The things I do for my job will never cease to amaze me. Take last week. On Friday morning I spent 90 minutes contorting my body into 26 unwieldy positions in a studio where the heat was cranked to 102 degrees. This was made even more onerous by the fact that I'm the least flexible person I've ever met.
How inflexible am I, you ask?
If Brad Pitt were to say to me, "I'll dump my beautiful overpaid wife and whisk you off to the French Riviera if you can touch your toes for 10 seconds without bending your legs," I'd have to say, "Sorry, it looks like you're stuck with your beautiful overpaid wife."
However, according to Reetu Jaukhane, the owner of the Bikram Yoga College of India in Hoboken, with a little patience and a lot of dedication I could be enjoying the beach with Brad Pitt in no time.
Founded by Bikram Choudhury, a pre-eminent Hatha yoga master, Bikram yoga is a demanding 26-posture series that helps develop strength, flexibility and balance. The yoga is conducted in a heated room - usually between 100 and 110 degrees - to help stretch the muscles and prevent injury.
After completing an intensive accelerated two-month teacher-training program at Bikram Choudhury's studio in Los Angeles, Jaukhane opened Bikram Yoga College of India on Washington Street in Hoboken last month.
"Bikram is everything to me," Jaukhane said last Friday following the 9 a.m. class. "I have so much respect for that person. He is a tremendous teacher. He really taught us the right way to do yoga. And when you learn it right from him, it's amazing. I had a thyroid problem and now it's cured. It becomes a belief when you see results."
Reetu Jaukhane, 30, was born in Delhi, India. She moved to New York three years ago to study graphic design at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. After earning a Master's degree, she landed a job at Bonfilio Design, a Manhattan design firm. Meanwhile, her husband introduced her to yoga.
"I used to do aerobics and lift weights," she said. "But now I just do yoga."
In fact, Jaukhane, who currently lives in Jersey City, has performed yoga every single day since her husband first introduced her to the meditative workout two years ago. And unlike schlepping to the gym, for Jaukhane yoga is not a burden.
"You start to enjoy it," she said. "Nobody has to force you the be here. You want to be here."
Many of her students have adopted a similar philosophy.
Sharon Mathis, a Hoboken resident, was the studio's first student.
"I was the first student on the first day of the first class," said Mathis after a Monday morning class. "And I've been coming every day since."
Before attending Jaukhane's studio, Mathis had only done yoga a handful of times.
"I wanted something that would not only help me lose weight, but would help with stress," she said. "And I was sick of the gym."
Today, she is one of Jaukhane's more agile students.
"It's amazing," she said. "Things you couldn't do the first day - one, two three weeks later, you're doing them and you can't believe it. It happens really quickly. You just need to stick with it."
Noemi Hagen, another Bikram student, offered similar words of encouragement.
"Your body just has to get used to knowing that it can move into the positions," she said.
At Bikram Yoga College of India there are seven certified instructors, including Jaukhane, to help facilitate the process.
"Every teacher teaches you something a little different," said Jaukhane.
Beyond the bending and breathing, Bikram yoga's most conspicuous characteristic is the towering temperatures. The recommended room temperature for a Bikram yoga studio is 105 degrees with 60 percent humidity. According to the Bikram Yoga official web site, "the room is kept at this temperature to keep the body from overheating (contrary to popular belief), protect muscles to allow for deeper stretching, detoxify the body (open pores to let toxins out), thin the blood to clear the circulatory system, increase heart rate for better cardiovascular workout, improve strength by putting muscle tissue in optimal state for reorganization, and reorganize lipids (fat) in the muscular structure."
When asked what her studio's monthly heating bill is, Jaukhane just laughed.
"I turn up the heat a half hour before class," she said. "But the temperature goes up basically because of the people's energy. And they sweat, which adds to the humidity. The heat is a combination of a lot of factors. And you don't even feel the heat, because you're so into posturing."
For some of Juakhane's students, the warmth is a boon.
"I like heat," said Mathis. "I hate winter. I say, the hotter the better."
Even students who aren't partial to heat, however, have appreciated the effects.
"I don't like the heat," Lucia, a Bikram yoga second timer, said recently. "So I was scared I wouldn't be able to last. But it's amazing the workout you get. It's a lot more challenging than the classes they offer at my gym." q
The Bikram Yoga College of India, located at 618 Washington St., Hoboken, offers classes seven days a week. Mondays through Fridays classes are held at 9 a.m., 6:15 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.; Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.; and Sundays at noon and 5 p.m. A single class is $17, $150 for a month unlimited. For more information call (201) 798-7498.