Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bikram at Funky Door, Haight Ashbury: Babar and Bill Clinton Do Yoga, And I Nearly Die

So my yoga studio, Mission Yoga, will be running their annual 30 day challenge in March, and I'm looking forward to signing up.  I did this last year, and it was rough, but fun: you do yoga every day for 30 days, and if you miss a class you can take two in a single day.  They have a big piece of posterboard up and for every class you take, you get a shiny little sticker to put up next to your name.  At the end of the month, you get a bunch of raffle tickets and can win a prize (my prize last year was lame…a “custom bra fitting,” except that the woman who donated the prize only does fittings for "larger" women  “Do you have a friend who could use it?” she said.  Boo.)  It creates this nice sense of community, even more so than usual - we're all gonna get through this together!

But knowing that I certainly wouldn’t want to be experimenting with new bikram studios during that time, I decided to try out Funky Door in Haight Ashbury ASAP.  Also, a yoga teacher buddy had told me that if I was considering teacher training, I should try a few classes at Funky Door, since they’re closer to what I’d be doing at training (read: harder and hotter).  So I hopped on the 71L after work and off I went!

Picture your crazy gay yoga-crazed older uncle who has a sixties beach house painted in vibrant blues and yellows and purples, and he’s built a yoga studio in his basement, and he invites 20 -30 limber hipster and hippie friends over for some sweaty yoga.  That’s Funky Door.  The bathrooms are actual homestyle bathrooms, so if someone’s choosing to shower privately (instead of using the coed outdoor showers) you have to wait to use the bathroom in the narrow hallway.  Locker rooms are tiny and carpeted, and there are quirky posters, drawings, paintings, and knickknacks everywhere you look – my favorites were the framed posters of Babar doing yoga (hey, look what’s going in my Amazon cart!).

The studio itself is about half the size of Mission Yoga, with eight or ten giant cartoon wall hangings along the back wall of – get this –Ronald Regan, Frankenstein, and a poodle doing yoga poses.  They were fantastic! (the artist himself, Ed Renfro, seems like a cool guy mostly because of this.  Also, check out these posture drawings.)  Is that Monica Lewinsky kneeling beside Bill Clinton’s standing bow pose, in her iconic blue dress, sucking on his…toe?  Yes.  Yes, it is.  

So anyway, the teacher flips on the lights and it is BRIGHT.  The studio is much longer lengthwise so you’re right up against the mirror, with only two rows of students, and under those bright fluorescents you feel really visible.  Even though the space is so small, the teacher uses a headset microphone, so she becomes this godly voice echoing around you.  It was really hot right at the start, but I figured, hey, I can do this.  Look at me under those bright lights!  Look at my abs in half-moon!  Look at my arms in awkward pose!  That’s right, I’m a rockstar!

Rockstar feeling lasted about twenty minutes.  The teacher kept flipping on the heat, and it was brutal.  So hot, so humid, so brutal.  By the time we got to the floor poses I felt like I weighed five hundred pounds and I could barely move.  I had to sit out two different second sets, which I hate doing, but otherwise I was going to pass out, vomit, or pass out while vomiting.  The last fifteen minutes or so reminded me of when I ran a half marathon last summer, and someone shouted “only fifteen stoplights to go!” and those stoplights felt SO FREAKING FAR APART…except I was counting poses.  And the whole time God was yelling at me from above: “lock your knees…lock your knees…LOCK. YOUR. KNEES.” And God was turning the heat on again and why, God, why?  Why are doing this to me?!

At the end of class I was not a yoga rockstar.  I was a sodden, sore, sorry mess.  My triceps felt like someone had repeatedly punched them.  With hammer knuckles.  It took what felt like hours just to get my yoga clothes off and my regular clothes on.  I think the last time bikram wore me out this much was...the very first time I did bikram?  I don't know.  I could barely function.

Well, at least now I'm a little more prepared for what training would be like.  And by prepared, I mean HOLY SHIT.  Can I actually do that twice a day for nine weeks?  It could kill me!

Funky Door - 3 locations: Berkeley, Haight-Ashbury, and Nob Hill
$29 for 30 days unlimited yoga.

Image borrowed from Bikram Yoga Folsom near Sacramento, by the aforementioned Ed Renfro.

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