Bikram Yoga, Paris, Grands Boulevards

In April, I checked out Bikram Yoga in Tokyo while I was on vacation. Exercise doesn’t have to take a break while we are on holiday, as I have realised, is not just my personal mindset because one of my two friends whom I travelled with was also hitting the gym almost on a daily basis! I suppose besides that we try to incorporate exercise into my daily lives, much like how we need to eat and sleep each day, it also helps us to burn off excess calories from all that good food that we enjoy when we are on holiday.

Maybe the fact that I am trying to maintain a regular exercise regime also affected how I think about what my job requires. Last year, I had crazy travelling schedules, by my measure; it wasn’t entirely hectic, but having to be out of the country each month, for either a week or two each time, could seriously disrupt this routine, besides screwing up my body clock and causing some health problems. Jetting across timezones can take its toll on my physical as well as mental health and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It might also be due to age, where somehow the body is not reacting well to the physical stresses of travelling, coupled with other forms of stress that this endeavour creates. Finally, I have probably also felt the desire to spend more time with my family now. Although I am still not what some would describe as being very close-knitted with my family, time does change people to a certain extent.

Anyway, on this last business trip to France, I decided to find out before I went if they had a Bikram studio too. Well, most big cities have some form of Bikram yoga, and I found two studios located in Paris, which I thought to check out during the weekend. I couldn’t go on weekdays because the office, as well as the hotel where I was putting up at, isn’t located within the city, and it easily takes about an hour to get to the heart of the city. On the first day that I arrived that was Sunday, I made a trip downtown but was too tired physically to want to drag myself to the class. From the website, I saw that they conducted lessons in English, once a day, at each of the two studios. As I could only make it for the 4pm class, I wasn’t able to last that long outside and still pull through, so I left Bikram for the coming weekend.

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On Saturday, I was out shopping on my own downtown, and after not having much success there, I found my way to the studio at Grands Boulevards. It is about 10 minutes’ stroll from Galeries Lafayette (on Boulevard Hausmann), and very near to the Grands Boulevards metro station. I spent a lot of time walking that day, and since the weather was rather good, I just walked around the city the entire time. The studio is pretty small, and it only opens its doors 30 minutes before class starts, so I was standing outside this door for quite some time since I reached way before 4pm.20130627-092623.jpg

They have a small changing room with lockers that you can operate with a one-euro coin, refundable when you open it, and 4 shower cubicles. It isn’t a large place, smaller than Bikram Shinjuku in Tokyo but it wasn’t crowded. The first time I went, the studio was only about half-full, which numbers probably about 10-12 practitioners, I couldn’t remember. The studio could supposedly accommodate up to 25 persons but perhaps being a fine Saturday afternoon, most people are out enjoying the weather in town. It was much warmer on Sunday, and so the studio was also more unbearably hot and humid, especially when the fans were not switched on at all. Sunday was also a day when most shops are not open, so that probably explained the higher turnout for the same 4pm class.

Perhaps the studio being small, the instructors could really focus on the students, and they even knew them by name. Also since I was a guest (of sorts), and obviously being very different in how I look as compared to the others, they would also call me out on the postures if I wasn’t doing something correctly. It was rather stressful at some point, but it’s a great way to improve! I had fun during the two days of practice at Bikram Yoga Paris, and I’m not sure if I will ever return because France is just too far away (and expensive to travel to too), but the instructors were great and I think the price is pretty ok, cheaper than Tokyo! I got myself a promotional offer, which was a 10-day pass at 35 euros. Considering that even though I only went for 2 classes in 2 days, it was already worth it cos a single class is priced at 25 euros (without adding on the costs of towels and mat).     20130627-092632.jpg

I wonder where will be the next city where I will get to practice Bikram Yoga at. It helps heaps that they had English classes in Paris, because although the 26 poses are always the same and the routine is the same, Bikram Yoga is still a dialogue-based class where we try to follow the instructions when to go into the pose and so on. When I was in Tokyo, the classes I went for were in Japanese (they also had limited English classes too) and I just went through the routine without knowing if the instructor would have been trying to correct me.

