Not to mention the 50% humidity, thoughtfully provided through the addition of a couple of humidifiers.
The idea is to sweat rivers while your malleable joints and tendons s-t-r-e-t-c-h under the influence of an equatorial heatwave thats straight out of the climate of southern India.
Thats because proprietors Brandon Kietzman and Jenna Doherty follow the teachings of Bikram Choudhury, a yoga master from Beverly Hills by way of Calcutta whos considered one of the foremost teachers in the West. And Bikram likes it hot -- way hot to stimulate maximum flexibility.
Its not much different than going to a steamroom or a sauna and getting really relaxed, Brandon says. Or like a blacksmith who can heat a rigid sword and then bend it into a new shape.
Indeed, the 900 or so clients whove sampled Bikram Yoga since it opened at its Garfield Road location in Traverse City last March are likely to agree that relaxation is an understatement. One satisfied customer comes home from her 6 a.m. session as limp as a dishrag and glowing like a roasted chestnut, her hair teased into sweaty trashcan curls. The overall feeling is one of Ahhh...
Jenna and Brandon are relative newcomers to Northern Michigan. They moved here in October, 2004 from Ann Arbor where they were both yoga instructors. They opened their studio last March and word-of-mouth quickly made Bikram Yoga a hit with locals, especially members of the yoga cognoscenti looking for something new.
Kietzman began studying yoga in 1998 after being influenced by reading Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda. The book led him to abandon a hard-partying lifestyle and adopt healthful tenets of the culture of India. That dedication extends to speaking of himself in the third tense as this body rather than using the word I.
Its hard to say how it all started, he says of his transformation. Something inside was always stirring and yearning for something more than the destructive side of living. After reading Autobiography of a Yogi, that book blasted this body with a yearning to know more. This body learned to meditate along with hatha yoga.
He went on to study with Bikram Choudbury in 2000 and soon met Doherty, who was a kindred spirit. She had studied Chinese and holistic medicine for years and had used yoga to heal a back problem which was resistant to other forms of therapy, including chiropractic. She began studying Bikram yoga in 2002, and like her partner, is deeply moved by Indian culture.
Were immersed in Indian culture and the teachings of the yogis, Doherty says. One day well probably move there. But its not just India -- were globally influenced and see a lot of unity between cultures.
Bikram Choudbury, whose teachings guide the studio in Traverse City, is a superstar in the world of yoga. His biography notes that he began learning hatha yoga poses at the age of three in his native India. By age five, he began an intensive study with a noted yogi, quickly becoming a yoga champion. At age 11 he was the youngest contestant ever to win the National India Yoga Competition. He became a virtual king of yogis by the age of 14.
Unfortunately, a weightlifting accident crippled Bikram at the age of 20. In response, he and his guru created a series of 26 yoga postures which restored him to health. In his photo, Bikram looks to be what a weightlifter would call ripped, his muscles tightly defined and flexible; its obvious that his program is working.
Hes also tapped a deep vein of yoga gold in the form of countless converts. In 1973 Bikram came to the United States at the urging of President Richard Nixon and movie star Shirley Maclaine. He set up shop in Beverly Hills, catering to rich celebrities. Since then, thousands of devotees have passed through his nine-week course in Los Angeles.
Its those 26 specific postures done in a proscribed order which form the basis of the Bikram yoga method. All are taken from the 84 classic postures (asanas) of hatha yoga, but Bikram found that these particular 26 poses repeated in a specific sequence provide the maximum benefits in health and flexibility.
And speaking of ripped, Kietzman and Doherty exhibit the flexible grace of ballet dancers when they demonstrate a series of poses such as Standing Bow Pulling for our camera. Its obvious theyre in superb health, owing to the several hour-long classes they conduct each day at their studio.
Then theres the heat.
In India its hot -- often over 100 degrees -- and even if youre in the shade youre going to sweat bullets, Kietzman says. Heat has all kinds of benefits, including helping with flexibility, so we keep our room very warm.
Their insulated studio is warmed to a toasty 105 degrees, similar to Bikrams hometown of Calcutta, and humidifiers up the ante to get students literally drenched in sweat. Kietzman says its possible to burn off 2,000 calories in a single session; at the very least youre likely to lose weight by simply sweating buckets.
Its a tough workout -- one first-timer reportedly strolled outside to heave in response to the intensity.
And thats the way Brandon and Jenna like it.
Each pose has specific benefits, but you cant do just one pose, Kietzman notes. You have to do the whole set -- its one big pill and it never becomes easy. Youll adapt, but it never becomes easy.
In that respect, Bikram Yoga offers an honest approach to fitness -- you get back out what you put in.
If people want health, they have to work hard and suffer for it, Kietzman says, a belief many endurance athletes, dancers and weight-trainers also subscribe to.
Its like life maintenance, Doherty adds. You dont brush your teeth for six months and then stop; you keep on doing it.
Its very much like a magnifying glass, she says. Because youre practicing something thats very intense, every little part of you is brought into balance.
Bikram Yoga is located at 845 S. Garfield Ave., TC. ph. 231-392-4798.