It turns out my addiction to yoga is fickle. My annual membership to Bikram came to a close in early September. After 1,046 classes I’d been feeling diminishing returns. Some days the heat seemed as formidable a foe as on my first day, some days I lost focus, other days I simply didn’t have the energy to complete all the postures.
Coincidently a new CorePower Yoga studio opened a mile from my house. CorePower originated in Denver; I’d been to their studios when vacationing there. They offered a free week of yoga and I figured I needed a change.
Bikram yoga has been belittled as McYoga because of its uniformity – the exact same sequence of the exact same postures every class regardless where you are in the world. I can understand the logic behind the label, but it’s misleading. McDonald’s offers lame food while Bikram offers excellent yoga. Not all yoga devotees are Bikram fans, but none deny its validity.
CorePower is the Whole Foods of yoga, a carefully conceived experience of health and goodness that disguises the corporate backbone beneath the surface. CorePower has studios all over the United States; the one in my neighborhood is the first in Massachusetts. Unlike yoga studios that provide little more than a barren room with an attached toilet, or Bikram, which offers at least rudimentary shower and changing places, CorePower Yoga is a well-appointed spa. The lobby is gracious and tall, littered with expensive accessories for sale. There are comfortable sofas arranged in front of the endlessly burning fireplace. The locker rooms are clean and large, the showers have custom heads, there’s soap and lotion galore.
CorePower plays music during class. I had never done yoga to music and found it distracting. In my first class Adele interfered with my concentration during sun salutations; Sting was annoying during my Warrior II. I thought I might not even finish out my free week. But CorePower’s forte’s – like Whole Foods – is variety and over the course of my week I attended two C2 intermediate yoga classes plus four Sculpt classes (aerobics with a yoga flair) and one Hot Power Fusion, a less intense version of Bikram. Although CorePower is full of amenities that don’t resonate with me – who wants a burning fireplace on a brilliant late summer day – I decided that CorePower had more to offer than flash and, needing a sustained break from Bikram, I signed on as a regular member.
Three weeks later I am a CorePower convert. I tune out the music whenever it bothers me, but there are times when it truly complements my effort, especially in Sculpt, where the beat sustains the aerobic speed. Sculpt has become my primary class, but after doing it for two or three days in a row, I intersperse a C2 or Hot Power Fusion and enjoy the changeup. CorePower is more energetic than Bikram, but less sustained. Each class provides plenty of physical challenge for me. I figured all the peripherals would obscure the mental bliss Bikram often provided, but to my pleasure, I captured some of that today. In the middle of Sculpt, between the cross-training antics of performing military presses from warrior pose and arm extensions from horse position, I became hyper aware of my surroundings. Every part of my body moved through space with a distinctive grace and ease. It was exhilarating.
My shift from Bikram to CorePower has taught me a few things. First I am a fickle lover. Not only did I go cold turkey from daily Bikram to daily CorePower, I did it without looking back for an instant. Second, I realize that CorePower is not really yoga. If you think about the name carefully, yoga is only about one third of the experience. Every class has a core component, and every class has a power focus. Perhaps I needed to pull myself out of such a pure yoga pursuit. Third, I realize how much I like the variety. Within the three types of classes they offer, every instructor inserts his or her own modifications. I don’t now exactly what I am going to do each day and I like the balance between overall structure and internal variety.
My four years of Bikram contribute every class I do at CorePower. Bikram has a culture of improvement – the teachers correct our postures and over time my poses have become very accurate. CorePower is a culture of encouragement. Teachers never offer anything but superlatives to individuals or the class; their hands-on corrections are simply gentle massages. I am not sure whether CorePower’s approach can help people improve their form, but what I learned in Bikram apply.
Perhaps I will return to Bikram in time, perhaps I will wander in another direction. For now I am content to sweat through CorePower’s offerings. They make me feel healthy and fit with a more generous spirit than Bikram offers. And, at least for now, it’s a lot more fun.
Fireplace at CorePower Yoga