Back to the Basics of Bikram Yoga

What’s worse than being stuck in a 105°F room with 40 percent humidity for 90 minutes? I can tell you – it’s being stuck in that room with 20 to 30 other crazy sweaty people trying to lock their knees and put their feet behind their heads. This is the essence of Bikram yoga, or hot yoga, a series of 26 poses and breathing exercises aimed to rid the body of toxins and promote “wellness, restoration, and rejuvenation.” It sounds refreshing at first but when you add it all up, deep stretching plus breathing plus extreme sweating plus heat equals dizziness and nausea.

Cute pencil people doing the 26 postures of Bikram yoga:

The Hot 26

The Hot 26

I took my first hot yoga class on a whim about three years ago when I accidentally signed up for the “Hot 26” class. I honestly had no idea what I was getting into, and I never understood the strange breathing exercises and why we had to do two sets of every posture. All I wanted to do was throw in the sweaty yoga mat and get back to the easy breezy “reach for the sun” kind of yoga. But I kept “practicing” on and off for a couple of months for the next three years, which was about the most physical and mental action I could endure squished into 90 minutes on a consistent basis. So, I would reap all of the benefits for a while – better breathing, increased lung capacity, longer spine, and better posture – and then I’d let it all melt away for the other nine to 10 months of the year.

But now I am back and trying to make three classes a week, but it’s hard to start up again at full speed with all of the dizziness and blacking out. Have you ever felt your face go completely numb? Yes, that is what happens, to me at least, every time I start going to hot yoga: my face gets numb, I go slightly deaf in both ears for a few moments, and then I start to black out as I frantically reach for the floor to lie down until I regain some sort of consciousness and motivation to get up and finish the standing series. This is only during the first class, of course, and the postures start to get easier. There are days when I love coming to class and there are other days when I want to stab myself with a fork for picking it all up again, but I have to remember that the benefits are definitely there with a somewhat regular practice.

If you are in the Austin area and interested in experiencing all the joyous and wonderful things as I have in a hot yoga class, check out Yoga Groove. They have an awesome introductory special for new yogis – $28 for the first month of unlimited yoga. It’s quite a steal considering a drop-in class is $18 and unlimited monthly passes range from $120 to $150.

A few things to keep in mind before attending your first yoga class:

1. Bring water: The instructors give you one official water break in class and you are allowed to take them as needed throughout, but water doesn’t always do the body good in Bikram yoga. It can make you feel full and need to burp a lot.

2. Bring a mat and towel: You will be asked to leave if you don’t have a mat and towel, and you will be glad you have both when you finally get to the corpse pose.

3. Embrace your sweaty self: You will sweat tons. I don’t care who you are. Bikram makes you sweat from minute one to minute 90. So, just try to feel good about it and know that you are getting all of the little nasties out of your skin and pores.

4. Wear whatever makes you feel comfortable: I see yogis in all sorts of attire from knee-length spandex to running shorts to darn near nothing. Most women wear yogi outfits that look like swimsuits and men usually wear athletic shorts or things that look like Speedos. The general trend is that wearing less is better because it’s freaking hot in there, but I think it’s most important to wear whatever makes you feel the most comfortable in a room with a lot of hot and sweaty people.

5. Take care of yourself: If you feel like you need water or need to lie down, do it. No one is judging anyone and the most important thing is to remain inside the classroom for the full 90 minutes. Listen to your body and if you need to sit down because your face has done numb and everything looks black, please do so.

6. Breathe: I can’t stress this enough. I used to be terrible at breathing, which sounds really strange because we do it every second of every day, but I never used to engage myself in my breath. The minute I started focusing on it, I noticed a dramatic change in my practice. I became calm and everything just seemed more fluid.

Want to see some Bikram in action? Check out some footage of professional yogini Courtney Mace at a regional competition in NYC. This gave me a really good idea of what some of these poses are supposed to look like.

Yoga Groove
7950 Great Northern Blvd.
Austin, TX 78757
(512) 407-9909


1 Comment

Filed under Austin, Yoga

One response to “Back to the Basics of Bikram Yoga

  1. Pingback: PSA: Celebrate Labor Day with Free Day of Yoga « Bird Fly Good

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