As I feared, I was only able to get to class twice in the last week of my intro package at Sumits. On top of that, I had to do a double just to accomplish that. Last Wednesday, I went to the 5:30AM class and found that my body was VERY stiff and inflexible. Just moving into and out of up/down dogs was torture. I got through the class, and by the end of it I felt pretty good. Since I had the day off from work, I decided that a second class was possible. After cleaning house, running errands and making sure I was sufficiently hydrated, I got back to the studio for the 4PM class.
What a difference. I breezed through warm up and the standing series. I felt like I used to feel when I was practicing regularly at Bikram. The flow part of class wasn't that bad either. Even allowed myself a little smile as we transitioned to the floor. From there it became more difficult, but I still had a much easier time. I could literally feel my hips open more, my breathing was more in tune, and I was much more focused throughout the second class. When I got home I was very sore, but it was that good, honest, "I really accomplished something today" kind of sore. Over the next couple of days, my hips and back felt so much better!
What did I learn?
I learned that I could actually perform this type of yoga. It is, in my opinion, just as strenuous (if not more) as a Bikram class. It may be10 minutes shorter, but I think you do more in a Sumits class. In Bikram, you are asked to do 26 postures to your maximum with a (brief) rest period between each. In Sumits, you stack postures one on top of the other, which keeps your heart and lungs working harder for longer periods. The third flow set only lasts 3 1/2 minutes, but it is the most difficult and I am gassed when it is completed -- if I can get through it without stopping. Each type tests you in their own special ways.
In Bikram the postures are the same every day. In Sumits the postures and flows are the same every day, until you get close to the end. When you get Head to Knee with Stretching, there can be variations. For example, you do the basic pose starting with the right leg and then the left, then stretch both legs out, grab your big toes and pull. After that, the instructor might call for a butterfly -- legs folded, elbows to knees while continuing to grab the toes and pull. Then, you may be asked to go into a half-lotus and pull, then another half-lotus for the opposite leg. The other big difference comes after moving to the floor, where it's time for crunches. Sometimes its 10 straight crunches, sometimes its 10 straight, then 10 obliques to the right and 10 to the left. Sometimes, its 15 each. Guess it depends on how the instructor feels. After the crunches come the "bicycles" -- legs in the air kicking with elbow to opposite knee. I know I need them, but they are my least favorite parts of the class. Then there is the temperature in the room. At Bikram, some instructors would turn off the ceiling fans and maybe crack the doors an inch at Savasana. At Sumits, the door gets opened at least three different times for 30-45 seconds, and the fans are always on. Seems like they have been told to try and keep the heat at exactly 105 degrees. The last big difference is that the instructors incessantly tell us to, "Have fun!! This isn't the end of the world. There is no competition. Do your best. Honor yourself. If you need to take a break, move to Savasana or Child's Pose and meet us back in Down Dog. HAVE FUN!!". They are just as knowledgeable and supportive as any Bikram instructor I've known but they seem a bit nicer.
So, I would call this "experiment" an unqualified success. In my opinion, if Bikram and Sumit were to join forces, they would be unstoppable. If I could open my dream studio, one would have access to both forms. If I could afford to do so, I would take classes at both studios -- Bikram one day, Sumits the next. I could work on each individual postures at Bikram, then incorporate it into the Sumits class the next day. It would be absolute bliss. Back here in the real world though, I am aiming to purchase a longer duration package at Sumits (after the holidays) while securing perhaps a 10 or 30 class card at Bikram -- I can't forget my yoga "roots". Besides, as much fun as being at Sumits is, it just makes me miss Bikram that much more.