Monthly Archives: December 2010

On why I picked up Bikram yoga

I had once been asked to contribute to this site about how Real Men Do Yoga but had somehow lost the link to this site. Got a reminder recently, and had gladly done so.

Hope you enjoy this bit of a rant. It is to do with my well-being, especially in the context of having (enough?) energy as a father chasing around demanding 6- and 3-year olds :)

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I’m into social media and twitter, and I was whining about my bad knee, and how I was putting on the pounds with the lack of (conventional) exercise. This is my left knee, which I damaged years ago when I went back to the gym after some time off and went straight for the same weight I used before, for squatting. Dumbass. I should have, and do know better. That’s how I had stayed injury free, till then.

Either that or it was the time when I curled my leg to pull myself closer to the office desk on the wheeled-chair, and my knee popped.

Either way, it hurts like hell now at the point of the common angle of climbing up a stair- 45 degrees from straight; which means I can’t play tennis anymore (since one has to be bent-kneed to be ready to pounce towards where the ball is going).

So, a mutual friend on twitter read the whine. She happens to be a qualified trainer, just returning from Vegas then. “Why not come give Bikram yoga a try?”

My mum used to teach yoga to her friends at home, in the early 80′s. She had started practising at home in the late 70′s when my older brother bought her a book titled “Yoga for health”. Me being the youngest and already starting high school, she had more time and thought to teach it. I think she was proud of how many had commented how young she looks for her age; she’s always attributed it to yoga. Whenever she was teaching upstairs I’d be downstairs watching either The A-team, Airwolf or MacGyver, to give you an idea when this was.

Whenever she was practising, I’d use to join her. Not for all the poses, only what I thought was challenging for someone my age then. The Bat was one I would always try- where one sits on the floor with legs straight and wide open, and chin to the floor, finger grabbing the toes. If I recall, the advanced version would involve proceeding to a complete side-split, stomach on the floor and roll forward and end up on the stomach with legs behind and flat on the floor.

Years after that whilst growing up, I’d still do that for fun- on the floor while watching TV, or reading the newspapers. I always felt better after a stretch. It also helped with the karate and kung-fu classes I would take short years after that. Boarding school bullies who try to challenge me would think twice when I “show off” warming up for the “duel”. Okay- news about giving the karate instructor a bloody nose during sparring also helped.

Since those years ago, I took up the usual sports like tennis and gym, etc. Never at all giving “real” complete yoga classes any thought. I was in all ways, a typical bloke.

So I accepted this invitation to give Bikram class a try this past April. I was not happy with my weight and, truthfully, my image, my puffy face. I could only wear my 2 largest pants in my wardrobe. I had also just done a medical and my cholesterol levels were frightening.

At the first class, I could do most of the stretch-related poses, but no way till today could I keep my endurance up for all the pose-holding. In May there was a 3 week work-related travel away from home. Being the first time in the US I tried mostly all of the foods presented to the delegation and also US-sized fast food. Upon returning I was even more motivated.

I have been trying to go 3 times a week since then. Most times when I couldn’t was due to my daughter’s whining- due to my fulltime job I could only go after work, which means no time for her/them and our trips to the playground, dinners together, or simply just hanging out. During periods of lull in the office, I have gone for the early morning classes to improvise. I have been lucky with this arrangement this year.

Around July or August during a family dinner my older sister, whom I don’t see regularly, commented that I have lost weight “and look better this way”. Her teenage daughters and other nieces, being something of activity-junkies themselves, were asking which studio I attend. I had even brought one of them along once for her to try. And as expected, it is too slow for her. Though she could do everything and had enjoyed it, she is back to her usual bouldering and cheer-leading activities; “for now”, this late-teenager added.

So, I’m still attending as regularly as I can. I do feel more energetic, noticeably able to keep up with the kids. I am getting back some definition, an image which I wasn’t so conscious anymore at our recent family trip to a water park. I am sure the wife has also had some secret thoughts though she hasn’t shared much (!) but I do know she is happy for me too.

These days I can chomp down the nieces-made cheesecakes and rebut the wife when she warns that I would put on weight. “Don’t worry, I now know the formula!”

Thanks to Bikram instructor Mei Ng, http://twitter.com/MeiNg, for the invitation :)