Should I go there?

by Yule Heibel on April 23, 2003

I haven’t written often about my personal world, but today’s experience was so surreal that I’m going to go in character by being, blogwise, out of character. I live in Victoria — it’s on Vancouver Island. An island, that’s a determining fact. It’s difficult to find doctors here. Canada has a nationalized health plan, which is really great, but GPs typically don’t make that much money, and Victoria is experiencing a shortage of doctors, with older GPs retiring and not enough new young MDs coming down the pike to replace them. But I finally did get an appointment with one of the few doctors in the city who’s taking new patients: she works in a team praxis, and there’s a lot of emphasis on acupuncture, physiotherapy, chiropraxis, and wellness. Goodness, I thought, sounds good, although she did warn us right away that she only works 20 hours per week because she has some other passions in her life. Rewind: about 6 weeks ago I decided that I needed to get my midlife life under control. It was in Victoria that I had started, about a million years ago at the age of 14, to practice yoga, and wouldn’t you know that I can still put my foot in my mouth almost as well today as I could back then when I was a carefree teenager with a mission to stimulate the chakras — mine or somebody else’s. I am still incredibly flexible. But since having had children, the time to focus on that ocean-breath and “yoke” myself to the practice has been about as attainable as …well, as a career in academia that requires nun-like devotion (and a wife at home). However, my return to these shores inspired in me a desire to get fit again. Dammit, I thought, all these pencils out there jogging (they run past my house every single day of every single month, in packs), these vegans, these fitness buffs, let’s just see if I, wine-drinking, beef-eating, ex-car-bound ex-New Englander can’t compete in the sublime, transcendental health department. Never mind that I’m a nightowl who likes to stay up till all hours, gets killed when she has to get up before 8 am, and needs 5 cups of coffee to get going in the mornings. No, never mind, for I had sighted the holy grail: Within a 2-minute walk from my house, a new yoga center had opened up, and when they added an early morning class (6:30 a.m.), I decided to try them. I had this insane idea that I would suddenly become capable of springing out of bed at 6, toss on my duds and truck my yoga mat to Bikram’s HOT YOGA. I alighted on the 6:30 class because I thought that I could be done with yoga & personal grooming by 8:30 and still start my workaday routine at 9, thereby not losing any time while still benefitting from this enlightening change in my life. Ooh, I was going to be so goo–ood! Now, one of the reasons I wanted to get out of Massachusetts — away from the East Coast — was the weather. I can’t take the extremes: the winters were awful, and the summers with their heat & humidity were worse. So why did I think “HOT YOGA” was going to be my salvation? Bikram Yoga is done in rooms heated to 110 degrees Fahrenheit — no kidding. You have to bring two towels to class to sop up the mess. Men wear shorts only, women wear shorts & bra-style tops. By the time you get out of there, you’re cooked, and all the toxins (from the beef, coffee, and wine) are whooping up a storm, trying to kill you for trying to sweat them out. You’re lobster-coloured (post-cuisine intervention) and sweating like hell. And you have a load of laundry to do (which is the sort of thing a mom would notice). I began by going on a Sunday — a morning class, but a weekend, so I could ease into it, I thought. And then I went again the next day, to the dreaded 6:30 class. By Tuesday I couldn’t walk: it was the awkward pose — sitting in an invisible chair while balancing on your tippy-toes, for about 10 minutes — that killed me. It took me until Thursday before I could go down any stairs or any kind of incline without wincing. But worst of all, this extreme physical activity somehow dammed up my metabolism instead of freeing it, and I gained 2 kilos (that’s about 5 pounds). I couldn’t believe it! I suppose if I had continued to go on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, I would have, by the next weekend, achieved some of that goddess-like status I so coveted (the Pentel or Bic Goddess: like a little stick). But I couldn’t bring myself to continue. First, the pain was intense. Second, the laundry was no small problem; I couldn’t believe how blithe these yogi instructors were about the costs to the environment of creating a pile of stuff (2 towels, underwear, bra & shorts) that needs washing daily, plus the costs of heating the two studios to these Amazonian temperatures. And finally: the standing postures involve a lot of standing on your hands (which I can do since I’m so charmingly flexible), but I actually bruised the flesh under my thumbnails because we were putting our hands palmside down under our feet from behind, not from in front or the side; and the ocean breathing in that heated room BURNED the skin on the inside of my nose!! The burn developed a scab and I picked at it, and now the inside of my nose is cratered. I think I might have exposed a nerve in my upper canine. Ouch. And what, you ask breathlessly, does all this have to do with family doctors? After I told our new doctor about my attempt to develop an exercise regime, she revealed that she is one of the two owners of Victoria’s Bikram Yoga…. Suddenly, an image flashed across my mind: an ad in the local Lifestyles Organic Market flyer showing Divi and Steve, my new doctor and her Bikram partner, in an alarmingly dramatic partner-yoga pose. I just hope my new doctor can’t look up all my chakras when I’m having my next gynecological exam. And while I don’t like a cold speculum, I do hope it’s not HOT, either.

{ 1 comment }

Anonymous July 30, 2003 at 12:17 pm

That was soooo funny. I loved your article. Too bad the studio owners weren’t keen to adding a humidifier with a little euclyptus oil. Sorry to hear about your nose…I’m a Bikram teacher/studio owner (and an RN)in Phoenix. I add the humidity-it makes for an easier sweat and is definitely easy on the nose and throat. Maybe pass that on to the Doc-and thanks for the laugh! I love the stories that people have of their first class experience with Bikram’s Yoga.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: