A Complete Beginner in Bikram Yoga
By Natalcho on April 28, 2012
Yesterday was a big day - I went to Bikram yoga for the first time. If you haven't heard of Bikram Yoga, as far as I could gather it is based on Hatha yoga but you practice it for 90 minutes at 40 Celsius (105 F) temperature. So basically you practice yoga in a sauna. Tough, tough, tough!
I've been meaning to give Bikram yoga a try for a very long time but you have to go to a special Bikram yoga studio and somehow I always ended up at the regular yoga class in my gym. But boy, the high temperature really takes this sport to a whole different level. I am surely going back!
I wasn't that excited at the beginning of the class though. Firstly, I made every effort to make it to the studio 30 minutes before class as recommended for a beginner. Unfortunately, per usual, I was running 15 minutes late so when I arrived at the studio the woman at reception got very stressed out.
"You are late, you don't have any time, you really need to hurry up if you want to make it!" said in a high pitched voice.
"I know, just give me the forms already!" said in a somewhat sleepy, I-thought-yoga-was-supposed-to-be-relaxing-so-why-do-you-want-to-stress-me-out voice.
I signed countless disclaimers stating that I had no heart condition, I wasn't pregnant and there wasn't any reason known to me why I could not stay in a 40C room for 90 minutes. I was already getting worried.
Once I finished up with the paperwork, the receptionist ran with me to the elevator pushing the button about 5 times while repeating "You will be late, oh you will be late. Do you have a water bottle with you?" The elevator finally came and she came in with me pushing the close button another 5 times.
"Is that coffee in your hand" she said looking disapprovingly at my Starbucks latte.
"Yes." I said and immediately regretted that I didn't say it was tea. She looked so disappointed in me!
"You should not drink coffee before doing Bikram yoga."
Silence, head down. Oh the shame!
By the time we arrived on the third floor I was annoyed. She rushed me to the changing room and shouted "You need to hurry or you will be late."
"I'll just be a minute."
I started changing relieved that she finally left me alone. Literally a minute later she stormed back into the changing room. What now?
"You are already late, we are all waiting for you." Oh by that time she was clearly annoyed as well. My annoyance turned into fear as I realised that she was not only the receptionist but also the teacher. Aren't yogis supposed to be calm and collected and with unlimited patience?
"Start without me, I just need to run to the bathroom and I'll be there in a minute."
I rushed to the bathroom only to hear her banging on the door (of the toilette!) 20 second later:
"Natalcho, we are all waiting for you."
"I am in the bathroom. I will come in a minute!!!" I started laughing. I mean, I am not 4 years old, I am paying a lot of money to go to this class and if I need to go to the bathroom before going in a sauna for 90 minutes then I will go. Just start without me!
I finally entered the class room and the heat hit me in the face like a brick wall. I found a place in the back and spread my mat and my towel.
"Finally, we can begin now that Natalcho has finally decided to join us!" the teacher said.
Are you kidding me? I just really had to go to the bathroom and I was actually right on time for the class! We weren't late!
We started with a breathing exercise. I could not breathe. The heat was so intense and as I looked around me it became obvious that I was completely overdressed. I was in shorts and a tanktop but everyone else seemed to be in a swimsuit. The sweating began as we continued with the breathing exercise. 10 minutes of deep breaths and exhalations in a sauna. If the heat wasn't enough to get me dizzy, the deep breathing certainly did the trick. As the teacher started explaining the first pose I reached for my water bottle. My mouth was dry and the room was spinning around me.
"No Natalcho, you cannot drink water for the first 25 minutes. Your body is warming up and you should not cool it down with water." the teacher shouted from across the room as all the other yogis around me looked at me. My eyes filled with horror. "I will announce the first water break in exactly 20 minutes."
I dropped the bottle and got up feeling even more embarassed. And of course the only thing I could think of was "Water, water, water." All my prior research on Bikram yoga said that you need to drink a lot, A LOT, of water before, during and after class to avoid dehydration. And to be honest, unless I was about to harm myself somehow I don't really like instructors to be so controlling in their class room. I of course read a lot after the class and I haven't been able to find online this rule that you should not drink water during the first 25 minutes. I am not sure if it is legitimate but it was definitely painful! Have you guys ever heard of this?
20 minutes into the class I was ready to leave. I was sweating like crazy, sweat dripping all over my beautiful brand new yoga towel - sniff - and I still had 5 minutes to go before being allowed to drink water. I was getting dizzier and dizzier and decided to rest during the next pose. I lied down in child's pose which is what I was taught to do in all of my other yoga classes when I wanted to rest.
"Natalcho, no, you should not lie down. You will feel more nauseous."
At this moment I was feeling so tired, hot and convinced that the teacher was trying to kill me in broad daylight! I dragged my self up again, the sweat dripping down.
It felt like an eternity had passed but she finally announced that we could now drink. My water was already warm by that time but it felt so good in my dry mouth!
Things started to flow from there. We went through the first 60 minutes doing standing poses and then the last 30 minutes we did poses lying on our mats. I was feeling better and better, the heat didn't bother me anymore as much and I started to (dare say it?) enjoy myself. By the end of class I was absolutely in love with Bikram yoga. It was tough, very very tough. The heat was difficult to handle but the poses themselves were pretty easy. I guess at that temperature you cannot be expected to do repeated sun salutations.
The shower after the class was one of the best showers I have ever taken. My body cooled off slowly and I felt so relaxed and yet strangely energized. I was literally walking back home singing to the songs on my iPhone. I might have cracked a moonwalk here and there when nobody was looking:)
All in all, I am absolutely hooked! I now have a free pass for the next 10 days to take as many classes as I want to. I am positive I cannot survive more than one per day and probably can't do consecutive days but I will try to go at least every other day this week. There is a Bikram yoga class every morning at 6.30 so I am trying to prepare myself mentally for getting up so early. I know the getting up part will be a struggle but I honestly can't imagine a better way to start my day so I am willing to give it a try. Not tomorrow morning though ... I have a few more episodes of the Vampire Diaries left to watch tonight:)
Have you guys ever done Bikram yoga? Tell me if you have any experience and tips. I don't want to embarrass myself again in my next class!