Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bikram Brain


Feet together.  Side by Side. 

I am standing in a stinking hot room wearing my South Sydney Rabbitoh  boxer shorts and a  black sports bra.  I'm at least twenty years older than the rest of the class and standing  just close enough to the mirror to bring on a mid life crisis.  

Living in the moment is great at twenty five but the older you get the more discipline it takes. 
 All I can see in the moment are the bags and the sags and a neck that appears to be ringbarked. Life's relentless and cruel to the very last breath.  But at least I have a spine. 

Lock your knees. Lock your knees. 

I had no spine left to speak of when I started Bikram Yoga. Psychopaths melt the spine first before they short wire the fuse box and start pulling apart your brain. I came into this class as a gelatinous glob of post traumatic stress disorder. I had just escaped from my Manhattan Psycho and flown home to seek the comforting bosom of my mother. (well Kerouac did it! Why can’t I ?) But my Mama took one look at me and Hollered 'DON'T YOU DIE BEFORE ME!' before booting me back into the world to stand on my own two…

Lock your knee. Lock your knee. 

Six years later and my spine is as fluid as  the snake that I have slowly become.  Since my return to Australia I've survived a cavalcade of rejections, a bunch of thwarted business ideas, a road journey, Queensland,  Centrelink, Adelaide,  Depression, Anxiety, an alcoholic Disaster Chef who offered me a vat of Kool-aide and a very long stretch of vagabond style homelessness.  I even survived Perth and an suicidal miner.  I mean how many people can say they survived that outpost of xenophbobia!   But I have fortitude and resilience. Six years of Bikram yoga have re-built me cell by cell from the bone to the skin. Although my nervous system still needs a little fusing and my mind sometimes betrays me...

Imagine you're holding a platinum credit card between your thighs.

Did the teacher actually say that? 
 At the mere mention of a credit card  anxiety coils around my organs and squeezes like a red belly black in a bad mood.  She takes me forward, takes me back, takes me anywhere but this hideous middle aged moment where the tables have turned and I'm counting the cards that are left...  

Put out your hand. 

 I paid thirty five dollars in cash and fifty dollars on my card. I promised to pay the rest tomorrow but I don't have the rest tomorrow? Why did I promise that? I’d already paid this month. I know I did ? Am I going mad ?

Put out your left hand.  Say (all together) Mama Give me your money'.

I bite my tongue and roll my eyes. Oh brother!

The class repeats his mantra like the pack of Ken and Barbies that they are.


 Talk about rubbing salt in the wound! They just took all my money! They took my money twice this month and when I told him the computer was wrong he didn't believe me.  In his eyes I was already guilty.

Raise the left arm up by the left ear and keep the left leg absolutely straight with the thigh muscle tight. The standing leg must stay engaged throughout the entire pose.

I'd committed the capitalist sin of taking the $99. 00 special twice. Nobody can take the $99.00 per month special twice. It's a once in a life time offer and there's no re-incarnation at Bikram yoga. You only get one life. You don't get three.

‘You also took the $99.00 special in 2008’

'Oh dear! Did I ? But that was five years ago ?  ‘L
ong memory these yogis. Just not for your face…

‘Yes You Did !  Look. It's all here on the screen.’

I didn't think it would help to ask him to think of me as a cat on her 9th life. The dates on the screen swam like gold fish before my eyes.  I couldn't make head nor tail of them. All I knew was that I had a receipt of payment on the 19th December 2012. And I had forwarded that receipt in a letter to them the day before.

Start to kick the right leg back and up whilst keeping a firm grip of the foot with the right hand. keep leveling the hips forward and keep the right knee pointing down to the floor.

Lock the Leg. Lock the Leg. 

‘Read the letter.  Read the letter. The receipt is in the letter!’

But he didn't have time to read the letter. It was twenty minutes before class but it might as well have been closing time on Wall Street. He wanted to punish me for my greedy grab at the Once in a Life Time Special and I suspected someone told him about the mats.

