Just an ordinary Black Girl Doing Hot Yoga (Thoughts from a Black Girl’s Diary)
This blog is about yoga & in particular Bikram Yoga, the yoga I prefer to do. But it won’t just contain pictures of enormously bendy women or men practising their Triangle Poses, in a setting that looks like Nirvana. Nor, will it go in the opposite direction to focus solely on the larger lady or man practising yoga either. Both have their equal place in the yoga world & I’m not knocking that.
It’s about me; an ordinary BGDB (Black Girl Doing Bikram) & (sometimes the guys!) that find ourselves taking a step to drip the sweat.
I’m unfortunately (still) a rare breed in an almost elitist milieu; a black, slightly chubby, middle-aged woman. I was brought up on a council estate in South London & at 5ft 2 inches; I’m a real shorty. Hardly anything like the girls (& guys) I Bikram with, who are often ‘Made in Chelsea’, upper class to middle class & TBYB’s (Typically Bony Yoga Bunnies). Boo hoo…NOT!!!!
So, why did I choose Bikram (Hot Yoga)?
I’ve done many different types of yoga over the years & after a class I would be thinking, ‘That was a load of pretentious rubbish!’
“I don’t like the idea of suffering to do yoga.”
There’s always been a feeling in these places that you have be dedicated to the point of having to chomp on Quinoa all the time in a bid to ‘Cut the Carbs!’ or chant until enlightenment drops in your lap; or have a fair bit of money to fund your trendy, cool habit. Throw in a heady mix of TBYB’s, a posh studio in the heart of Wimbledon or Richmond and you’re almost there. You know the type of person I’m talking about? She’s called ‘Annabelle’, talks loudly ‘Yah, Yahing’ in the changing rooms & on her top of the range iphone about going on retreats to find herself in the South of France. (Very Ab Fab!) Stereotyping? Yes I am, but for real! These are mostly the people I encounter on my yoga travels.
Originally, I’ve always felt that yoga is just not for me. After all, I’m a black woman who regularly uses a relaxer to straighten her hair! Us gals don’t deal with the frizz thing. In fact I fear the wrath of my hairdresser if she saw the state my hair gets into after a 40 degree rinse in a sweat drenched studio, almost as much as I fear the West Indian tones of my mum cussing me out when she disapproves of anything I do!
My Bikram experience began in a familiar way that many encounter this strange type of yoga; after an injury. I had the unfortunate luck to have been injured at work. It left me with the mental injury of depression & anxiety, while the physical injury gave me torn ligaments in my shoulder & right thumb.
I needed something fast. The pain killers had stopped working, the physio was not free anymore (The NHS had written me off) & I was paying for a physiotherapist who was almost on the brink of writing me off too.
“Why don’t you try Bikram yoga? The heat might help.” I laughed at his ridiculous suggestion!
“How could bending yourself into inane positions help to heal torn ligaments? More to the point; what the bloody hell is Bikram Yoga anyway?”
That evening I decided to part from my physiotherapist. Although I had around 20 sessions with him, I still felt like a doll that had only been partially fixed. I couldn’t afford to go anymore. There had to be something else. I Googled Bikram Yoga on my laptop. I was feeling broke (literally) and incredibly depressed.
My First Class
You will always remember your first time. Mine was with a teacher called Mel who had a smile to match her temperament.
“We were all packed sardine-like into a reasonably sized studio. (Sorry about the Top Gear reference!)”
I tried to ‘style it out’ & pretend I was a regular, rolling out my own mat (Not using theirs) & towel whilst lying casually on the floor. But then she said the words that point you out as being different from the start.
“Anyone here for the first time?”
Tentatively I raised my hand in the air. There were several of us newbie’s in that night & we were all cheerily told to take it easy. I didn’t really notice the heat much in that 90 minute cook up, but I did notice that I was the only BGDB in the room.
Over to you!!
Are you a person that does yoga? Or even an ordinary Black Girl Doing Bikram Yoga too? I want to hear from you all!
Let me know what you think of my thoughts.