This Bikram yoga seems all the rage now: groups get together in overheated rooms for 90 minutes to perform a series of “poses”. This sweat fest is supposed to improve flexibility, shed body fat, eliminate toxins and – the magical goal – burn calories.
Now, I have read many reports claiming sitting is the new smoking. I spent all day sitting working when I still had a job [bitter laugh]: 20 years ago, when I both had a job and smoked, I sat and I smoked all day – it was grand.
I no longer work, but I still spend much of my day sitting. The exercise app my daughter put on my phone used to urge me ‘Keep active – you have another 50 minutes activity before you reach your goal!’ but it says nothing. I suspect it thinks I am dead.
Back to Bikram and its benefits: there are four gyms cheek by jowl in my area of Rosebank, so one must surely offer it? But the problem with gyms, apart from the fact that they are pricey and most of the members are young and fit and skinny and that the classes are at set times that might not suit you – okay, let me begin again.
One of the problems with gyms is that you have to wear special clothes. I know what I’m talking about; I joined a Pretoria gym in the 80s. I wore high cut leotards in peacock blue, shocking pink and neon orange, with bright shiny tights and legwarmers [naturally], plus a lime green sweat band.
Don’t judge me, it was the 80s. My daughter assures me people don’t wear that stuff anymore, but I’ve seen the gym bunnies hopping in and out of SWEAT and Viva and these other places. They wear special clothes, only not as colourful as mine.
So I have devised my own routine which doesn’t cost a cent, can be done at a time that suits me and includes all the circuits and sets and whatever they offer at the gym. Best of all, I wear normal clothes.
I have transformed the Rosebank shopping centres into my gym: my circuits include The Zone and the Firs for warming up and cooling down, and the heavy work is done in The Mall. They keep that place uncomfortably hot and after a few sets going up and down the escalators near Arthur Bales I’ve worked up a sweat and am ready for the obstacle course that is the modern enclosed shopping centre.
My app calls for 60 minutes of non-stop walking. Stop on an escalator, pause in front of a window, hesitate when you see a former colleague and wonder if they are going to greet or ignore you, and the app stops, returning you to zero.I have walked for well over two hours to achieve my 60 minute goal.
A brisk walk in a smallish shopping centre may sound tedious but consider the advantages: security, for starters, smooth surfaces, and – essential for my fair skin – no sun. I dodge the dangerous trolley drivers as they lurch around on their cellphones, power through barricades of young girls walking six abreast, and navigate the sharp curves at speed.
And I’m not limited to the choice of drinks and snacks they offer at official gyms either; my gym has a liquor store so I replenish fluids [very important in Bikram] with a bottle of cold white wine, I can keep my strength up with a croissant, I can even go to a tobacconist. I bet you don’t get that at Planet Fitness.
I read that 90 minutes of Bikram has roughly the same health benefits as walking five kph for 90 minutes: make no mistake, I am red faced and sweaty as I march over faux marble tiles, and attract stares from staff watching me pass hurry their window for the third time but, as Catherine Tate had it, I’m not bovvered.
Why get hot and bothered in special clothes at an expensive gym while skinny fashionistas snigger when you can just go shopping? My Mall workouts “improve strength and flexibility of the lower spine, knees, hips and ankle joints” just as much as, say, Bikram’s Reclining Thunderbolt Pose.