Have you ever heard of hot yoga? Like, the super-hot, sweat inducing, feel like you might die yoga that takes place in a 105 degree room? THIS is Bikram yoga, and it is awesome.
More specifically, Bikram yoga is a form of Hawtha yoga which requires class participants to bend and contort their bodies into 26 different poses for 90 minutes. Yep, you read that right, one class is a whopping one and a half hours long!
I recently completed a 60 consecutive day Bikram yoga challenge and I am still alive. I am proud. My body feels great, my mind is at peace, and I feel more relaxed. I learned a lot during my 60 day challenge and I plan to continue including yoga in my exercise routine for the rest of my life.
Thinking of trying Bikram yoga? Here are some tips to prepare you for your journey.
Before I attended my first class, I didn't think it was possible to release enough sweat from my body to drown a small village. Guess what? It is possible*. It was not uncommon for me to lift my arms above my head and flick a spray of sweat onto my neighbor, or for a stream of sweat to drip off the tip of my nose when I bent my head towards the ground. For crying out loud, it is 105 degrees in the yoga studio! If you don’t sweat, you are not human. Expect to leave a Bikram yoga class looking like you just climbed out of a pool.
2. It Doesn't Get Easier
Every single class requires 100% effort. Sure, some days I wobbled and grunted to just reach past my knees, and other days I could easily reach my toes. The point is, both feats required my maximum effort. Each of the 60 classes I attended during my challenge required concentration, focus, and hard work.
3. You Always Get Better
Ok, so I already covered the whole “it doesn’t get easier” thing (see #2), but I guarantee that if you continue practicing Bikram yoga regularly, you will get better. In addition to health improvements (e.g., increased relaxation, better concentration, alleviated joint pain, decreased lower back pain, weight loss, and muscle strengthening), attending yoga regularly will result in noticeable form, and flexibility improvements. Touching your forehead to your knee, doing a backbend and seeing the wall behind you, improving your strength and grip; all of these things can happen. Trust me, for the first time ever, I recently touched my toes without bending my knees. Yep, I am awesome.
4. Nudity Happens
Before class: Bikram yoga students are comfortable with their bodies. If you visit the locker room before or after class, don’t be surprised by the full-on nudity. I have had entire conversations in the locker room with topless teachers. I have seen naked bodies that I had hoped to never see in naked form. If it is difficult to get comfortable with the public display of normally private body parts, skipping the locker room and changing clothes at home is always an option.
What to wear: If you wear yoga pants and a t-shirt to a Bikram yoga class, you will probably be overdressed. Participants are encouraged to wear tight fitted clothing. Women generally wear spandex shorts with a tank top or sports bra. Men are usually shirtless and wear shorts in varying degrees of tightness and length. There is a reason for the madness; the more exposed skin, the easier it is to spot incorrect form and to make adjustments.
Tip for Bikram yoga newbies: Dress for Bikram yoga like you would dress for the beach. No one will think twice if you wear a bathing suit while lying on a beach towel in a 105 degree room. I have seen classmates wearing bathing suits in class, and I envy their intelligence.
5. Yoga is Expensive
Yes, Bikram yoga can be expensive, but there are ways to reduce costs. Start by searching for coupons. Groupon, Living Social, and local advertisements regularly have deals for Bikram yoga.
Check to see if your studio offers new student rates, or “refer a friend” deals, then study the class packages for the best value. Usually, larger class bundles will provide the most bang for your buck.
Still too pricy? Ask an instructor about a possible work-study or energy exchange program. Many studios offer free classes in exchange for help with cleaning or front desk tasks.
6. Employees are Passionate
All Bikram yoga instructors are passionate about their jobs. This is not a generalization, it is the straight up truth. If you think about it, what kind of crazy person would agree to work in 105 degree heat and talk non-stop for an entire 90 minute class period without having mad love for the gig? Don’t be afraid to stay after class and ask your teacher yoga questions. I guarantee the teacher will happily assist you.
7. You Can’t Predict Good Days or Bad Days
Some mornings you will wake up and feel fantastic. You will enter the yoga studio expecting to execute each pose perfectly without effort. Ninety minutes later, you will be drenched in sweat and feel like you were hit by a bus.
The very next day, the last thing you will want to do is get out of bed, let alone attend a yoga class. Then, after dragging yourself to the studio, you will flow through the poses with ease, and leave yoga feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. There is no way to predict how your body will react. Different issues, sensations, and feelings with surface each day.
8. Your Mind Will Wander
Bikram yoga teachers constantly provide instructions. You will be told to focus your eyes on the front mirror, relax your shoulders, suck in your stomach, balance your weight in your heels, lock your knee, or align your hips. You will work hard to follow all of these instructions. Suddenly, after five poses of deep concentration you may realize your mind has wandered to something completely unrelated to yoga. Then you look in the front mirror and realize you are doing a different pose then the rest of the class. This happens. Take a deep breath, recognize yourself in the front mirror, and then refocus on the teachers words. You will be striking the right pose in no time.
9. Anyone Can Do Bikram Yoga
Maybe you are overweight, out of shape, inexperienced, old, not flexible, too tired, too busy, or too scared. It’s ok, because ANYONE CAN DO BIKRAM YOGA! Beginners are welcome (and prevalent) in Bikram yoga studios. I have attended class with construction workers, businessmen, and grandmas. No one perfects the poses during their first class. Each students starting capabilities are different, and everyone improves at their own pace.
10. Feel like a new person
After 60 classes in 60 days, you will feel like a new person. Heck, it will probably take less than 60 days to enjoy the benefits of Bikram yoga. Since I completed my 60 day challenge, I definitely feel like a new person. I am more flexible than when I started. I am less stressed and my outlook has improved. I have better posture, I sleep better, and I am stronger. I feel accomplished, and I am proud.
What are you waiting for? Give Bikram yoga a try. You might actually like it. Namaste!
*I did not actually drown a small village in my own sweat. However, based on the amount of sweat I produced during my 60 consecutive days of Bikram yoga, it easily could have happened.