Confessions of a Bikram Virgin Part 2

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January 6, 2012

This past year, I’ve done my best to try out lots of different flavors of yoga. If you read my post yesterday, you know that a week ago I got to have my very first Bikram yoga experience at Bikram Yoga Cleveland, and trying Bikram was more than just trying out a new flavor; it felt like I had traveled to a whole new country to try out the local cuisine.

I had my advice from fellow yogi friends and the Twitter and Facebook yoga communities (see Confessions of a Bikram Virgin Part 1) and I was ready to take on this hot new world of Bikram. For those of you not familiar with Bikram yoga, it is a 90-minute class that consists of 26 yoga postures conducted in a room heated to 105 degrees! So without further delay, here are my major takeaways from my virgin Bikram trip:

Free Your Mind and The Rest of the Clothes Will Follow. The tips about wearing as little clothing as possible were right on the mark. I wore a pair of clingy shorts and a yoga tank top, which I thought was plenty good. About twenty minutes into class, I wished I was wearing a bikini. When you look around the room, people have on short-shorts, the ladies’ midriffs are exposed, and the men are pretty much shirtless (or will be before the class is over). I believe Bikram yoga goes miles in bringing out a person’s ability to lose their inhibitions. I did a review on K.Deere Haute Yoga Wear (see pic below) a while back and went on the record to say there was no way in hell I would wear those short-shorts and expose my pasty white cottage cheese thighs to the yoga world. Now, I’ll eat my words and say that I would proudly sport my thighs in those pants in any Bikram class. Bye bye, inhibitions. Hello, love of the body!

Bum Bums from K. Deer Haute Yoga Wear

Kristine, the designer of K. Deer Haute Yoga Wear got a good laugh when I told her I was finally ready for her Bum Bums. She is offering a special discount on her yoga wear to Daily Downward Dog readers. Just enter the discount code DDD15 when you place you order and you’ll receive a 15% discount.

The Man in the Mirror. If Bikram yoga had a theme song – hell, if Bikram yoga even had music playing – I’m thinking it should be “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson. Unlike most yoga studios I attend, in Bikram yoga there are mirrors on the wall, and you are asked to gaze at yourself and look inside. I was in the second row in class and was partially blocked by the person in front of me, so I wasn’t always able to see myself in the mirror. I’m not sure if I’m really digging the whole mirror thing. I like the message of looking into your eyes and smiling, but I’d rather close my eyes and look inside my mind and my body.

 

We’re going hot, hot, hot! (On second thought, maybe the David Johansen cover version of this song would be a better yoga theme song for Bikram.) I like hot yoga and try to go to a few classes a week at Yoga Bliss Akron in a studio that is set to 85-90 degrees. Each time I walk into the hot room at Yoga Bliss, it feels downright tropical, almost like going to Florida after being in the frigid Ohio winter weather. Ninety degrees is plenty hot; 105 degrees just seems a bit gratuitous. It wasn’t a pleasant hot vacation experience; instead it felt almost oppressing as my lungs started to tighten toward the beginning of class.

I don’t think I’ll ever get over the sight of the sweat I saw pouring off the man in front of me. It was literally flowing off of him like a river forming a huge puddle on his mat, even with a towel. I have to admit, my dream did come a little true in that I didn’t sweat as much as I thought I would. I’m just not a big sweater, probably because I don’t drink enough water, but it was so damn hot in there that the humidity may have been evaporating my sweat before I even started to drip. If I were to take up Bikram, the whole hydrating thing would be one major benefit as it would force me to drink more H20.

Beginners Welcome. Bikram yogis are extremely nice and very welcoming to newbies. When I first walked into the studio, the room was dark, and I went to place my mat in the first open spot I saw. There were two rows of mats forming and mirrors on both walls, and I didn’t know how the class was set up. The woman on the mat next to me asked if I was new, and when she found out I was, I thought it was very cool that she suggested that I move to the back row so I could watch the other students. Then someone else moved so I could put my mat next to Cherie. I got settled in and looked next to me where there was a very serious looking young girl (sans mother) who could not have been more than 10. Wow, I thought, Bikram is really recruiting them young.

The instructor of the class, Danielle Hoffman, had the names of all the new students and called them out so she (and the rest of the class) knew where we were located. I was impressed by the way she remembered our names, kept an eye on us, and gave just the right amount of direction and encouragement to each of us. There are little to no hands on adjustments in Bikram (which I liked), and Danielle was able to provide spot on verbal instructions to get each student in the right alignment.

