My sweaty love affair with Mr. B

Published on July 20, 2011 by      Print
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By Rachel Meyer

I spent six years entwined in a sweaty love affair with Mr. B.

B was challenging; he was athletic; he was intense and confident, a wildly charismatic jackass, and he cracked me open.  He was addictive the way the most toxic affairs are: I’d drag myself out of bed at 5 a.m. just to be with him; I’d save my nights for us, rushing out early from happy hour, tequila-buzzed and ready for action.  B was a drug, a fix. He stretched me and shot me down, and yet every day, I came crawling back to him for more, because the high was so good, the rush so great, the shattering so profound.

But eventually — hello, dysfunction! — things soured.  B was all flash, all flair. I wanted ratty sweatpants and chill mornings drinking coffee together listening to NPR; he wanted money and fame, dreamt of hobnobbing with the rich and Botoxed in SoCal.  Ever the salesman, his heart was in industry, while mine was one big Marxist power-to-the-donation-based-pipe-dream.  Wasn’t gonna last. So in spite of our daily trysts, my eyes began to wander.

That’s when I met V.  And, Jesus, V.  He was scruffy authenticity where B was flimsy artificiality. He was salt-of-the-earth where B was oblivious and money-hungry. And he sang. And he sweated. And he could ramble on for hours about philosophy and books and history.  And he had a bangin’ sense of rhythm.

And I was hooked. Big-time. Gone.

But you know how sometimes the ones who really hit your core — those few-and-far-between types who meet you where you’ve never been met before — well, they tend to stick around?  Yeah. We’re talking six years, folks.  So now and then when V wasn’t looking, I’d sneak in a quickie with Mr. B, for old times’ sake, because, honestly, I hadn’t forgotten him.  Craved him.  Like a drug.

……………………………………………

That great sage Blanche Devereaux of Golden Girls fame said it best:

ROSE: Is it possible to love two men at one time?
BLANCHE: Set the scene. Have we been drinking?

……………………………………………

We’ve all been there, right, lusting after two people at once?

“Mr. B,” of course, is Bikram yoga, and “V” is his more freewheeling compadre Vinyasa.  And I’ve danced the tango with these two dudes over the last few years, trying to keep one foot in each camp, stashing a toothbrush in each’s bathroom cabinet just in case I happen to spend the night.

“Real yogis” — the kind who read shiny yoga magazines and wear $85 yoga pants and have Om tattooed on their lower backs and speak of “manifesting” — looooove to talk shit about the Bikram practice, about how it’s soulless and philosophically empty and commodified and robotic and full of ego and blah blah blah.  And yes, I’ll concur: much of the talk about Bikram’s massive ego and his problematic dialogue and his visions of McYoga studios taking over the world is very accurate.  The dude will leave any yogi with half an interest in yoga philosophy shaking her head in disbelief and in serious need of a cocktail.

But this theology-nerd-turned-yoga-teacher is coming out of the closet.

Because lately I’ve been rethinking all the trash talk and realizing how much can actually be salvaged from the series, how Bikram doesn’t in fact need to be entirely relegated to the garbage bin of mindless gym yoga.  Maybe all that 105-degree heat has finally gone to my head.  Maybe I’ve chugged one too many coconut waters.  Or maybe it’s just because I miss the sweat-like-no-other that you get in a Bikram class.  But I figure, as long as B now-and-then guest stars in my long-term liaison with V, ours just might be a perfect open marriage.

And ironically, in practicing with some of those famous “master teachers” whose faces are splashed on magazine spreads and DVDs and yoga festival posters, I’ve discovered that as much as we give Bikram Choudhury a hard time for having the kind of ego that feeds on schmoozing and wearing expensive watches and driving Rolls Royces, that same kind of ego is often evident in the rest of the more “spiritually correct” yoga world — just much more carefully shrouded.

