Day 94: Bikram vs. Hatha

I feel like I'm in a yoga death match these days. 

Bikram vs. Hatha.

The hardcore, boot-camp-nazi-cult vs. the self-empowered, customized, self-aware, kinder, gentler practice.

So who's right? Or more importantly, which discipline is right for me?  I frankly don't know--yet.

Before my personal yoga challenge (PYC) began on New Year's Day 2010, I was a Bikram and Hot Yoga devotee.  Back in the day (meaning before I had kids), I used to do Bikram twice a week, when I wasn't doing 15 mile long marathon training runs--and I loved it.  Loved the heat.  Loved the mentality (regimented, structured).  And I loved the outcome:  it made me feel energized and strong. 

But on January 2nd, I went back to Hatha.  I wanted to relearn some yoga basics.  I wanted to do downward dog once in a while (a pose that is not included in Bikram's standard 26).

At first, I had a pretty visceral reaction to it.  "Hatha is bullshit," I said to my husband Chris when I got back from that first class.  "It's for old ladies."  It just felt so soft and not demanding after endless 90-minute classes of listening to "Go back. Fall back.  Keep going back. Try harder.  Look at your neighbor. Go for it. Get out of your own way. Pull up. Push down. Don't stop.  Do it my way, not yours..."   All of a sudden I found myself listening to directions like "Wherever you are today is perfect" and "Feel free to personalize and modify every pose we're doing."   The two styles of guidance--and the goals they lead one to--are so antithetical, how can they both be yoga?

But I've come around. I actually like Hatha now.  Sometimes I enjoy going at my own pace and feeling that the studio is a safe space to hang out in a pose that I feel like my body might really need, instead of being yelled at to move on.  And I definitely believe that in doing Hatha, I've become aware of and used muscles that I never noticed in Bikram--even though Bikram teachers love to say in Bikram-speak  that their classes work out "100% of your whole body."

That being said, no yoga discipline (I'm coming to realize) has it all.  So I'm actually going to Bikram this afternoon (after two days of Hatha.)  And I just downloaded this the schedule from the neat-looking Iyengar studio.....