I have always thought it was kind of weird and a bit showy that Bikram teachers stand on a platform at the front of the class. Now I know that it is absolutely essential that they do so because they have to keep an eye out for anyone that might be ready to pass out!

Danielle was there to greet me upon my arrival!

Danielle did a great job of explaining how to get into the poses and the benefits of each, and we were told to sit down at any time if we got hot or tired. In fact, we were encouraged to stay in the hot room the entire class and just sit if we needed to (not forced to stay, like a few stories I had heard).

The young girl next to me was one of the main reasons I stuck it out through class. I figured that if she could do it, then I better well be able to keep going. Her name was Alex, and it turns out that she was 11 and this was only her third Bikram class. I’m probably going to burn in Bikram hell, but when we talked after class, I made sure to let her know that there were other types of yoga and that she might want to give a few of them a try before she puts all her eggs in the Bikram basket (she assured me she would).

You need to bring a towel, but not just any towel; I’d recommend a NamaSTAY yoga towel. I’m a big fan of having a towel on my yoga mat during hot yoga classes, but I never truly appreciated the importance of it until I practiced in 105 degree heat! NamaSTAY yoga towels have a flap at each end that wraps around the mat to keep it from slipping, and it absorbs the sweat to keep you grounded and stable throughout class. Cherie Greenwald is the inventor of the NamaSTAY yoga towel, and I predict that she will someday become famous in the Bikram/hot yoga community for developing the best hot yoga towel ever! [If you would like more info about NamaSTAY towels and would love a special discount offer, please check out my review.]

You can do this! If you have been practicing Hatha yoga, in my opinion, you can handle the 26 postures that comprise a Bikram class. I had this notion in my mind that it was going to be extremely challenging and that I would collapse in a big sweaty ball on my mat, unable to do half of the postures. Granted, I didn’t get fully into all of the poses, but I was able to do them. Bikram created this practice from Hatha yoga, but there are no inversions, no really intense arm balances, and in my opinion not too much core work. The real genius in this practice is that Bikram put together the 26 poses to work every part of the body and to give all of the internal organs, veins, ligaments, and muscles everything they need to maintain optimum health and maximum function (yeah, I picked that up pretty much verbatim from the brochure). The extreme heat and the twisting and stretching flushes away the toxins, or waste products, of all the glands and organs of the body.

Of course, it takes a great instructor to guide and motivate people through the heat, and Danielle had just the right mix of encouragement and perky enthusiasm to keep the class of over twenty happily sweating and twisting away. My only regret is that I wish I didn’t hold back at the beginning of class. Not knowing what to expect, I did not push myself as hard as I could have because I was concerned about conserving energy. But being a virgin, the class was exploratory for me, and next time I’ll know how far I can take myself.

Savasanaaaaahhhhh!

I’m Only Here for the Savasana! Savasana rocks, and Bikram yogis get that! Towards the second half of class, there is a break for savasana in between almost every pose. It is not only awesome but is a real life-saver towards the end of class when you need that break to catch your breath, let your heart rate slow down,  and of course, let the benefits of the previous posture literally bake in!

Every Breath You Take. Breathing is the one thing that I don’t think I was doing properly. I’m a fan of ujjayi breathing where you inhale and exhale out through the nose. This form of breathing keeps the heat inside the body. However, when I put that logic to use, I figured the last thing I wanted to do in a Bikram class was stoke the fires even more. Hell, I was afraid I might combust. So, I was breathing in and out through my mouth, and I have to admit at times it was forced. I must have missed the breathing instruction portion of the class, and like a dork I didn’t ask. It’s pretty quiet in the Bikram room, and I wasn’t sure if questions were welcome. In any case, before I go to another class, I’ll be sure to get the breathing correct. Please leave a comment if you have any tips for me!

 

Variety is the spice of life.  Well, for Bikram, consistency is the way of life. Twenty-six poses, each one repeated twice. Every class, every time. Twenty-six poses, rinse, pause, and repeat. I get the concept, but this yogini needs a little variety to spice up my yoga practice.

 

The Hills are [not] Alive With the Sound of Music. In case you didn’t pick this up already, there is no music in a Bikram class. No music! I have to admit, I needed the silence so I could concentrate on the instructions, but I would definitely miss the music if I did this practice on a regular basis.

