What the Flip is a Japanese Ham Sandwich?!

I’m a pretty firm believer in the notion that people do not change. Incremental alterations for the better or worse, sure; massive overhaul of one’s being? Nope. It’s a belief I hold, yet I accept and even welcome – nay, relish – exceptions to the rule.

Those conscious, jump-in-eyes-wide-open, tectonic plate shifting life decisions aside, I think maybe the best chance any of us has to really change and grow is to stop periodically and take stock of where we’re at; what’s new, what’s different, what we’ve shed along the way, what has proven constant and comforting. Which brings me to the point(ish) of this post: Bikram Yoga. Sort of.

Thanks to a kickass Living Social deal a few months ago, I recently wrapped up two months of Bikram classes for the insanely low price of $20. In a shocking turn of events, I have decided to – rather than take my cost savings and run – continue with the classes. I am hooked. And boy oh boy, you’d better believe that was not always the case. I hated it with a venomous passion the first time I tried it. I hated it only the tiniest bit less the second time. I hated it even more than the first time when I went back for a third class. I was miserable. Ninety minutes of stretching and contorting in a 105 degree room highlighted both my extraordinary inflexibility *and* my apparent ability to go from normal to wicked sweaty in about sixty seconds. I have conducted some very scientific observations in the last two months (lots of surreptitious checking out of my neighbors in class) and I am convinced I sweat more than nearly every other human being who has ever done Bikram Yoga.

But then… this thing happened. Round about the sixth or seventh class, I started to kind of like it. Instead of calling my mom and swearing for a full minute after class, I started enjoying the walk home – noticing how energetic and bendy I felt. Instead of offering a bitter and begrudging “Namaste” in response to the teacher at the end of class, I started to actually mean it. I stopped thinking, “I hate her and her and him and him, and especially *him* with his ball sweat that I can totally see,” and started noticing that I was actually getting better at some of the poses. Quelle surprise! After a lifetime of declaring that I have little to no flexibility because, well, I have little to no flexibility, I am actually able to bend and move in ways I never thought possible. There are certain poses I suspect I’ll always have trouble with, but lo and behold – I am capable of change in an area I had long ago given up on.

I love this most unexpected development in my life. I am about two months out from beginning hardcore training in preparation for running my first marathon in October. That mess is a whole different business that I’m sort of trying not to think about too much right now. However, I realized recently that I am definitely going to need to do something other than just run… and run… and run for 20 weeks. I thought about weight training and spinning and other classes at the gym and I died a little inside. I hate the gym. I go and have gone off and on for years because I thought it was the thing to do, but I have despised it. I trudge in there (mostly on cold and/or rainy days) like Charlie Brown on some kind of death march, plod through a workout and hope like hell that the next day will bring run-worthy, sunny weather. So I have signed up at the yoga studio, will cancel my gym membership and am hoping that all the running and the bendifying that are in store will have me mind and body-ready to dance with 26.2 miles in six months.

Am I a different person than I was two months ago when I started? No, not really. What’s different is that for the first time in a while, I have made a decision to change something in my life entirely of my own volition. It is not an addition or subtraction brought on by external forces and it is good for me in pretty much every way I can think of.

If I’m not careful, I could probably become downright evangelical about Bikram. But that would be obnoxious and I’d have to make fun of myself a little bit. Besides, no matter how much I love it, there is one thing that will never make sense to me. There’s this one pose near the beginning of the series where the teacher says that when you’re doing it right, you should look like a Japanese ham sandwich. I have scoured the internet for images of a Japanese ham sandwich and all I have been able to find are other people’s blogs and posts on yoga-related sites, wondering the same thing. This was the image that turned up several times in my travels. The left is the pose done correctly and the right is, well, obv. I am stumped.

What the what?

I don’t think I’m ever going to dash off to yoga teacher training or anything, but it is nice to have something new that I love this much. It’s not a revolutionary change, but it’s good and positive and happy-making. From where I sit – sweaty and twisty – that is an awesome thing.

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5 thoughts on “What the Flip is a Japanese Ham Sandwich?!

  1. Congrats on very insightfully and comically describing your own Bikram yoga experience. I can totally relate. I was actually Googling this phrase because I DON’T GET THE JAPANESE HAM SANDWHICH THING EITHER! It drives me nuts. I have experienced frustration, disapointment and anger in my classes but only because I’m severely limited in most poses. Like, literally everybody else can things that I can’t. But I’m pushing and I’m improving. I have to say though that I did feel what can only be described as rage last week for the first time. At my studio there’s a Good Paul and a Bad Paul. I hate to sound binary, but I tool a class instructed by the Bad Paul and found him to be supremely irritating and arrogant. He also goaded me on in front of the class to do something that not only could I truly not do, but would likely hurt myself trying to do. Maybe he was trying to help me and he may have very well corrected some of the mistakes I was making, but he pissed me off so much that for the first time, I almost walked out. Which is saying something because I’ve never felt tempted even though I’ve felt like I was suffocating in a convection oven. I’ve seen him out of class since and I still think he actis like a jerk. Good thing he doesn’t teach at the times when I normally go. As Bikram pratitioners though, we’re pretty tough. Is one person going to thwart my practice? Hell no!

    All the best. 🙂

    • Thank you! Absolutely don’t let Bad Paul get to you. 🙂 I definitely have to take a deep breath and chill out when I walk into class sometimes and I see that it’s an instructor I don’t particularly care for – or if I see people who I find it difficult to stand near. But in the end, it’s worth it every time!

  2. Yeah what the f… does a japanese ham sandwich look like?!
    I just asked my bikram yoga teacher this very question last night. Given that I dont eat ham or sandwiches and have never been to Japan…
    One would imagine that the expression ‘no gaps’ would convey the intended image more effectively!
    But then maybe Bikram’s a japanese nut. haha!

  3. It is a pun, there is no ham in a Japanese ham sandwich because ham is not something normally eaten in japan. Get it, there is no meat just bread sandwiched together.

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