What is Bikram Yoga?
Bikram yoga, more commonly known as "hot yoga", is a system of yoga poses developed from traditional hatha yoga techniques by a man named Bikram Choudhury. Hot yoga is performed in a studio that is heated to and average of 105 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity of 40 percent. A session of Bikram yoga lasts for 90 minutes and consists of a series of 26 postures.
What Was I Thinking?
First of all, I don't even know if I really like yoga to begin with. I've taken a couple classes and done workout video exercises of yoga, but only because it was part of a workout schedule that I was following, and not really because I wanted to.
In fact, I don't ever really remember walking away from a yoga workout feeling truly satisfied.
"Why are you even going if you don't like yoga?"
Well, I reasoned, I have always enjoyed hitting up the sauna after a good workout to work up a good sweat. Maybe I'll like the combination of the two together. Some people swear by yoga. I, on the other hand, have a love/hate relationship with yoga. It's great for stretching, but it's not really a good workout. That's just my opinion.
I show up at the studio dressed in my typical workout gear, some leggings, a sports bra and a loose-fitting tank top. I'm also armed with a big helping of Gatorade, my dusty yoga mat and a couple of hand towels. The woman at the desk advises me to purchase some water instead and urges me to leave the Gatorade in the locker for after class. They have a daily drop-in rate with a free second class to be used within one week for first-timers. I pay my dues and am instructed to remove my socks and shoes and to leave them in the front on the shoe rack or on the floor with everyone else's slippers.
I have no idea what I'm doing.
I go to the locker, stick my Gatorade in an empty locker and find my way to the "hot room".
I walk in to a completely dark, hot ass room. There are mirrors all around the studio on almost every wall except the back wall.
All the yogi regulars are all lined up at the front, some laying down, some stretching, some just sitting in quiet meditation. One of the first things I notice is that there is no talking or socializing, whatsoever. Everyone is kind of just in their own world. Another thing I noticed is that everyone who is laying down in savasana, or corpse pose, is laying with their feet pointed towards the back of the room.
I set up my mat in the back corner and place one towel on the mat where my back would be and put the other towel I brought on the side so I can use it later to wipe off all my sweat.
The instructor arrives and flips on the lights.
The instructor greeted us all and asked if there was anyone new. I raised my hand. She then gave me a brief lecture and told me that there are 26 poses and I would not be expected to do all 26 poses in the first class. She said my main focus for today was simply to stay in the class for the entire duration of the 90 minute class, if possible. I was also told to listen to my body and to lay down on my mat in savasana to catch my breath, if needed.
My upper lip was sweating just standing there. I didn't want to know exactly how hot the room was. But, I was enjoying the heat so far.
Oh man, if you want to get a feel for your heat tolerance, take a hot yoga class! Five minutes into it, I wanted to quit... and we were only in like the second or third pose!
I had to keep telling myself, "I can do this." My main goal for today is just to stay in the room... I can do that.
I had to take several breaks in order to stop myself from passing out or fainting. It's one thing to lie still in the heat, but it's a whole other thing to try and do yoga poses that intentionally elevate your heart rate in a freaking sauna!
But in the end, I think I did pretty good for my first time! I want to say I did maybe 20/26 poses.
When it was all done, you can bet that I was one of the first people to leave the room. I could NOT wait to get a whiff of some fresh, clean, not humid sweaty-smelling air!!
The instructor greeted me outside and told me to come back for my second class, and tried to encourage me by telling me it gets easier every time. She then proceeded to tell me how she has seen people's bodies change and get more sculpted in just a few months time.
I have another free class. Maybe I will.
But... it was brutal, indeed.
However, I feel soooooo good right now. I brought two small hand towels and I soaked them both! Which, by the way, was a rookie mistake. You need to bring a long enough towel to cover your mat and a good spare to wipe off with afterwards.
I feel like I just had a hardcore workout and it feels amazing. I feel like I sweat out all of the toxins in my body, and boy, do I feel delicious!
Maybe I will come back... and maybe it will get easier.
Bonus: I woke up the next day to a seemingly flatter stomach.
I came back for my second free class just before it was about to expire, later on in the week.
This time, I was better prepared. I drank the recommended eight ounces of water the day before I planned to take the yoga class and I drank at least a liter of water the day of, prior to taking the class.
This time around, I was more familiar with the poses, and I really noticed the difference as far as my endurance and tolerance of the heat. I think staying hydrated is the key to surviving the 90 minutes in full.
I was able to do all 26 poses with fewer breaks this time (yay me!), and I stayed in the room the entire time!
I cannot put into words how you feel after class is all over and done with. The feeling afterwards is absolutely the best! You just feel so relaxed and stretched out. Personally, I feel like you sweat out all of the toxins in your body and it just feels so good!
The best part of doing hot yoga is taking a nice hot shower afterwards. I think I am hooked and I've signed up for a 10-day card with the possibility to upgrade if I truly do end up liking it and getting hooked.
More Than I Expected
I never thought I would like yoga so much!
I typically like the more aggressive workouts when it comes to my fitness regimen. I usually do intense cardio and some weight training. I always understood the importance of flexibility and stretching as part of my fitness regimen, but I never really was a big fan of yoga days... until now!
So, I finished my 10-day card and signed up for a 28-day card. When that was done, I went ahead and signed up for the monthly rate for six months.
Aside from increased flexibility and stretching you out, hot yoga touts many health benefits, such as increasing the oxygen in your body, eliminating toxins and promoting the mind and body connection.
Hot yoga membership is not cheap, though. And it can be difficult to maintain a regular workout routine because of time constraints. You're gone almost two hours in yoga land when you take a hot yoga class. So, those are two things to consider if you're curious about hot yoga.
Again, I cannot put into words the amazing goodness that floods your body after a good hot yoga session... you may just have to try it out and go see for yourself!
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