Author: TaraMonster

I'm a writer and an editor and whole ball of liberal leftist ideas.

The Bikram Chronicles: Birthday, Booze, and Bikram

Last week I only did Bikram 3 times. What?! It was my birthday and people kept twisting my arm to celebrate! Let me let you in on a little not-secret about your late twenties: 2-3 beers = a hangover. A manageable one; the kind where you just need a shower and a coconut water, but you still won’t feel “right” the next day. So say, hypothetically, that it’s your 29th birthday and you have 5 beers and a shot of whiskey (ok, a sip of whiskey, you give most of it to your good friend Powell because even though it’s free, it seems like a bad idea, and he’s a dude so can drink more than you). Do you think you’ll want to go to Bikram the next day (or work? but you’ll go anyway)? Answer hint: you won’t. I also had a freelance nightmare project to wrap up, which was sucking up my soul time.

The celebrating, though, must be tempered, and so I made sure I got to the Bikram studio at least a few times. Only one of those times did I go with a hangover, and it was the best/worst decision of my week. My equilibrium was off, so I had a lot of difficulty getting into poses. I skipped Camel Pose altogether because it always makes me dizzy and I was hanging on by a thread at that point. Instead, I lay on my back and watched the thermometer near the window tick up to 109 degrees. I nearly kissed the instructor when he opened the door, except that would’ve involved getting off my mat. But afterwards I felt about 80% better, and proud of myself for not just watching Netflix all day.

This week is set to be even more hectic than last, though, so the only way I’m getting to Bikram is if I do that thing that I hate: wake up early. Shudder.

Today’s Bikram Tip:
Coconut water is your best friend if you’re feeling hungover dehydrated.

Proust! Slàinte! ¡Salud!

This isn’t a pose used in Bikram. It’s just hilarious.

The Bikram Chronicles: Santa in September

Two days ago I entered the Bikram studio just moments after witnessing one of the purest of pure New York moments it is possible to encounter: a man in a Santa costume expressing his road rage over a minor fender bender by beating a wooden baseball bat into the hood of another car. Only here can you pack that much crazy into a regular Wednesday evening in September, so I paused to join the little crowd of people who had gathered on the sidewalk. It just so happened that at that moment I was FaceTiming with my best friend who lives in Australia, and I flipped the screen around so she could check it out as well. You’re welcome, by the way, Sarah! Think of that as a gift from me to ease your homesickness! But the very best part was when the little boy next to me looked up at his dad and said, “Santa’s angry.” I actually had to bend over and catch my breath from laughing.

It turns out that when you stop to watch Santa lose his shit, you arrive at Bikram after all the good spots are taken, and so I put my mat down in the front of the crowded room and lay down in savasanah, trying really hard not to think, Why was he dressed like Santa? It’s September!

Being that I only arrived about a minute before class, I didn’t have a lot of time to clear my head before we were beginning the first asana of the session. But something funny happened when I stood on the mat and looked at myself in the mirror- my head cleared itself. It was the first time I was practicing right in front of the mirror; generally I avoid it and leave those spots for the advanced students who actually want them. But seeing myself doing the poses so clearly honed my focus. Not only was I able to do all the poses, but for the very first time I actually felt stronger. I was so focused, in fact, that I completely forgot about the Santa incident until the next night when a friend asked how the yoga was going. I decided to skip yesterday due to being pretty fried after work, so I had to think about the previous day’s session, and Santa’s road rage came flashing back to me.

It occurred to me that if I hadn’t been late, I wouldn’t have been so close to the mirror, and wouldn’t have had such clarity in my practice. If you think about it, Santa inadvertently gave me a gift of sorts; well, you come to this conclusion if you do some mental gymnastics around the facts that:
1. Santa isn’t real; he’s somebody’s embarrassing uncle in a costume
2. that particular Santa had probably just drank a bottle of Jäger when I encountered him
3. his road rage had nothing to do with my special snowflake Millennial existence
4.I actually hate the phrase “everything happens for a reason” because… no. Sometimes shit just happens.

Anyway if you ignore all that cynicism you get serendipity. So I’m going to go with the serendipitous view of the whole thing.

Namaste, Santa! I hope you get into AA and Anger Management and that everything works out for you!


The Bikram Chronicles: Fixed Firm Pose

“Don’t sit like that! You’ll hurt your knees.”

This was the refrain my brothers and I heard from my mother every Saturday after we had each grabbed a bowl of whatever off-brand cereal was in the house, wrapped ourselves in our comforters, and parked our little butts in front of the TV to watch cartoons. All three of us would sit with our knees splayed out, our feet pointing back as if we were drawing little M’s on the living room floor.

“But it’s comfortable,” we’d whine as she’d force us to sit in a different position. We’d wait until she was out of sight and resume sitting the way we were before.

In Bikram there is a posture called Fixed Firm Pose. You put your knees together, place your hips between your ankles, and stretch back to lie on the floor. If you can’t stretch back, you are advised to push your knees slightly apart. I cannot do this pose. Correction: I cannot do this pose yet. It KILLS my knees. They ache like crazy when I try to point them forward so I always end up pushing them out slightly to the side just as I did in front of Saturday cartoons. This always makes Bikram instructors frown at me since the rest of the class seems to have zero problem getting into the pose. If they do have an issue, it tends to be with the part where they lie on their backs.

