A beginner’s guide to queer yoga
I’m all for new experiences, so when my friend Ming asked me to join him to give Bikram Yoga a try, I didn’t hesitate. Especially when he mentioned that it was a special Bikram Yoga class, a class for single queer men.
Named after founder Bikram Choudhury, who popularised the technique in the 1970s, Bikram Yoga is a derivation of traditional Hatha Yoga. Bikram classes run for exactly 90 minutes, and consist of a set series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises. The added element is that Bikram is practised in a humid, heated room with the temperate set at 40 degrees Celsius.
I won’t lie, I had big expectations and had been telling everyone I spoke to that I was off to Single Gay Bikram Yoga. My friend David was typically sceptical – ‘Why bother with the pretence of yoga?” he said. “Just get some black plastic, a coat rack, a bottle of lube, and call it exercise!’ But I was convinced that this was going to be the next big thing in my life.
We arrived at So Hot Yoga in London’s Victoria, feeling nervous and excited. A small but modern studio, So Hot is a little bit famous as the place that Lady Gaga once did yoga when she was in town.
One of the things that instantly appeals about Bikram Yoga is that, as a guy, all you’re allowed to wear is a pair of short shorts. I’d gone for a trusty pair of blue Aussiebum, Ming surprisingly opted for a Rufskin ‘skort’ – a skirt plus short combination that is always a conversation-starter.
We got changed, grabbed a mat, and headed into the studio. It was a small studio – really small. The maximum number of people it could take was eight per session. For our first Single Gay Bikram experience there was only six of us – plus Christian, our instructor.
Was it a room full of gorgeous gay men? To be honest, no. Realistically it was like anything else that you encounter in the LGBTQ community - diverse. But that was cool.
There wasn’t any chat amongst the class, it was all quite silent and serious. We sat patiently on our mats until Christian began the session.
We moved fast and furiously through the poses and stretches. Christian explaining the movement, and then encouraging us to push deeper – to lift, and to breathe.
It was hard. Really hard. Not only were the exercises themselves pretty challenging, it was the heat that was the killer. I’ve never sweated so much. There were times – when I was kind of upside down and twisting to the right – that the sweat was dripping into my eyes. I haven’t experienced that before – it wasn’t pleasant, it wasn’t sexy.
There was no time to groan or grumble, and barely time to quickly grab a drink of water in between movements. There were moments when I was feeling a bit dizzy and almost couldn’t go on. But, in a small studio, there’s nowhere to hide – before I knew it, the 90 minutes were up and Christian left us laying on our yoga mats, panting with exhaustion and possibly dehydration.
I don’t think that I could say that I enjoyed it, but I’ve never felt so strangely simultaneously exhausted and relaxed. It’s something that I’d definitely like to do again, and it’s something I’d like to get better at.
I’m not sure that I need to stick to a Bikram Yoga class for single gay men – I’m happy to wear short shorts in front of anyone. But, if you’re looking to give Bikram a try, then a small and friendly class is a good place to start.
Apparently, there’s a naked gay yoga class somewhere in London’s Soho. That could be worth investigating.