Donna Wikio makes people sweat. An hour with her will leave you in puddles, admitting everything and vowing to change your life. Crown prosecutor? Bikram yoga teacher.
I’m surprised how nice it smells in the hot yoga studio, I’d expected it to smell like armpits. It’s Thailand hot, rather than sauna hot, but it is hot. For seven years now, after training in Mexico with Bikram Choudhury himself, Donna has been leaving Dunedinites red in the face, and they love it. Well they might, how many opportunities do we get to be lightly clad in 40 degrees? Branching out to Invercargill and soon Hamilton, hot yoga is unsurprisingly popular in small, cold places. Yoga performed in heat is super-healing, both physically and mentally. It’s not just exercise. You have to face yourself in the mirror, really look at yourself, and this can be challenging. People turn up with bad backs and crushed lives and find themselves completely reborn. It must be the endorphin rush of efforts’ true reward that explains why one effusive yog-ster likened it to a near-death experience: afterwards, everything smells cleaner, the world is new and you’re ALIVE. Converts rave like loonies in patterned tights, coming up to you in supermarket queues with a ‘join us’ look on their faces, meaning Bikram can seem a bit cult-y to outsiders.
“Anything that’s intense invites faddish mentality,” says Donna. “Yes, it can really change people’s lives, but everything in moderation, including yoga, otherwise it’s just addiction replacement.” Despite an in-built suspicion of anything popular, even I have to admit yoga enthusiasts look amazing: lithe, bendy, bright-eyed and bushy tailed − with bottoms you could bounce a two-dollar coin off. Of course I’m jealous. And pigeonholing hot yoga devotees as man-bun-sporting kale eaters is pretty short sighted. “We get all types and all ages. Our oldest is 77. We get a lot of surfers, mothers, policemen, blokey blokes, builders with broken bodies.”
The ‘wall of sound’ created by the instructor, combined with the wall of heat, forces concentration, silences the monkey chatter in your mind. Surrendering, stuff slides away, leaving you calm and collected. Best of all: “Anyone can do it. Just start with what you’ve got. I always feel people are waiting … to be thinner, stronger … whatever. What are you waiting for?”
What are you waiting for? It only costs $39 for a month’s trial. See you on the mat. I’ve got the corpse pose down pat.
Post submitted by Lisa Scott
Photography by Sharron Bennett