“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself,” asserts a subtle painting mounted on the wall of Bikram Yoga Downtown LA. Shuffled amidst preconceptions of yoga and its soul-searching aura, Bikram Yoga steps to the top of the mat and to the challenge of transforming yoga into a practice for the masses.
Laden with healing, restorative qualities, Bikram Yoga offers the star quarterback relief from his high school injuries, the corporate secretary a remedy for her carpal tunnel syndrome or the dancer a cure for his chronic lower-back pain. These students arrive at Bikram Yoga Downtown Los Angeles seeking a cure for their injuries, but find complete healing of mind, body and soul. Stepping west from New York on an actor’s path, studio owner Stephanie Raye realized life kept getting in the way of yoga. A vision of a world where even your neighbor can practice yoga propelled Stephanie to open her own Bikram studio in the heart of downtown LA.
This is no variation of yoga you might have experienced before; Bikram is its own yoga. You might be familiar with the elemental difference of Bikram, and yes, the room is heated to a temperature between 105 and 112 degrees. In the comfort of this warmth, as muscles begin to unravel, students soar through exactly 26 of the 87 yogic postures. Don’t be mistaken, this isn’t a practice harmonized to the latest Krishna Das CD. Instead, the curt, repetitive voice of the instructor hammers out each exhale as the asanas are held for five breaths, pushed to their maximum, then repeated. With a clap, the class progresses to the next series.
This is the Chuck Barry of yoga. Where other yogas may resemble Sarah McLachlan or maybe even Coldplay, Bikram yoga plucks exactly the 26 chords that make a hit. Every time. The instructors at the studio will tell you there is little to no variance between classes. You will not be asked to do a handstand one day and a new inversion the next. Each class is identical, and each workout equally rewarding. In this way, students are allowed to turn their attention inward, away from the novelties between instructors and toward their inner teacher.
Please note, in Bikram your inner teacher might not be as shy as you thought, and as you sweat through the heat you might hear your instructor say, “If you haven’t cried in yoga, you haven’t done enough yoga. After all, yoga is like peeling an onion, the closer you get to the core the more tears you shed. Then you make soup”. And after the practice, after your instructor mutters “Namasté” on their way out the door, after you are given the choice of taking a savasana or not, if you accept, you will melt into one like never before as the smell of onion soup subsides and the clouds in your head part.
Every gland, organ and joint is restored in this process, releasing toxins stored ages before—toxins that are both chemical and emotional. A dedicated devotee of Bikram’s yoga, Raye attests you’ll burn 750 calories per class, more than any limited, repetitive treadmill workout could burn; but she will also mention that through Bikram she silently hopes to “deliver healing and spirituality through the back door.”
Although this spirituality doesn’t adorn her studio and isn’t uttered during classes, Bikram can serve as a gateway. Most cross the threshold in search of a workout, yearning to physically recover from their daily obstacles; and if in the power and encouragement they find at Bikram Yoga Downtown LA they later become curious about other forms of yoga, they now have a sustained practice to fine tune. Regardless, yoga will transform their lives, because despite the mantras, besides the culture and in spite of the “fad,” Raye fundamentally believes that “yoga is putting yourself in different environments and different situations while having peace in your heart, no matter what.”
With this newfound ability to focus between the sweat drops and the teardrops, everyone can create a hit, every time.
Check out a photo gallery of Bikram Yoga Downtown LA.