 

 

Afterglow. Well, I don’t think I really had one. I will tell you that it took 45 minutes for my face to go from full-on lobster to my normal pasty white freckled glow. I didn’t feel the extreme yoga high, which really bummed me out. Instead, I felt very lethargic and experienced some pain in my lower left back. The brochure for the studio states that this is absolutely normal and is a good sign that your body is cleansing. Being that I attended this class two days after Christmas and had been gorging on big holiday meals, cookies, and wine (which explain the lethargy) – my body needed some well deserved rest after purging the enormous amounts of sugar and toxins I took in over the holidays. The next day I did feel awesome and had a little high, so maybe the Bikram afterglow just took a day to settle in.

 

I’m not going to go into any of the crazy stuff that Bikram has done recently, primarily because I don’t want to get sued for writing about him! B.C., please take mercy on The Daily Downward Dog – I am just here speaking my truth.

I totally understand why people love Bikram so much. It does feel good to sweat out those toxins, and the practice seems more like an “experience” or better yet, a mash-up of a mental and physical challenge. You go in with a fighting spirit, ready to beat the heat and to let go of the negative chatter in your mind so that you can do some amazing things for your body and your health. When you make it through an entire class, it is a major feeling of accomplishment. Cue: Rocky theme song!

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So the big burning question that the Twitter community had for me the next day is whether or not I would attend another Bikram class, and the answer to that is yes.

But, will I fully embrace Bikram and attend regularly? The answer to that question is no. I need the variety, I need the music, and I need to drink a hell of a lot more water! I’ve put another notch on my yoga belt, and I’ve got lots more flavors to try. And, isn’t it cool that we have so many flavors of yoga to try?

Like I mentioned in my previous post, if you have always wanted to try Bikram, I would highly recommend that you give it a try, and if you live in northern Ohio, please make a visit and support Bikram Yoga Cleveland.

Hot Bikram Yoga and Cleveland Snow – the perfect combo! Woo Hoo Cleveland finally has their first Bikram yoga studio!

Thanks again to Danielle and Bikram Yoga Cleveland for such a great virgin experience and to Cherie and Alex, whose presence helped encourage and lift me through the entire class. The newbies didn’t get any applause at the end of class, but I know we all felt a major sense of accomplishment.

So, how was your first Bikram experience? I would love to hear from you, so please join in the conversation.

Want some more confessions? This wasn’t my first trip to the confession booth, check out The Daily Downward Dog’s Confessions of a Kirtan Virgin and Neti Pot Confessions.

Leave a Comment

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Holly January 6, 2012 at 3:02 PM

Wow! Thanks for the detailed review. This answers a lot of questions. I have not tried Bikram but still want to – at least once.

For folks who practice this regularly or even exclusively – how do they not get bored?

I just think I would get bored with the same poses every time. I love when a teacher does a less “common” pose in class. It usually provides some excitement for me.

Was there any warmup in the class? Or they just go right into the first pose?

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Maria @dailydownwarddog January 6, 2012 at 3:17 PM

Holly – the class starts out with a moving breath exercise and then you move through the poses that go in the order of balance, standing, back bends, twists, and at the end kapalbhati breathing. I may have this order wrong or missed something, so Bikramites please chime in!

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Sam January 6, 2012 at 3:35 PM

Did you read about my experience with Bikram? :) Thanks for sharing this. I agree with your need for variety. I haven’t tried hot yoga yet but I’ve got the feeling that I’m really going to enjoy it. I just need to find time for it! I plan on trying other flavors of yoga as well! What should I do next?

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Maria @dailydownwarddog January 6, 2012 at 3:42 PM

Sam – I will check out your post – thanks for letting me know! Hummm… which flavor to do next? Have you ever tried Kundalini?

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~m January 6, 2012 at 3:43 PM

even though bikram yoga is the same dialogue, i swear you can hear and learn something new every day. when i practise, i like to pretend it’s my first class and i have no idea what pose is coming next, this keeps me open to the dialogue and always learning. i practised bikram yoga everyday for over 2 years straight and never got bored of it or even seriously thought about trying any other style of yoga.

holly, the first 3 poses are designed to warm up your body, and all the poses are arranged in a specific sequence that prepares the body for the next pose. bikram yoga really is the best and safest sequence, in my opinion.

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Shana January 6, 2012 at 4:13 PM

Great story! I was looking forward to reading Part II!
I was drawn to Bikram after reading about how the practice has so many amazing health benefits. I took my first class immediately after running a half marathon. I was able to run the next day! I believe the heat facilitated deep stretching that really helped my muscles heal.
I also miss that instant “yoga buzz” after practicing Bikram. And music really helps me rock a yoga practice. But adding some variety in your practice can only benefit you, right?

