I did my first Bikram Yoga class today. When I signed in, the woman at the desk warned me, “Sometimes people feel light headed or nauseous, or their vision might go black. It’s pretty normal.” What an intro, eh?
The reason for that, if you’re not already aware of Bikram, is that the room is heated to 105 degrees with 40% humidity. It’s HOT. And sweaty. I’ll be honest, the room smelled less than pleasant – more like a high school locker room than a relaxing yoga studio. Especially for the poses on the mat where my face was close to the carpet – mmmmm, sweaty carpet.
So, yes it was hot, and yes there were a few times where I felt slightly sick. There’s a reason they tell you not to eat 2-3 hours before. The popcorn I had two hours before was definitely still in my stomach.
The idea behind the heat is to allow for a deeper stretch and increase lung capacity with the heat and humidity. I did notice that I was more flexible than normal – I also noticed I had trouble with any pose where I had to grip my body since I was really sweaty. And I don’t sweat that much.
It’s a 90 minute class where you practice 26 postures twice on each side. It’s not a flowy class and the spiritual aspect is pretty non-existent. I would never make it my only yoga practice – in fact, I think I’d consider it more of a “workout” than yoga (I typically think of yoga as for my mind and spiritual well being – although I know it helps me physically as well). The teacher sounded like an auctioneer – I wonder if all classes are like this? She spoke rapidly and somewhat “harshly.” For some people, I can see where this wouldn’t be appealing. Especially if they thought the teachers were like that in real life. Before class, I told her it was my first time and she was very encouraging to me during and after class, so while I originally balked at the style, I got into it by the end.
Bikram has a pull factor – something that makes you want to go back. I was miserable in the first 15 minutes, thinking I was going to walk out. But by the end, I was thinking, “how can I work this into my fitness routine at least once a week?” Again, I would say this isn’t “yoga” in the traditional sense. Especially since they hold competitions…more on that later though.
After poking around on the Internet, it seems that the teacher really matters. I can see where this style would lend itself to a drill sergeant style of teaching – many have reported teachers saying, “if you’re not nauseous, you’re not doing it right.” If I’d heard that, I would’ve run for the hills. So maybe I got lucky that my first Bikram experience was with someone who seemed intense, but told me to respect my limits and sit down whenever necessary.
Overall, I think I’ll try it again. I liked it, especially afterwards. I felt great, relaxed, happy and even giggly for the rest of the day. On the whole though, it won’t be replacing my regular yoga practice!