I have a friend who has invited me to go with her to yoga several times in the past, but each time either something else came up, or we ran into transportation problems and didn’t make the class in time. In other words, exercise fail. This weekend, I got another opportunity to go (grateful that she’s persistent!) and decided that no matter what, I would make this class.
So there I was, racing to the subway at 11am on a Saturday morning, happy that I actually made it, when she said, “Oh, you know it’s bikram yoga right?” Uhhh, now I do. Okay, no worries, I had a tank top, cropped pants, should be good to go. I had practiced yoga several times back in college and had an idea of what to expect, so I embraced this new challenge.
The studio we went to was Yoga to the People, an organization dedicated to making yoga accessible to everyone, skipping past the high fees (which go as high as $25/class in some studios), and providing a place where anyone can practice. There are also locations in SF and Berkeley, for all the California people! Each class is $8, and mats and towels can be rented for an additional $2 each. The studio is really clean (think the location I went to just opened last year), and has changing rooms with showers. I was really glad I went with a seasoned pro, who showed me where take off my shoes before we went into the changing room, how I should place a towel over my mat so I don’t slip around, and how to strategically position ourselves closer to the door to catch any cool breezes.
The class lasted an intense 90 minutes, and I sweated through every single one of them. The room is heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit at 40% humidity, and one of the biggest challenges, one that sets bikram apart from “normal” yoga, is dealing with the external heat while actively contorting the body through various poses. Everyone is profusely dripping sweat, and as gross as that may initially sound, I really appreciated the sweat as a physical sign that we were really working and pushing our bodies. There are 26 poses in bikram yoga, and each class goes through the same routine, a but you can tweak each pose to increase the difficulty in future classes.
When it was all was over, I was drenched, but felt so accomplished, energized, and motivated. The heat helped with my swollen ankle, allowed me to stretch further than I could in a cold room, and the heat is good for skin to boot! “Like a cheap sauna!”, my friend said. Indeed, except one that kicks your ass.
Well, I was hooked on bikram, or “hot yoga” as it’s sometimes called. I went back the next day – the instructor advised newbies to do 2 or 3 days in a row to loosen any muscle soreness – and it was just as tough and equally sweaty. Hopefully in time, I’ll become more flexible, stronger, and be able to introduce others to bikram.
Some tips for brave souls who would like to try bikram: 1) bring a large towel to place over your mat to prevent slipperyness, 2) bring a small towel to wipe sweat with during class, 3) hydrate well prior to class but make sure to go to the bathroom beforehand because the teachers are strict about not letting students leave the room until class is over, 4) most girls wear bra tops and shorts, while guys go shirtless and wear trunks or shorts. this isn’t for fashion, but out of necessity of trying to stay as cool as possible, 5) bring a change of clothes after, 6) drink something with electrolytes after like SmartWater, or coconut milk, or maybe Gatorade (although that’s pretty heavy with sugar)