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I love practicing Bikram yoga in other countries. Husband and I went to Rome and hearing the dialogue in Italian was one of my favorite parts of the trip, closely following Carciofi alla Romana and the fact that Nutella is considered a food group. Plus, I now know the Italian word for “change” is “cambia.” Healthy and educational.

The slight differences in international studios are interesting to note (Italian students seem to groan more than their American counterparts) but generally, I am comforted by the routine and I’ve felt very welcome in Bikram studios in far off lands.

While Bikram is my yoga/drug of choice, I thought I would branch out and try some other varietals. Some Ashtanga, some Vinyasa, I even threw some Iyanger in there. It’s been fun, flirting with other practices. I’ve learned cool new things. But there is one constant I’ve found.

I warn you, it’s unpleasant.

At every studio I’ve gone to, they ask if I’m new to yoga. I tell them I’m new to the studio but I have yoga experience, mostly Bikram. As soon as that comes out of my mouth, tension fills the room and I feel like an interloper.

“Well, this is not that.”

Well, of course it’s not that. If I wanted that, I’d be at the studio where they do that.
And why say “that” like you are pointing to something slimy on the floor?

Why is Bikram the red-headed stepchild of yoga?

Where is the non-judgmental yogi attitude I’ve come to love? Did I balk at the new studio when I was told to get blocks and straps, just because my main form of yoga doesn’t use props? Hell, no. I did it their way because I was in their house.

Yet, I’ve experienced it all, from eye rolling to a long lecture about how Bikram is going to distroy my skeletal system and kill me in my sleep.

Is it because Bikram is a relatively new form of yoga? Is it because of the heat? Is it because Bikram Choudhury himself is a bit of an odd duck, who takes branding super seriously? Maybe it’s not a targeted hot yoga vendetta at all. Maybe people are just generally dogmatic and want to prostheletize their own way, bashing yours in the process.

I would love to return to the idea of different – yet equally valid – paths up the mountain. I believe that we are all trying to get to the same place with our yoga; different branches of the discipline just speak to us in different ways.

Practice and let practice, yogis.

If you’ve had similar experiences (or vastly different ones) please share. I’d be interested to know how others interpret this phenomenon…

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