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how bikram yoga nearly broke us up
Photography by kyoko tabuchi

how bikram yoga nearly broke us up

by samantha humphrey
Practice Yoga | Types | | What is Yoga? | | New Style | | Bikram yoga |

bubba bikram
This is the story of a man, his woman and how Bikram Yoga nearly broke us up. I shall refer to the man by his nickname, Bubba, in order to protect the innocent party.

My most memorable date with Bubba was an afternoon of sprinting around Lake Hollywood. He showed up wearing one of those black plastic thermal sweat suits. (You know, the kind that boxers wear in order to sweat a few more lbs. for the weigh-in before the big fight). “Burns the extra fat, works up a good sweat,” he explained. After our run, Bubba took me to Big 5. Sitting on a bench between the sport socks and tennis rackets, I decided to invite him to a Hatha Yoga class. Bubba kneeled down, chuckled and said, “Yoga really isn’t my thing.” Then he handed me a brand new pair of New Balance 451’s and said he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me.

For the next seven years, I tried to get Bubba to go to a yoga class. I even tried to encourage him to practice with me in our home. I thought it would help his back and shoulder problems from the years of weight-lifting and football. Bubba refused. His reason? “There’s no P.O.E.” (P.O.E. is Bubba-speak for Point Of Exhaustion). “Only when you’ve reached the P.O.E. do you know you’ve really worked out.” I tried to explain that yoga was about the connection between breath and body but Bubba wouldn’t budge. He needed to push, to compete, to exert. Yoga wasn’t for him.

Then I started attending Bikram Yoga classes. My dripping wet clothes hanging over the shower door, weight loss and extraterrestrial glow did not go unnoticed. Bubba was curious… and… went to a class with me. 

But while I began missing the inversions, hip stretches, and longer holds inherent in the Hatha classes I was used to, Bubba became hooked. Bikram was perfect for him. It was regimented, there was a sense of competition (this is the school of yoga that came up with the Yoga Championships). He loved the 100 + degree heat and likened it to Boot Camp.

After two months, Bubba could touch his toes for the first time in his life. He could clasp his hands behind his back. He was drinking gallons of water and eating soy. By all accounts he was healthier and happier then he’d ever been.

And I was miserable.

Bubba had to get his fix everyday and he was doing so much Bikram that I never saw him. The “60 Day Challenge” only made it worse. (Bikram Yoga everyday for 60 days and if you skip a day, you had to do two classes on the same day in order to stay in the “competition.”) Bubba would wake up at 5am, go to class, go to work, then go to another class at night. He was obsessed with his main “competitor”... a 78-yr-old man named Fernando. A local Bikram studio put up a picture of Bubba in a collage on their wall. He stopped going to Big 5 and started ordering from the Gaiam catalog.

I told Bubba I couldn’t take it anymore. It was either Bikram or me. One of us had to go. I lashed out saying he was obsessed, that Bikram wasn’t even true yoga, that it was a cult and that if he really loved me, he’d quit. He didn’t understand. Didn’t I want him to be healthy? Happy? Flexible? “No!” I said, “Not if it meant becoming a #@&*%! Bikram widow.” And with that, Bubba grabbed his Ugboots, his yoga bag and left.

That evening, I was doing my own practice at home and feeling horrible for the things I had said that morning. Bikram Yoga works for Bubba and it works for thousands of people around the world. From Johannesburg, South Africa to Truckee, California, Bikram devotees rave about the detoxification, increased flexibility and healing benefits they experience. Who am I to judge?

I felt horrible for the way I acted. Then, while holding a fairly stiff downward dog, I heard a noise. It was Bubba, wearing his black plastic thermal sweat suit and holding his washable yoga mat. I blurted out an “I’m sorry.” “Me too,” he said, propping himself up into downward dog. “Aren’t you supposed to be at class?” I asked. He peered under his arm, smiled and said, “Welcome to Bubba Bikram.”