How To Become A Bikram Yoga Goddess (Even If You've Never Tried It)
The Debrief: Sweating your tits off in the name of finding a higher plane? Sure, why not.
Illustration by Marja De Sanctis
Having landed my first (semi) secure job post-graduation, I find myself in that weird student to fully-fledged adult limbo. I live in a (slightly) nicer house, I’ve made non-uni friends and I do a weekly shop. Hey presto right? But something was missing.
Proper adults have their shit together and this means health and fitness included. Apart from taking up jogging during my time at uni, I have avoided all matter of gym and exercise class related shenanigans. Scrawling through Groupon one day, as you do as an ADULT, I came across an offer on Bikram Yoga. So, with the added recommendation from my lovely new housemates, I signed up to 10 classes in my quest to become a proper adult. Because this is what adults do. Yoga.
If anyone is as clueless about Bikram Yoga as I was then let me give you a little introduction. It’s 26 yoga postures and breathing exercises - in 90 minutes - in 40 degree heat.
Admittedly, if you had asked me a year ago, I would have scoffed at any friend I found to be doing the same, but in all this gloomy weather I was eager to lose a bit of winter bloat and this (thank you Groupon) was a cheap option.
Here's a few things to know first.
1. You don’t have to be flexible to do yoga
I’m inflexible. Really inflexible. And I’m telling you there were a lot worse than me. As the instructors kept telling us, it’s all about progress. No one is good to start off so why not give it a go?
2. You have a lot of pores
A room heated to 40 degrees + 26 tough postures = 90 minutes of a hell of a lot of sweating. I mean you sweat from pores you didn’t even know you had. I remember reaching down to my feet in my first class and my legs were streaming with sweat. Didn’t know that was possible. The obvious benefit of this is sweat means your heart is working hard and at the same time you’re releasing water retention. Added bonus: my face always looked pretty damn radiant after class. That’s once it had stopped looking infrared.
3. People are nice
If I’m being honest one of the main reasons I’ve avoided exercise classes since leaving school is because I was never that great at them. I wasn’t the worst but I sure wasn’t the best and never enjoyed the struggle of keeping up. Bikram Yoga has shown me, however corny this may sound, that it really doesn’t matter how good you are. There were people of all ages, shapes and abilities in that studio and everyone fully supported each other - applauding newbies that managed to stick it out after their first class. Whether I return to Bikram Yoga remains to be be seen, but the experience has definitely made me more inclined to go and try other exercise classes with confidence.
4. Getting there really is the hardest part
It wasn’t until the last week of yoga practicing, when I upped the ante, that I started to struggle to find the willpower to go. Maybe the initial thrill had worn off, maybe I was going too often, but getting myself in gear was becoming tough. The thing is that once you are in the studio the time goes ridiculously quickly and the high you feel afterwards is so worth it. Aside from the mentality that you have to learn to abide to in that studio, Bikram Yoga isn’t tricky. Getting there is the tough part.
5. It’s a mind workout over a body workout
Having now come to the end of my stint of Bikram Yoga I’m not 100% convinced regarding the physical effect it has had on me. It claims to be a cardio workout with toning and mental benefits as well but its critics claim that just because you practice in a hot room, doesn’t mean your heart is working any harder. I think I’ve lost a couple of pounds but nothing crazy drastic. The psychological benefits, however, I can support. It takes a lot of willpower to get through one class and that can only be doing good. After an intense 90 minutes, you’re taught to relax and release the tension in your body. I always went home and slept like a baby.
Will I be making a return to Bikram Yoga? Maybe I’ll kick 2016 off to a good start and see what it can do for me post turkey and chocolate binge. For now, it’s taught me my body can probably do a lot more than I thought it could and to get out there and try all sorts of crazy stuff. Like hula hooping.
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