Bikram Yoga is 90-minute yoga practice done in a room set at 105 degrees and 40% humidity. Each class consists of 26 poses, the same 26 every time, held for a specific amount of time and repeated two times. By practicing in the heat, your muscles warm quickly and allow you to stretch further than you could at room temperature. The heat also helps you sweat out toxins in your body and gets your heart rate up so you get some cardiovascular work.
(This is a picture from the studio where I attend.)
I’ve been doing Bikram yoga (on and off) for about 2 years and have learned a number of lessons throughout the many hot sessions. (The off times tend to correspond with times I feel a pinch in my budget.) I know many people are intimidated by Bikram Yoga – the heat, the unknown, the misconception that only the superfit can do it. But trust me – I’ve seen all types of people – male and female; college athletes and those just starting a fitness journey; flexible dancers and people who can barely reach to their toes.
Here are some things I wish I’d know as a beginner. [And are always good things for me to try to remember!]
1. Try not to wipe your sweat. You’re body will have to work harder to produce more sweat to cool you down and you’ll be hotter. Just dab around your face if it’s dripping into your eyes.
2. Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! Drink extra water the day before class and the day of. It’s too late to hydrate 15 minutes before class.
3. Don’t eat 2 hours before class. It takes a while for food to digest and if you’re full, you’re going to feel like you want to vomit. Go on an empty stomach.
4. Be quiet. Once you walk in the yoga room, do not talk until you exit it at the end of class. And especially do not talk at the end, even after the instructor has ended class. Don’t talk, even whisper, until you’ve exited the room. Many people stay in savasana for extra time at the end of class, and your gushing over how hot/how hard/how wonderful class was is very distracting to those trying to medidate.
5. Take two towels: a large one and a small one. The large towel will cover your yoga mat and prevent you from slipping. The small one will be used to dab at sweat around your eyes. (See #1)
6. Be gentle with your body and your ego. Every class will be different because you are a different person every day. You will see progress over time, but not necessarily in subsequent classes. Some days, your balance will be off. Other days, you’ll compare yourself to everyone in the room. Go at your own pace, don’t push too far, and don’t judge or compare yourself. Just do what you can.
7. The most important pose in the entire class is savasana. After the standing series, you’ll move to the floor series and in between each posture, you’ll have a savasana. Try to relax completely, not move, clear your mind and catch your breath. Yes, your heart rate will rise in this yoga class and savasana is your chance to bring it down.
8. Wear as little as possible. I wear a sports bra and itty bitty shorts. My body isn’t perfect. No one in the room has a perfect body. And everyone will be too focused on themselves to stare at what you perceive as imperfections on your body. If you aren’t comfortable in shorts and a bra, wear shorts and a tank top. Never cotton. Always wicking material. Never pants.
9. Don’t put your mat by friends. You’ll be self conscious the entire class.
10. Make sure you can see yourself in the mirror and don’t block others’ view of themselves in the mirror. Even if you’re in the back row, it’s very important to be able to see yourself in the mirror, both to help with balance and to get the mental/spiritual/emotional element of class.
There are other types of hot yoga, but Bikram is defined by specific poses, in a specific order. And a franchising/licensing agreement with Bikram Choudhury…but I’m not going to get into my thoughts on copyrighting yoga in this post. We’ll save that for another day.
Also, when you’re ready to give Bikram Yoga a try – and you should! – be sure to check with your local studio (search here to find the closest one) about introductory rates. Usually you can get a GREAT deal on your first week or month, and students almost always get a discount.
Ready, set, SWEAT! Let me know if I can answer any questions!
If you have tried Bikram Yoga, leave any tips you have in the comments! If you haven’t attended, have you ever been interested?
Note: Although I am a certified group fitness instructor and Les Mills RPM instructor, I am not certified in Bikram Yoga. The content in this post is solely my own opinion, learned from my own experience by attending class.