Today was so much better than yesterday. Yesterday I was starving when I got home from work, so I devoured a tuna, sweet corn and cottage cheese sandwich and then realised I had to go to Bikram. Worst. Food choice. Ever. I spent the first hour of the class feeling like I was about to throw up, getting dizzy, kneeling on the floor, and then eventually — I broke the rule! — I left the room. The instructor was one of my favourites, Josh, and he had already noticed how weak my practice was last Wednesday night too, so he came out to check up on me. I mumbled my excuses, but after class he caught me on my way out and advised me to make sure I had plenty of snacks as well as drinks during the day at work, so that I could go to class without eating in the evening.
This is easier said than done, and most of today I was so caught up in work that I forgot to even drink properly, but I resisted the slight after-work hunger and went to class — where I had one of my best Bikram sessions ever. As fate would have it, Josh was teaching that class too, which was nice because I knew he would be able to see the difference with yesterday. Bikram teachers aren’t big on praise, at least not at our studio, but I was so radiant when I was leaving that he gave me a big grin and told me “Good job Rosie!”. We agreed that the bad days are important because they make the good days even better.
I do love Bikram, because (and this is a suitable topic for a Valentine’s Day post), it really helps me love myself. I’ve always had crappy body image, and you wouldn’t expect to feel great about yourself when standing in front of a mirror for 90 minutes in a bra and shorts, sweating and flushed and undignified. In the past, I’ve exercised in gyms where the mirrors reflected back to me this puce-faced, sweaty, frowning face, and as the minutes dragged by I would loathe my reflection more and more. In Bikram, it’s the opposite. From the very first breathing exercise, as I cram more oxygen into my lungs with every breath, watching my ribcage expanding and my stomach contracting, the harsh filter with which I normally view my body melts away. I can admire it and be proud of it, I can even be critical of it, because of how it strives to perform its Bikram tasks. I’m still miles away from the contortionist Bikram champions, or even from the front rows, but every session I’m stronger and more flexible and more importantly, kinder to myself.
In a rare blog insight into my private life, and to answer the questions of some of my friends: I started Bikram the day after breaking up with James. One week into Bikram, I found myself in a different head space, and I couldn’t make any sense of my decision to end our relationship after all we have shared, and we decided to give it another try, even though we both knew he was leaving at the end of January to go to Afghanistan for a long, long time. Even though we both knew that after Afghanistan he will be going to other faraway places. Even though we knew it made no sense, for once, the rational decision was not the decision either of us wanted to take. And I haven’t regretted it; if anything, I would say we are closer and stronger than ever.
I fully feel that Bikram has grounded me and given me the of peace of mind that I used to lack. I don’t know what will happen to us, and I’m content to just take each day as it comes, because I have stopped doubting us and worrying about the future. I think about the coming months, about the winter, about how little contact we will have, about school and work… and knowing that there will be a constant — my Bikram practice — keeps me calm and confident. Long may it last.