Impressions: Bikram Yoga
This is the first in what will hopefully be a long running ‘Impressions’ series, where I take a look at current fitness trends. I love to dive into new activities and see what all the fuss is about. Having new experiences is the spice of life, and finding new ways to keep fit is my passion.
For today’s installment, I’m going to talk about yoga, which is not something you’ll have seen me write much about before. Being somewhat of a newbie to yoga, you’d have forgiven me for taking it slow and learning some basics. However, that isn’t really in keeping with the spirit of this new column.
I have a friend who goes regularly to Bikram Yoga, and she convinced me to give it a try. She found it through a Groupon-style deal, but now she goes for normal price because she enjoys it so much.
What is Bikram Yoga?
Each Bikram Yoga class lasts 90 minutes, and you perform the moves in a room artificially heated to 40 degrees C and 40% humidity. It was invented about 30 years ago by Bikram Choudhury in Los Angeles. You go through a pre-ordained sequence of 26 poses and some breathing exercises, which are always the same. Bikram Yoga is sometimes also known as ‘hot yoga’ for obvious reasons.
There are many benefits to doing your yoga in the heat. You will be sweating intensely, but the heat allows your body to stretch more easily, aiding in boosting your flexibility. The sweat itself will flush out those evil toxins. Not to mention that you will burn through even more calories, if weight loss is your goal.
You will be getting an all-over body workout, working every muscle, tendon and joint. It massages your internal organs, releasing deficient hormones and enzymes. You will build up your strength, your concentration and boost your immune system
So I went into this thinking I was taking a giant leap, but in reality Bikram is extremely popular and is a great fit for beginners. You do a lot of alignment and balancing work, which may be difficult at first but are necessary cornerstones of any yoga.
I was nervous before my first class. After all, I’ve not done any yoga before and I’m not the most flexible person. I’d heard tales of friends nearly fainting from the heat and having to leave the class early. I drank a lot of water beforehand because it’s important to be well hydrated prior to the class. I brought some iced water along with me for the class.
In our class, we rented a mat and towel but some places encourage you to bring your own. When I entered the room, the heat hit me, which did nothing to dispel my nerves. It’s the kind of heat where you sweat just by standing still. It’s HOT. Nobody talks before the class gets started, it’s a bit of a silent experience.
There are experienced people in there, and several beginners too, people of all ages, shapes and sizes. Us beginners just have to listen to the class instructor and watch the experienced pros and copy what they do. The instructor does speak to individuals and encourage them to adjust this or that to get the pose correct. This happened to me a lot, but I didn’t mind as it helped me improve my posture. In fact the instructor wasn’t doing the poses the whole time, she was more just describing them for us and helping us out.
The main thing the instructor was telling us was to stretch or bend that little bit further, to keep pushing ourselves. I would feel like I’d reached the right position, only to be told that I need to push my body down a little further. There was a mirror but my view was somewhat obstructed.
After Class is Over
It was amazing how just adopting these poses and stretching really gives you a great workout. I was sweating all over, and my heart was beating fast. Like I said, I’d heard tales of friends getting dizzy and having to leave, but that didn’t happen to me. Hopefully it was because I’m a fairly fit individual in general, and I kept drinking water to keep hydrated.
I felt really good after we had finished, and the time had flown by. Bikram Yoga is known to reduce stress, and I can attest to that.
I loved learning all the different poses, some standing and some on your back. You get to do each one twice to master it (yeah right) by the end of the class. I felt proud overall that I’d accomplished getting through the class, because it really is tough in the heat to concentrate and keep at it.
I can’t wait to go back and try it again. I’m now going to try going regularly with my friend who is also enthusiastic. It’s a welcome distraction from the hustle of modern life.
I truly recommend it!