Mom told me she tried hot yoga once and felt like she was going to either a) pass out or b) throw up. Why this inspired me to try it for myself, I have no idea. I guess it was the Groupon deal that offered me ten classes at Bikram Yoga Avondale, right down the street.
Hot yoga is yoga in a 105-degree studio. Not only is it 105 degrees, but it’s a humid, sticky 105 degrees, perpetuated by the dripping sweat of students to your left and right. Bikram Yoga is different than hot yoga. Yes, it’s still taught in a super-scalding studio. It differs in that Bikram utilizes twenty-six positions, repeated twice each, over the course of a 90-minute period. Therefore, all Bikram Yoga is hot, but not all hot yoga is Bikram.
Bikram Yoga was developed by yoga guru Bikram Choudhury. He was born in Calcutta, India, in 1946 and was a yoga champion in his youth, as was his wife. In 1974, the Choudhurys founded the Yoga College of India in Beverly Hills, California, to teach his method, which soon became one of the most popular styles of yoga practiced in the west. Hence the birth of Bikram Yoga.
What’s up with the twenty-six postures? According to the Bikram Yoga website: “these 26 postures systematically work every part of the body, to give all the internal organs, all the veins, all the ligaments, and all the muscles everything they need to maintain optimum health and maximum function.”
What’s up with the HEAT? Two things:
- The heat helps loosen up your muscles, which makes you more flexible and a lot less likely to injure yourself doing, for example, the horrific camel pose.
- Apparently, sweating a lot gets rid of toxins. Impurities are flushed out through the skin, and you feel better.
This is all great in theory, oh Yoga Master, but is any of it true?
Now that I’ve given you the gist of Bikram Yoga, let me give you my review, as a regular yoga practitioner who had never been to a hot yoga class before. The Bikram Yoga Avondale studio itself is lovely. The girls at the front desk (and the instructors) are pleasant, positive, and of course, beautiful. The facilities are clean and brightly lit.
Thankfully, they give you a pre-class new student check-list, which includes (but is not limited to): You will need to bring a large towel, yoga mat, and water. Avoid eating 2 – 3 hours before class. (I suggest four.) Bring a positive attitude! If you feel nervous, scared or a little intimidated, no problem; many people may feel that way initially. Don’t let it stop you from coming to class.
Then, you show up, and get ready to go. I admit, at my first class, I wore normal gym clothes: cotton capris, a sports bra, and a tank top. I sat out in the waiting area after putting my mat and towel down in the classroom, for fear of too much heat for too long. When the instructor went in, I went in, and we got started. I was afraid, in that first class, to push my body too hard. I knew where I was weak, and I didn’t realize the miracle of HEAT until a couple sessions later.
In my first class, I had to sit down a couple times. (They tell you to sit if you need to, but never lie down and never leave the classroom!) I sat because I saw spots and thought I was a) going to pass out or b) going to puke. Sound familiar? I left the studio that day soaked to the bone, dizzy, exhausted, and with a gift: a tiny pin that said “I Survived my First Bikram Yoga Class.”
Strangely, I was drawn back the next day. I finished my Groupon ten-class deal, and I’m now joining the studio. Why? Because Bikram Yoga is awesome. According to Jake, it’s the hardest thing he’s ever done, and that’s saying something (considering my husband’s gym routine would make a lesser man faint).
I agree with him. I have to psyche myself into going; it’s never a flighty “I think I’ll go to yoga today.” It’s an ordeal. Once I get there, I’m fine. I’ve realized that HEAT allows me to contort my non-flexible body into poses I never thought imaginable. I’m even one of those chicks in the short-shorts and sports bra now. I’m over my body image crap, because no one at Bikram cares. They’re all just as almost-naked as me. And it’s not like you have time to check anyone out. The class is intense, fast-paced, and if you actually took a moment to look around, you’d fall over.
When I leave a Bikram Yoga class, I feel woozy but ready to take on the world. My body thanks me for it, and I’ve seen amazing results. I wouldn’t suggest hot yoga to everyone. It’s not an easy thing—physically or mentally. But if you think you’re tough, give it a try. It’s the healthiest addiction I can think of. Namaste.