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lure of the hot studio

Since I was first introduced to yoga more than six or seven years ago (I think I first stepped into a yoga studio in the end of 2005), I have gradually fallen in love with it. I won’t say that it’s a sport or an activity, it is supposed to be a way of life although I can’t really say that yoga is my lifestyle. I am still too far off from making such a lofty declaration, it takes much more to be a true yogi (or yogini, whichever), to be one who lives and breathe yoga. I would like to aspire towards such a lifestyle but right now it is still just a thought, an ambition, a dream if I would call it, for me.

The very first time I attended a hot yoga class, I vaguely remember feeling immense discomfort. Even though the class was a 60-minute class, I felt constricted in my breathing from the heat and perhaps humidity, which coupled with the breathing in and out of everyone else in the room, it seemed like I could not breathe properly and with all the perspiration dripping off my forehead, I escaped into the cool comfort of air-conditioning perhaps with the class having another 20 minutes left. Dehydration in hot yoga classes is common, for first-timers, and even for seasoned practitioners who are properly rested or hydrated. At least that was what I experienced. After that first encounter, I had slowly conditioned my body to the heat and as time went by, I could easily go through a 60-minute class without feeling uncomfortable. The vast amounts of sweat that I had in that hour was liberating and it made me feel like my body was flushing out all toxins I had inside. It got to the point where I attended hot yoga everyday, and after which I will have a second class at normal temperatures to either cool my body down or to further stretch my already-warmed-up muscles and ligaments.

I don’t know what happened thereafter. Somewhere along the way, work got in the way because I had to travel for an extended period of time, and with that the time I had in Singapore was greatly reduced, and as well time for yoga and hot yoga in particular, dropped drastically. When I finally had time to go back to the studio, I returned to hot yoga and my body seemed to have become more resistant to the heat than when I first started. Halfway through the class, I felt faint and nauseous, and I laid down and forced myself to rest and breathe hard. When I thought I felt better, I continued, but the feelings returned, and after 60 minutes as I walked out of the heated room, I blacked out, just as I collapsed my body onto the bench outside.

That was quite a harrowing experience for me because I had been through black outs when I was younger and I hated that. I was also worried about the dehydration part so the fear deterred me from going back to hot yoga.

I don’t know how long I stayed away. It was only until late last year that I finally mustered up the courage to put myself in the heated room again. I tried to prepare myself well, to try to have enough sleep and rest the night before, keep myself adequately hydrated throughout the day, and most importantly, turn up early for class to choose for myself an optimal spot in the room where I know will not be too hot. The first class went well, and I welcomed that familiar sensation of detoxification. It had been so long, and it felt so amazing. This, in preparation for my maiden Bikram yoga class.

Bikram yoga is another form of hot yoga; in fact, it is supposed to be THE original form of hot yoga, a series of 26 yoga asanas performed twice, in a room heated to about 41 degrees celsius or more, that takes 90 minutes to complete. It is different from the other hot classes I have attended so far, which were 60 minutes in duration, in a room with temperatures that ranged between 35-40 degrees, and where we practise hatha yoga with various asanas, depending on what the instructor prefers. Bikram yoga is structured, because regardless of where it is practised and with whom as the instructor, the practice is always the same. Maybe that is why some people liked it so much that they can practice it twice a day, or even two back-to-back classes. For me, it is a chance to build my endurance and tolerance, and to use it as an opportunity to improve on the 26 asanas, as another step towards deepening my yoga practice.

I can’t just practise Bikram because it is not all inclusive, there are some parts of yoga that are not touched on by the Bikram discipline, so I always need to augment the various practices of yoga in order to have a more holistic yoga practice. Sounds like Greek? Maybe. But it has made me a little lazy where other exercises are concerned. Just last year, I was rather motivated in hitting the gym to run on the treadmill, but I hated running due to my poor stamina and because treadmills are boring. I don’t like running outside even if that offers better scenery and running is just not my thing. As an excuse, I tell myself that running counters my yoga practice, because it makes my hip joints and flexes stiffer than they already are, which is what I have been trying to work on in yoga, to open up these joints and flexes more. It isn’t like I can’t run totally, I will just need to stretch for an even longer period of time if I were to want to continue running, but I am that lazy. So maybe that is something else I need to work on, and spend time on.