My Marxist heart sinks with the commodification I see coming out of every corner of the ever-expanding yoga “industry”: talent searches for magazine cover models, famous yogis pitching their own t-shirts during classes, social media edging out the veteran teachers who don’t have time for (or interest in) selling themselves online.  Amidst all that, there’s been a strange grace in returning to Bikram, an ironic lack of ego in the fact that the script is always the same, regardless of who’s teaching.  You could have a damn robot up there barking out the sequence, and it wouldn’t matter; the series isn’t about who’s got the most creative sequencing or the sexiest pants or the cleverest jokes. It’s about the practice, the dialogue, plain and simple, an escape from ego and performance into anonymity and repetition.  Who’d have thunk, right?

So on that note, here are a few more reasons NOT to throw the Bikram baby out with the sweaty bathwater:

  1. Bikram yoga gives you a detox like no other. Seriously. If you’re a sucker for the sweat, if you crave that big intense cleanse, if you drank too much last night, if you’re just wanting a symbolic letting-go of all the heavy mental or emotional shit you’re carrying around like a yoke, well, it’s the best way to get that, in 90 minutes or less.
  2. It’s reliable. You know you’re going to get a certain set of postures in a certain amount of time in a certain amount of effort. And when you’ve only got 90 minutes and really want to get a thorough spine-strengthening along with some hamstring action and a few backbends, it can’t be beat.
  3. Bikram’s an excellent antidote for overworked wrists. Sometimes a girl needs a rest after too many Parsva Bakasanas, and the Bikram standing series offers intense balancing work (ok, really only standing work) that won’t put any additional pressure on your wrists.  You might even find a few counter-stretches in there to help heal wrists shot from too many Downward Dogs.
  4. Deep, long holds.  60 second holds.  In the heat.  That’s heaven for hamstrings, folks.  Mine always sigh in relief.  And as I grit my teeth and try not to cry, I’m always reminded how much of yoga is really just learning to breathe through heat and struggle and pain.

There’s no one right way.  So engage your brain.  It’s just as foolish to fall mindlessly into Anusara’s or Iyengar’s or, gulp, even Vinyasa’s proselytizing as it is to lose yourself to Bikram’s. The script barks to Lock your knee! and we all cringe, yes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take something away from the series to apply to your own practice.

That’s the whole point. Pay attention, let your body be your teacher, glean from it what you may, and chuck the rest.  And maybe, somewhere along the line, the restlessness becomes something we can kind of actually love.

And who the hell doesn’t want a little piece of that?

About Rachel Meyer

Rachel Meyer is a San Francisco-based yoga teacher and writer with roots in musical theater, theology and the arts. When she’s not jumping around in leggings and chanting in Sanskrit, she loves a good foggy wander up and over Nob Hill in search of cocktails or used books. You can find her bio and teaching schedule at facebook.com/RachelMeyerYoga , and further ramblings on meditation, yoga, the arts and more at her literary practice mat: rawrach.blogspot.com .

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12 Comments !

  1. kat says:


    love this! i started yoga 7 years ago with the bikram practice. after about 3 years of solid bikram only practice i also ‘strayed’ into vinyasa, and im now a yoga teacher.

    i guess i started to become one of those “real yogis” you speak about, thinking the practice was souless, and ‘really? lock the knee?! to the point of hyperextenstion? these people have not idea what they are talking about’.

    but my body actually started to crave the practice again….and now i regularly practice bikram again, 2-4 times a month.

    sometimes, we all just need a break from “open the heart”, five billion surya namaskars in a one hour vinyasa class, or loopy yoga teachers with their self indulgent musings about life and the universe.

    sometimes you just need to sweat it out and get your ass kicked by the 26 poses (and even after practicing the same 26 poses for 7 years now, yeah it still feels like a major workout–how awesome is that?) and honestly, what a compliment the bikram practice is to my vinyasa practice. i tried, but dont think ill ever break the bikram habit! :)

  2. Rachel says:


    Preach, Kat. I hear ya. So glad to know I’m not the only one.

    Especially after teaching vinyasa and really getting to know the philosophy behind it, I couldn’t figure out why my body still craved the Bikram so much. But as you wrote — eight years later, after a daily (sometimes twice daily — yep, I was that crazy chick) Bikram practice, it still kicks my ass every time. And, man, do I dig that shattering.