I didn't have my own mat when I was homeless. I had enough to carry door to door and I didn't need a yoga mat to add to it. So I'd re-use mats that are hanging off the back window instead of paying two bucks for a fresh one.   But I figured if I was willing to lay on a mat with old sweat then good luck to me. I was probably the only person in the room who was not afraid of germs. And forking out for Bikram was already a loaves and fishes act.  It's $120 per month on concession.  That's a whole heap of chump change if you add it up over the years.  I could have given that money to an honest pot dealer or a bar! but nooooo I gave my money to Bikram studios all over Australia! To keep me off Anti depressants and focus my inner masochist. To maintain my spine in the land with no brain and no heart!   The world was immune to my charms and my pockets were empty but long as I could stand on one leg with sweat pouring down my body and some yoga nazi in my ear yelling ONE PIECE LAMP POST ONE PIECE LAMP POST I knew I would make it.

And I did.

But it's moments like these that I realise the parts of me that are still broken. The part that closes down when I'm being bullied. The part called my BRAIN.

'Don't waste my time!' the Manager warns me. 'Are you going to make this easy for me?'

'Oh yes!' I cry as I empty out my pockets and hand over my card yet again.'

Four legs good and two legs bad! Just let me in that sauna…

Keep kicking, and start to pivot the upper body forward, aiming to get the abdomen parallel to the floor

In class my mind mulled it over and over. I was sure I had paid. Did I imagine that?  Had I finally cracked? If you trigger my PTSD then it's not so difficult to convince me that black is white and night is day. It's part of my schism.  And unfortunately this practice is not designed to make you think.  The teachers pay ten thousand dollars to learn a script written by a Yogi who wears a Rolex and who tried to copy write the sequence so he could knock out the competition.  You make a bomb if you own the joint but I don't think the teachers make much. So why do it ?  It's a great gig for narcissists with no creativity and a sadistic streak.  And if the torture chamber of the room isn't enough they'll happily humiliate you at the front counter for an added cost.

Lock your leg. Lock your leg.

 Bikram was my medicine, my discipline, my legal high.  But never mistake your dealer for your friend! Because that Dealer knows you are an addict and that you're never going to leave them. They know you think you need them. They know you think without them you will die. And I did.

So I handed over every last cent I had on me and the last fifty dollars on my credit card.  And then I spent the entire class thinking maybe I'd gone nuts? After class I asked the owner if he’d check the the email for my letter but he said his wife would do it later. Now he had my money the bulls rush was over.

So I went home and I found the letter and the receipt that vindicated me.  And I checked the statement on my bank account just to be sure.  And there it was in black and white. December 19th. $99.00. . And all the gold fish disappeared. Funny about that.

When I went back to pick up the money that they now owed me I was told that it would be credited forward to the next month. But there won’t be a next month of Bikram yoga. I'll finish off my final classes and that will be that.  Because it’s not enough to have a spine. You also need a brain and a heart and you can’t nurture those with a platinum credit card jammed between your thighs while you are meditating. So after six long years of locking legs and standing up straight this cat has finally got enlightened. Mama aint giving you all of her money. And she aint gunna take lying down either. This is your epitaph.  Thanks for the fish.


  1. Why must health, happiness and enlightenment be so tied up in the profit and loss statements?

  2. Ha ha fucking fantastic! Bikram has a saying "coins in the bank" meaning it's never like the first class, it get easier because your building. Best wishes and hope you have enough "coins" to keep your tower strong ! I hear ya ! I struggle mentally and also financially. I now do cleaning at the studio in exchange for free yoga and takes money out of the equation, perhaps your could propose this in future negotiations, it also keeps me from making excuses not to go so its win win situation. Best of luck!

  3. I left Bikram a while back. I got tired of being bullied by the staff. They all have too much attitude. Don't feed the monster.

    1. The false prophets/profits charge money I was told recently!:]

  4. Time to find a new studio. I'm left with a sick heaviness in my pith from reading this. You have to keep doing yoga, darling. You must. I wish I were close by, I'd march into that studio and snap my dirty, wet towel right in his face. Enlightenment? How do you like me now?!!!

  5. yeah bikram has a lot of saying about money. he has turned the human body into his piggy bank.