For now, let me just acclimatise myself further with the Bikram studio, and work on those asanas. Perfection is still too far off for me.

trying to improve

I was trying to look for a picture but I realised most of these images below to people’s blogs and I don’t really want to reproduce them here. Anyway, this is a short post because this evening, I am feeling so tired. Maybe my body is trying to tell me to take a break but I just want to push myself more.

After a one-day break on Friday, I have been attending daily classes at the yoga studio. Hatha and Therapy on Saturday, Hot on Sunday and Monday, Hatha and PT on Tuesday, Pilates on Wednesday, Power on Thursday and Hot again today. With the daily practice, I do feel that I am improving a little, but perhaps with each further push that I give myself, I am putting myself nearer to the edge of sustaining injuries if I am not careful. My lower left back is experiencing some pain when I go into deeper back bends, or even when I attempt any semblance of back bends. I kept hoping it will go away but it seems to be quite persistent.

PT on Tuesday was fantastic, even if it wasn’t intense in a sweat-dripping way, I did really intense stretching for my shoulders and hips because my problem is that the muscles are too tight and they cause my alignment to be totally off sometimes. My shoulders actually ached for a couple of days after that session.

Tried doing the standing bow in Hot just now and I started wondering when I will ever achieve the perfect standing bow. Of course as it is now, I can’t even do a side split, so needless to say, a standing bow, which is actually a standing side split, is technically impossible, especially with my current back condition that makes it even harder.

reflecting on 2012

Have I already done that? Somewhere at the back of my mind, I seem to recall that I have done it, but while scrolling through the past few entries that are mainly food and more food, I don’t think I have dedicated a whole entry to reflecting on 2012. Actually, I don’t think there is that much to reflect on, considering that I update this space rather often and am reflecting frequently while I write about other things.

Anyway, let me use this post to give thanks for 2012.

I can’t exactly say that 2012 has been a blast, but still some good things have come to pass and I am thankful for some events that have occurred, for some people that I have met, places that I have been…

This year, I finally got to see South Korean boy band, Big Bang, in concert, and not just once, twice but thrice! When I was in Tokyo this January for the CNY break, as well as to attend a one-week ‘exchange’ programme in Japanese at Aoyama School of Japanese, I had the good fortune of meeting a really nice Japanese girl through Twitter who helped me buy a pair of tickets to the YG Family Concert at the Saitama Arena, at no additional cost! Then, in September when Big Bang came to Singapore as part of the Alive World Tour, I managed to get a pair of standing tickets at the Singapore Indoor Stadium and had one of the best concert experiences in my life! Finally, through my friends in Japan, I had the opportunity to catch Big Bang again for their special Alive concert at the Tokyo Dome in early December. Even if it is the same group three times within a year, I really enjoyed each of the experiences and would do it again if I had to choose again.

In 2012, I think I did good with my continued pursuit of languages and hung on to my weekly Japanese and Korean classes. Despite that I am still lacking in confidence where use of the languages is concerned, I believe I will improve my proficiency in 2013! Maybe I could even sit for the JLPT N3 exam this year, finally after a couple years of procrastination.

Made some new friends this year through various avenues that I found amazing, such as getting to know some of my Japanese classmates better, getting to know some fellow Big Bang fans from Japan, and meeting up with friends I haven’t met in a while when I went on business trips abroad.

Some of you may know that I became a Christian last year, but due to work commitments and perhaps just a bout of laziness, I had not been very regular in attending service on Sundays. Sometime towards the last quarter of the year, I started going back to church and am so glad that I make it now a regular Sunday activity because of all the grace that I have received. Although December had somehow been a rather trying month, we are already into the last day of it and 2013 is fast approaching, which can only be a better year for me!

Of course, 2012 has really been the bumper year where travelling is concerned. Looking back on my life, this is the year where I had travelled far and wide. In the span of 12 months, I have made 15 trips abroad that have taken me to 15 different cities that covered North America, Europe and Asia! I missed out South America because Sao Paolo was a little too far for me as deemed by my boss for which I was openly grateful because I didn’t think I could have survived the 30-odd hours of travel time if I had to go there. We don’t really do business in Africa and Australia isn’t somewhere we need to travel to, so these two continents were left out as well. It has been tiring to travel for work, as I have found out after 1.5 years in this job but these are still experiences with some fond memories that I will look back on in future and not regret taking up such a job at least for a while.

