Friday, April 27, 2012

My Experience with Bikram Yoga

So for a long time now I've wanted to try Bikram yoga. Bikram yoga is an intensive yoga class that is 90 minutes long in a 105 degree room with 40% humidity. Let me first explain why this class (which sounds like torture) really appealed to me: it seemed to promise the “inner peace” yogis profess in their lives while simultaneously being a strenuous mental and physical exercise. One of my friends (a Corepower yoga devotee) explained to me that she really didn’t like Bikram- that it was too strict and unfriendly. There’s no talking, drinking water at will etc. People who leave early are often chastised, but honestly I like this kind of demanding workout and I’m used to there being structure in the class setting.

So why did I want to start yoga? For a lot of reasons. The first was obvious: for de-stressing and for finding “inner peace”. Lame, I know, but sometimes I have a temper that is UGLY and mean. It almost never comes out, but when it does and if you ever see it you surely won’t forget it (ask my roommates who got my car towed right before I had a final…NOT a happy camper! Lol). It doesn’t happen often or to most people, but I think I tend to pent up a lot of my frustrations and then it comes spewing out at once -_-

The next reason I wanted to try it was for the body. I don’t expect to lose a ton of weight- but I’m excited to get my sweat on! I get bloated easily- super easily. I think a lot of it stems from my IBS and being very sensitive to any food I eat. On top of the bloating I’ve started getting a lot of pain in my shoulder and upper back- I’m not a believer in pain medications of any kind. I’m hoping this will help to naturally ease some of the sharp pains I’ve been feeling near my trapezoidal muscle. Its been getting almost unbearable these past few weeks, and its made finishing my workout really hard to do. On top of that I’ve been having a lot of sleep issues. I haven’t been able to stay asleep a full night for a few months now, and I’m always tired and groggy which makes me a bit careless in day to day life.

On top of all this there are some days I want to get a bit of a workout without spending time in the gym. I loved dance because it’s the same thing over and over, but no one is ever perfect. You’re constantly improving, and I think Bikram will be much of the same.

After my First Class:
WOW. That was hot haha! My first thought walking in was “Hmm…not too bad”. When class started I realized that’s because the studio had had 30 minutes to air out and the heater and humidifier weren’t on. The heat didn’t feel intense until about 30-45 minutes in. We laid down and I felt all the blood rush to my head. An older man nearby was moaning asking when could we leave- and that was the first time the thought of leaving even seemed like an option. It made the end drag on, so now I understand the stories of why instructors are upset when people leave. That first seed of negativity can really implant itself in to your hand. It wasn’t nearly as bad until he was endlessly moaning and groaning and causing a scene. I’ve read a lot of stories about people considering leaving and having a hard time finishing, and now I understand why. It is seriously vigorous- even regulars had to take breaks at time. Me being the stubborn mule I am refused to take a break and sit down- but I hit a point where I got pretty dizzy and nervous for a second but I just told myself to calm down and keep going.

If you can, try and bring an absorbent towel for your mat. I was totally unaware that I could sweat so much. It was actually pretty disgusting. Anytime my head was upside down after the 20 minute mark I’d start not being able to see because the sweat kept getting in my eyes. But I guess that’s what happens when you’re in a 105 degree room with high humidity. My towel was thin enough to where it really started to get slippery- so just try for something a bit more absorbent!

I’ve realized this post is getting WAY too long…so let me list the pros and cons as I see them:

1. It's a great workout without going to the gym- they say you can burn 800-1000 calories, but I think anywhere around the 3-500 mark is much more accurate. This would of course also depend on your weight and how hard you work
2. Your skin will look better. Look around you in class, everyone has great skin and I can’t help but think the yoga helps. You sweat so much that it really helps to de-clog your pores and I’ve noticed that even the skin on my body feels more supple
3. Inner peace…or something like that! Haha

1.     It is HOT. I really like it now, but I’ve seen enough people nearly pass out where I think I can safely say this isn’t for everyone. They say its for everyone of all ages and skill levels, but many people (older or out of shape) tend to get pretty sick in class. If you’re mentally strong I think you’d be able to tough it out, but just be careful if you faint easily
2.     Its expensive- any class with instruction will be costly. Thankfully a lot of studios run Groupon deals so look for those in your area! Also you’ll want to buy a mat and towels, sports bras, shorts adds up pretty quickly
3.     It takes up a lot of time. The class is 90 minutes, and most studios ask that you get there 10-15 minutes before. On top of that you can’t eat heavy meals 2 hours before and you’ll absolutely need to shower after. You pretty much have to revolve your entire day around this class, so days I’m short on time I find it hard to go

UPDATE - After my second class
My second time was way easier! I agree with everyone who says the first class is the hardest. I’ve heard of Bikram being described as the “Yoga for Athletes” because of its strength training and discipline, I can’t help but agree. Also it focuses on stretching and healing- and most athletes or people that regularly work out are usually nursing some kind of injury anyway. Hopefully I’ll update you guys in the future about my shoulder pain and hopefully it’ll be much improved