I did a lot of research before I went to my hot yoga class last night. I researched nearby studios, read reviews, read about the practice of Bikram yoga, etc. Bikram follows the same 26 poses every class. Some people think it’s boring, others find it easy to mark progress. The room is set at 104*F with 40% humidity. Rooms are supposed to be carpeted so help cushion people, but you’re supposed to bring a mat and towel (or towel mat) to catch most of your sweat. And, man, did I see some sweat last night!
I went ahead and bought myself 10 classes. I figured, if I’m going to go in, might as well dive in head first. I wore some crops and a short-sleeved t-shirt. People were walking around in practically nothing (typical Bikram wear, I soon learned) almost like yoga swim wear. I soon learned that I’ll probably end up doing the same in my next few classes.
There were people of all shapes and sizes, people of various levels, and I was fortunately not the only first-timer. The instructor was welcoming and asked the newbies to raise our hands at the beginning of class. She made sure we could see ourselves in the mirror. Bikram is traditionally practiced in a lit room as opposed to dim, so you can see yourself and your postures, your form, in the mirror.
I went into the room about 15 minutes early, and it was like walking into a sauna. Except I’ve never been in a sauna, so I guess it’s what I imagine to be a sauna. My skin started to do that thing where it feel like it’s tightening up and warming up our whole body. I like that feeling–like when you first go out into the hot sun in the summer. I put out my mat in the back near the door. I consider myself in pretty good shape, but still didn’t want to take the chance of embarrassing myself. The lights were dim as people were still meditating from the 4:30 class. Oh, Bikram is also 90 minutes. Whew!
So, I got down into savasana on my mat and tried to meditate on acclimating myself to the temperature in the room. But really I was focused on not looking like a doofus.
When the instructor came in and turned on the lights, everyone got up and faced her. She introduced us and told the new people that our main goal tonight was just to stay in the room for the whole 90 minutes. I didn’t think that’d be a problem, but her warning had me a little off guard. That’s my main goal, as a new person? Is it my main goal as an in-shape new person? Or as a flubby, can’t run a mile new person? Should I be worried?
We started off with a breathing exercise–opening our lungs and working on complete inhalations. I was trying to figure out what was going on for most of that part, so I was a little less than relaxed. Fortunately (or unfortunately for some sections), you repeat most poses/exercises.
When we started moving into balancing poses, I was feeling alright. Pretty much covered in sweat, but doin’ ok. Then we starting inverting.
I started to feel my ears and toes tingle, and then when I came out of the first attempt at triangle pose (a pose I actually like!), I thought I was going to throw up on myself and then pass out. What a downer for everyone around me! I saw another younger girl sitting on the floor, and I was so glad I wasn’t going to be the only one.
I plopped myself down and focused on breathing. I took a few sips of water, focused on it going DOWN my throat instead of other stuff coming UP it. Pretty, right? Hope you weren’t eating breakfast.
After balancing, there were a few strength poses, and then we went into mat poses. Thank Jesus! The best part? In between each mat pose, we stayed in savasana for a few seconds. It was like a present after almost tossing my cookies on the mat. I felt embarrassed that I can play 4 games of soccer in a row in 90+ degree weather, but couldn’t hold my stomach together in a 104*F room doing postures.
Afterward I talked to the studio director and she gave me some tips on when and what to eat beforehand. I read that you’re supposed to avoid big or heavy food 2 to 4 hours before, but I needed something more than what I had eaten all day (plus I had an awesome run over my lunch break with coworkers).
My overall thoughts on Bikram (hot) Yoga?
That shit’s no joke. But I liked it. I liked seeing where I could go, watching all the people who’d been there for years. I liked sweating, I liked pushing my body, I liked pushing my mind. Next time I’m going to focus more on breathing (because I noticed I was holding my breath a lot), and trying to progress into getting better at the poses and being less self-conscious. But I’m pretty proud of myself for getting out there and trying something new!