head to toe, and I wished I was scantily clad and spandexed like everyone else.

I’ve only attended one class, but I already feel rejuvenated. And as much as it helped me relax, it also required focus, athleticism, and balance. There was no time to worry about the bar exam while I struggled through triangle pose. I loved the entire experience. I gazed into my eyes in the mirror and believed in my myself. I believed that I could hold new poses, remain focused, and achieve a sense of harmony and balance in the yoga studio and in my life.

Did I feel relaxed? Sure, in an intense sort of athletic way, which is exactly what I was looking for. In a way, it reminds me of how I felt during the first part of a 6000 meter regatta. The beginning stretch of a 6k race and the bikram yoga class both demand your attention and focus in a steady and measured way.

Today I sweat out my worries about the bar exam and my career. I let my worries melt away and drip onto my yoga mat. That’s what yoga was for me today: an intense sloughing away of worries. I left the studio feeling joyful and centered.

Let’s just say the bus ride back home was more enjoyable and calm than the ride there. On the way to class I was worried about being on time. On the bus ride home I didn’t think twice about my appearance. I’ll do it again.

Over the past year, I’ve found that practicing Bikram Yoga 1-3 times per week has improved my strength, flexibility, skin, and mood. I don’t think that these benefits are exclusive to Bikram’s style of yoga, but since I enjoy the heat and predictability of Bikram, I’ve been able to stick with it and reap the rewards of a regular yoga practice. Now I go to the hot room for a workout, a moving meditation, a quiet place to pray, and some much-needed perspective. With the comforting heat and calm atmosphere in the hot room, sometimes I feel like I’m back on our anniversary trip in Riviera Maya…

Doesn’t it look like a little slice of Heaven? And lest you think I’ve neglected my oat and smoothie cravings, here were yesterday’s decadent breakfast and lunchtime creations. YUM!

Dinner hasn’t been photo-worthy lately. This needs to change!

If you have tried Bikram yoga, what motivates you to keep going back?

Do you practice yoga?

What benefits do you notice from a regular yoga practice?

Do you have any dinner recipes I should try? 🙂

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