AS I lay on the ground, bathed in sweat, I could just make out the approaching sound of the ambulance. As exhausted as I felt, though, the ambulance was not coming for me. It was coming for a gray-haired lady who'd collapsed a few yards away and had to be carried off by a volunteer brigade because she was too weak to stand and too confused to remember what year it was.
Welcome to Bikram Yoga.
A school of physically purifying Hatha yoga, Bikram Yoga is a system of exercise comprising 26 stretch-and-hold positions, arranged to work the organs in an orderly chain. Copyrighted and franchised by 62-year-old namesake guru Bikram Choudhury, it's taught in 90-minute classes by Bikram-certified instructors all over the world, and -- at Bikram's Yoga College of India World Headquarters in L.A. -- by Choudhury himself, in a spacious studio he calls his "torture chamber."
Since he keeps the interior temperature at about 110 degrees, that's no joke.
Intended to promote flexibility and prevent injury by warming the muscles, the sweltering heat has two obvious side effects: purging one's cells via rivers of perspiration and making one's insides feel like microwaved jellyfish.
Seriously. Since I'd attempted yoga only once a decade before, assuming Choudhury's discombobulated postures was difficult enough. But doing them in the Speedo-clad drill sergeant's hellish sweatshop felt cruel and unusual.