    Thanks for reading! Now, go back, drop back, all the way back……ughhhhh.

  3. Ang says:


    From one japanese ham sandwich to another – thank you. This was just what I needed to read. A few years into my yoga/Bikram practice (to me they were synonymous) I found myself apologizing to both sectors: Sorry I need more than he is willing to offer/bark/command – Sorry I am going to throw your coconut water out the window if you don’t stop talking about your chakras….
    I’ve come to accept and appreciate my love triangle with Mr. B and Mr. V though. Mr. B is the one I call at 2 am when I just want a sweaty, steamy encounter that will leave me satisfied and exhausted and won’t require a discussion about our feelings afterward. Mr. V is the one I take home to dinner and fills my heart with love when I see him helping grandma with the dishes. I’ve always been a “cook in the kitchen, whore in the bedroom” kind of chick though, so I’m starting to think I’ve finally found my Mr. Rights!

    • Rachel says:


      Amen, sister. I spent so long apologizing, too, which is why it feels bizarrely radical (and kind of fabulous) just say, awwww, what the hell: here’s the truth. Thanks for putting a grin on my face — from the Japanese ham sandwich (all these years later, I still have no idea what the hell that is) to the “Mr. Rights” (plural). Love.

  4. kc says:


    Wait, forget about the V and the B. Lets talk about the W on your tee shirt! Yay!

  5. Jenifer says:


    I tell people, a lot, that each style of yoga has it’s benefits. Sometimes it’s well taught, sometimes it isn’t well taught, but each way/method tends to have benefits.

    I have my apprentices (also called “teachers in training”) study many sequences — bikram, astanga primary, the free flow vinyasa series from some or other yoga video or class that they like, and a few sequences from iyengar and so on. It’s a great way to learn sequencing theory — to understand what the goals of a sequence are and how they work on a body.

    Because, well, bikram series does a LOT for a body. Case in point. One of my clients had MS and also had endometriosis. Now, MS meant that she couldn’t be in heated yoga — it could cause serious health problems. Doesn’t matter what anyone says — this is Doctor’s Orders, and she was following that. But, I knew that Bikram and endometriosis go really well together. For some reason — and honestly, i don’t know the science — the sequence just seems to help.

    So, my student does vinyasa classes with me 2-4 times a week, and then at home, does the bikram sequence with a book the other 2 or more times a week that she wants to do yoga. And you know what? it still works, even without the heat.

    End of the day, you gotta give props to what works. I am not dragging myself into hot studios anymore (did my 3 yr stint); i’m happy at “room temp” — but I do love many of the sequences in the hot-yoga world. They work (in different ways) and they are *great* and *worth doing*.

    So, you know, do what you love. :D

    • Rachel says:


      Absolutely, Jenifer. Dig your story about the woman with MS/endometriosis. What a great example of the ways in which the practice can be adapted to suit our (very different) bodies. And another reason that anyone who says there’s just “one right way” is full of it.

      It’s funny how many of us seem to come and go from Bikram. It’s like it serves our bodies decently in a certain moment in time, or phase, and then we move on…or come back. But as you wrote — if it works, props. If not, blow it off. And in the meantime, damn, does it feel good to actually engage your brain AND your hamstrings. Critical thinking, baby. That’s where it’s at.

  6. ac says:


    I am in love with the sweating and the heat, but have come to loathe the Bikram method. Mainly the way the teachers teach. They teach like a-holes. Too much ‘don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t leave the room…’ They never stop talking. The whole ‘go beyond the point of your own flexibility’ is stupid and dangerous too.

    Luckily there are places like Corepower Yoga that offer a heated studio, but a more Vinyasa-ish power yoga.

    • Rachel says:


      Heard. The obligatory dialogue really gets militaristic, doesn’t it? Weirdly, over the years I’ve discovered that part of the inadvertent meditation practice of a Bikram class is learning to tune the negative barking out, and just focus on the breath.

      And yes, heated vinyasa = the best. Thank god we found it. I’ve got mad love for the badass sweats that come out of my home studio here in SF (www.urbanflowyoga.com), which often trump those of a smelly Bikram studio any day….

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