Bikram Yoga

So you may have picked up in my last post that I signed up for a Bikram Yoga class.  Trying something new is also one of my 2011 goals. So why did I pick Bikram instead of a regular yoga class? The real reason? Based on what little yoga I’ve done, I never felt like it truly gave me a good workout; I couldn’t get my mind to just focus on what I was doing; I just felt like I would stand in a pose wait and wait until it was time to switch; I didn’t break a sweat; I didn’t see any benefit. I needed something that would capture my attention, force me to focus, and would feel like I was accomplishing something. So I figured that doing 26 poses twice for 90 minutes in a 105 degree room should do the trick.  I also thought that this might be a good bridge for me to start enjoying regular(?) yoga (You know, at home, in front of my TV with a free video).

On top of wanting to feel like I got a good workout in during my yoga class, Bikram claims all kinds of benefits such as helping to relieve back pain, improving skin, detoxifying the body, managing stress and anxiety (I can always use some extra help in this area!), lifting depression, helping with breathing problems such as asthma, balancing emotions, regulating the thyroid, acting as a preventative medicine or anti-aging tool, improving cholesterol, helping with diabetes, blood pressure, and arthritis (Whew, that’s a list!).

There are a lot of requirements for a studio to be considered Bikram, such as teacher training, specific temperature and humidity, flooring and size of studio, and what is allowed in the yoga room (only mat, towel, and water – no other drinks, such as gatorade, watches, or shoes).  The practice is strict.  Each session does not deviate from the 26 poses and much of what the instructors say is scripted.  Students are not allowed to talk (I’ve noticed that the strictness of this varies by teacher, some teachers ask you questions expecting a response, but that is the only time students ever talk in the room). I know this sounds like a lot, but something about this structure and discipline appeals to me.  Maybe, it’s my Type A personality, but I like knowing what I can expect when I walk into the yoga room.

The room is heated to 105 degrees so that your muscles are warm, more flexible, and able to stretch deeper.  The heat also allows for your body to sweat out “toxins.”  Each of the 26 postures offer different benefits and work to restore your body to a healthy, natural working order. There is a lot more information about Bikram out there (I’ll post a couple links at the end of this post), but that’s some quick information about it for you.

The real question, though, is what do I think of it?  As of this morning, I’ve been to six classes over the past week and a half.  The instructor told me that my goal for the first class was to remain in the room for the full 90 minutes; I could do poses as I felt able, but to rest (in a specific position) when I felt that it was too much; if I made it through the entire class in the room, then it was a success.  I felt like my first class went pretty well; I felt a little nauseous from the heat a couple of times, but was able to stay in the room.  I was able to do most of the poses (though, definitely not all); I made it a goal to do each pose at least once. Within my first ten minutes in the room I was dripping with sweat. And I don’t just mean that I felt sticky and sweaty like I do after a run.  In some poses, the sweat rolled off me in a stream (like low pressure from a water faucet).  By the end of class, I literally looked like I had jumped in a pool and hadn’t dried off yet (Attractive? No?). I understand why they tell you to lay a towel on top of your mat; you need something to try to catch some of the sweat so everyone isn’t slipping in their own sweat puddles!  Some of the poses were difficult, but I never felt like I was forced to do something that my body couldn’t handle.  The instructors were great about correcting any posture that was done incorrectly.  I was definitely sore afterwards, but I hear that’s pretty standard. Sources also say that it takes at least ten classes for the body to start to acclimate and reap the full benefits. As of class six, I can say that I’m still experiencing soreness and working through some of the poses, but can tell a definite difference while I’m in there. I definitely plan to attend at least 3-4 times a week for the remainder of June.

Unfortunately, I doubt my budget or time (once I return to work) will allow for me to keep up regular attendance past June.  Bikram yoga is expensive (probably because to use the title “Bikram” instead of “hot” instructors have to go through serious training).  Luckily, Bikram Yoga Memphis had a killer new student deal going on (I was able to get a whole month unlimited for only $40!). But I’m hopeful that our budget will allow an unlimited month once a year during the summer (regular price is a lot more than $40); so that I can return again next June. And if not, then I can at least know that I was blessed enough to try Bikram Yoga and hopefully I will be able to enjoy yoga more regularly now (not just force myself to do it).

Want to know more about Bikram? Check out these sites:

**Please note that I am not a yoga expert, or an expert of any kind (fitness or otherwise). I may claim infinite knowledge in some areas, but know that I say so jokingly. I am not a medical professional and therefore my blog should not be used as medical advice. Please consult with your own physician for what you should and shouldn’t do fitness-wise.  This blog documents my health journey and should not be used as the decision-maker for your health and fitness (as much fun as it would be for me to have that much control over you, that kind of responsibility would be too much. But thanks for considering it).

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