Finally, yoga. I have been making it a bigger part of my life and returning to the hot studio, and I am happy about it. Besides travelling, learning languages and writing, this is something else which I really enjoy, and in 2013 I hope I can further deepen my practice, not to take it to any professional level but at least on a personal level I hope to better myself in this aspect.

one more month to Christmas!

This was the first picture I took when I arrived in Moscow 2 Sundays ago. It has been a week since I have been back, and time is just zipping by so crazily fast, but somehow it feels like a long time has passed. I touched down on early Saturday morning while most of our tropical sunny isle was still snoozing in their dreams, but what a long day that was.

Anyway, the part about travelling that I really enjoy is seeing the nice scenery there, and of course experiencing the good part of the cities. I can certainly do without the nasty experiences, but sometimes these are also part and parcel of travelling. Great scenery is definitely not exclusive to foreign lands but we just take for granted what we have in Singapore most of the times, or often times, we are just too caught up with our lives and rushing along with everyone else in the city that we lose sight of what we could have taken a short time to appreciate.

The last few weeks, apart from the one week that I was freezing in Moscow, forgoing exercise of any kind because I felt so lethargic that I only wanted to eat and sleep all the time, I had been putting in many hours of yoga practice. I think it helps that now I have found another yoga enthusiast friend. Years ago when I was just introduced to yoga, I got really into the practice because I had a friend whom I would attend classes with all the time, so much so that many called us fanatics because we could go for yoga everyday. It isn’t so much as being a fanatic, because actually doctors would recommend that daily exercise is good for us, but perhaps when we started prioritising yoga over other social activities, people around us started to give us such tags, in a derogatory manner. I don’t get why people tend to always get ultra defensive and negative when they realise that someone else is deciding to embark on a healthy lifestyle; it is like they feel obligated to feel guilty, for whatsoever reasons, and they retaliate by turning nasty with snide remarks. Ok, not everyone behaves this way but I have heard my fair share of bad comments, and sometimes even I am guilty of such acts.

Back to my yoga practice. My friend and I don’t attend the same classes because we have different preferences, but we talk about it, along with other stuff of course, and maybe in way, she motivates me to be more regular in practice. It really feels great, and she encouraged me to get reacquainted with hot yoga too, which I was really grateful for. Some years ago, I could attend hot yoga classes on a daily basis, but after stopping for a while due to work, I couldn’t really get back into the hot studio without getting over-dehydrated, causing me to black out and suffer from waves of nausea. That was enough to put me off the hot studio and since then I have never stepped back into it. Until last week when I plucked up the courage again to enter the studio, and boy was it awesome. I had almost forgotten how good it feels after a session of hot yoga, despite that after an hour of sweating I stink like anything and my entire being is so ready to collapse.

My friend has amazing ability when it comes to exercising because she is so motivated that probably it rubbed off on me slightly. These are probably the angels that I meet in my life, to help me along the way when I stumble, although for this particular friend, she also has an uncanny ability to antagonise me immensely on some occasions. We aren’t really close friends and I have little expectations of her so maybe that is what makes things work. Maybe that is what makes friendships work for me, because the moment I start to develop expectations of people, the whole deal just seems to go awry. Things should just stay simple and we won’t have so many problems, or I won’t have all those unhappy moments because of what my supposed close friends did or did not.

It is exactly a month to Christmas, and I already have this dread in me, that I do not want the year to end so soon. I love year-ends, and I really don’t want it to be over so quickly. It has been a long way from January through to October, 10 long months, to reach November, why has this month passed so quickly? As it goes, December will also be gone rather quickly because of things that will take place in this month. Sigh.

Thought of planning a trip to celebrate 2013, excuse, to just have a getaway to somewhere with weather that would remind me more of Christmas, and initially we settled on Hong Kong, amongst the other choices of Taipei and Seoul. But it is just too mad expensive to fly somewhere for a few days, pay exorbitant airfares and hotel room rates, so I think the plan is off. Maybe Hong Kong will still happen, but slightly later, because someone offered to put me up! Or so I think, maybe it was misinterpreted by me, but anyhow I would look forward to visiting Hong Kong again because another friend volunteered to show me some cool places when I visit!