Yesterday the class was smaller, and the instructor was able to show me the proper way to do the pose; it was still painful and difficult, but, amazingly, markedly less so. The entire time I could just see my mom shaking her head at me in a little thought bubble above my head. (I will not be telling her about this) Besides, my knees are kind of messed up from running and soccer too. Plus my hips are kind of big (and so is my butt for that matter). It must be the running and the big hips, right? RIGHT?

Moving on! I’ve begun compiling a list of Bikram tips for beginners that I will be doling out slowly.

Today’s Bikram tips:

1. Don’t wear a brand new hot pink sports bra. Your towel will also be hot pink by the end of class.

2. Listen to your mom.

The Bikram Chronicles: Seeing Stars

Bikram session number 3 completely kicked my ass. Like it picked my ass up, and booted it across the yoga studio while cackling maniacally. I was dizzy and nauseous and had to sit some of it out when I began seeing stars. This pissed me off. I am not a goddamn quitter! And then I remembered I was in a yoga studio and I was supposed to be zen and all that shit. So I returned to my breathing and resolved to be gentle with myself. Besides, when you start seeing stars in the middle of a pose, it’s better to take a break than to pass out on your mat, that is if you don’t pass out on the person next to you- and the person next to me didn’t look terribly friendly. If I’m going to faint, I’d rather it not be on someone who was scowling with her eyes closed during her pre-class savasana.

In the middle of this little psychological argument I was having with myself about mental and physical will power vs. the very real possibility that I could faint, the instructor gleefully regaled us with stories of how he’s a notoriously difficult teacher, and that people avoid his class because he pushes so hard. No shit, I was thinking. I was also thinking, I can’t wait until I’m better at this shit so I can take your class without feeling like a 300 lb sixth grader who just climbed a flight of stairs! 

But struggling yesterday was not necessarily a bad thing. As I was eating my dinner an hour or so later, all I could think about was getting back in there the next day. It was the first thing on my mind this morning too. Hopefully today’s session will be an improvement.

Let’s just say I totally get how some people become super obsessed with Bikram, though I’m still slightly unsure how to keep this going considering what a time commitment and a hassle it can be: from the round trip commute to the shower after class the whole thing takes about 3 hours. If this is going to be a regular thing for me I’m going to have to become that thing I hate: a morning person. Plus, I have to lug my mat back and forth since they don’t do storage. There’s also the laundry situation. Bikram clothes are completely soaked after class and need to be cared for properly or they will mildew. Most New Yorkers do not have a washer dryer. I am one of them. So this is a pain in the ass…

Bikram is just a pain in the ass. Literally and figuratively. But I’ve already drunk the Kool-aid (and paid for the Groupon), so forward march, or stretch, or whatever.

Bikram vs. Sleep: The Steel Cage Death Match

This morning something incredible happened: I woke up at 5:30am to go to Bikram yoga (you know, the kind where you’re in a room that’s 100+ degrees for 90 minutes).

Here is where it’s important to note that I am borderline homicidal in the mornings. If I do manage to stumble out of my bed prior to 8am, it is only because my cat is knocking things off my dresser and/or I have to pee. And if I have to pee, I will be making the journey to the bathroom pantsless. And just forget about engaging me in any type of conversation.

homicidal mornings

This kid knows what I’m talking about. And so do all my ex boyfriends. (Boyfriend: “Baby, do you want waffles?” Me: “DIE”) Luckily for the rest of humanity, I work in an industry where the start time is 10am.

The last time I got up early to go to yoga was… (scratches head)… over a year ago? And it was because my ex boyfriend bet me I would never get to 7am yoga (vinyasa). And if he lost this bet he would have to read fiction instead of medical textbooks and sports stats (specifically, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies). Needless to say, I don’t like losing bets so I got my ass out of bed and trooped it up Steinway towards Yoga Agora, and he wound up reading Lahiri (ahh I can still taste the sweet victory!).

This time, no one was betting me anything. So what could possibly have prompted me to get out of bed at such an ungodly, unnatural hour? An expiring Groupon. I had paid for 3 months of unlimited Bikram yoga in the middle of a NYC summer and if you’ve ever been to NYC in the summer, you know that walking to the subway is basically the same thing as going to Bikram.

So I waited until Fall and more moderate temperatures arrived, and ok, until the last day of the Groupon’s expiration date! Incentives, my friends, that’s what it takes to get me motivated it seems.

As for today’s Bikram, I have to say it was totally worth it. Bikram gives me a serious endorphin high, more than any other physical activity that I do, so if anything is going to conquer my murderous morning streak, it’s Bikram. The new studio in Astoria  is pretty great: the space is in an old warehouse so the ceilings are high, and thankfully the floors are rubber (maybe cork?) whereas the old one had carpeting in it. Do I need to elaborate on what carpeting smells like after thousands of people sweat on it all day long for years on end? I didn’t think so. As always, the staff is super friendly and attentive. This morning’s class was taught by Yuri, and I’d really love to keep going to her classes. It all depends on whether or not this was a total fluke, or if I’m now magically able to keep the morning rage monster at bay… We shall see.


A Little Break


Last week, my wonderful, beautiful, brilliant, and totally badass grandmother, Marie Sullivan O’Brien, passed away at age 87. I’m working on writing a tribute to her, but haven’t got a finished product yet because, to put it simply, I am grieving. Check back in a few days when the Ugly Cat will return with some new posts. 

Her obituary, written by her eldest child, my aunt Erin, is a lovely read, and can be found here