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Kristin January 6, 2012 at 8:11 PM

Hey Lady,

I couldn’t wait for your cliff hanger. The first time I ever did yoga was a Bikram class. I did not know what what I was doing, never heard of a downdog, just saw the studio and decided to go. It was over 2 years ago and my memories are a little clouded but…it got my hooked on yoga because of the yoga high afterward. I didn’t even know what that was. I just knew that I made the 30 minute drive home without thinking about anything but the experience, what my body had experienced and to not have my monkey mind jumping around for 30 minutes was HUGE! And now, after your post I can’t wait to try Bikram again.

Namaste,

Kristin

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Cathy January 7, 2012 at 1:24 AM

Awesome, Maria, good for you!!! I will NEVER FORGET my first Bikram experience, wow. I didn’t care much for it and now I go twice a week! I don’t love it but I do like the results, it really helps my flexibility for the rest of my yoga!! And I DO get a real high from it and it lasts 24 hours…and my skin glows that long too.. lots cheaper than a facial!! But I have to do vinyasa too that’s for sure. As for the breathing, I don’t breathe with my mouth open in Bikram for some reason I think it would heat up my body more by bringing in the hot air… just the khapalabati breathing is done with mouth open on the exhaling out, I think???
Anxious to hear what you try next!!!

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Danielle January 7, 2012 at 10:27 AM

What a great post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, experiences, and enthusiasm with the Cleveland yoga community. I’ll make sure little Alex sees your blog post too, I’m sure she’ll get a kick out of the fact that she was a Bikram inspiration in only her tenth class!

As for breathing in Bikram yoga, we encourage breathing in and out through your nose, not through the mouth – especially, short, shallow breaths in and out through the mouth can trigger the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). When you breathe calmly in and out through your nose, you have better control over your breath and the stress levels in your body regardless of the posture or the situation.

I’m looking forward to checking out your yoga classes one of these days…and I just might show up in a pair of those bum bum shorts! :)

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Shan January 7, 2012 at 4:20 PM

I thought I wouldn’t get too into Bikram because of it’s repetitiveness, but here I am 9 months later and I love it! It’s amazing how much there is to learn in each pose. Plus, I love seeing the improvements.

Bikram is definitely something that should be given a chance. For most people it takes 3-4 classes just to get used to the heat. And that doesn’t mean it gets better, you’re just used to it! I was telling someone today before class that I didn’t actually like Bikram yoga until a few months in and it’s only been recently, as I practice more that I can say I actually love the practice (though that’s not what’s going on in my head while I’m in class!)

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Kelly January 12, 2012 at 12:56 PM

Great review & points for beginning Bikram students! I teach Bikram at Bikram Yoga Ann Arbor and we have new students coming in daily. I don’t always get a chance to talk with them after class, so this was a good reminder of what they are feeling. I have been practicing for 5.5 yrs & teaching 3.5. It is different every single day… your body is different every single day (ie you eat different foods, sleep different amounts, have different experiences). It seems that Bikram offers a challenge every time you take the class – even though the postures are the same – and that is what brings students back. :)

Namaste,
Kelly

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Julie @ Wearing Mascara February 6, 2012 at 11:27 PM

Such a great review!!!!

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Stephanie April 18, 2012 at 5:43 PM

I loooooooooove Bikram yoga. I’m still a “newbie” in that I’ve only been practicing a couple months. It’s really done wonders for me though. I feel so much better, sleep better, etc. It’s done great things to strengthen my ankles. I’ve lost about 30lbs so far. I can’t say enough great things about it! My advice to anyone is to give it a solid 10 classes before making your mind up about it. My first couple classes were rough…by my 5th class I felt like a rock star. Yes you do the same poses, but your body and your mind set is different every day so each class is a new experience. Classes 1-4…meh. Class 5 AWESOME. Class 6-8…ok with awesome spots… you get the idea. :)

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Cassandra Anastasia November 28, 2012 at 5:12 AM

Would definitely recommend Jimmy Barkan’s style to you, it has the intensity of a Bikram class but allows flexibility for teachers – options to incorporate extra poses and music.
Hatha yoga at it’s best:
http://barkanmethod.com/

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queenie February 18, 2013 at 11:19 PM

I have done hot yoga for several years off and on. But today, I tried Bikram. I liked the heat but I missed down dog and plank, the lights remained on, and absolutely no spiritual aspect. Barely said Namaste. I missed the warrior series. I need hot yoga and this studio has the best rates so I guess I will be down dogging at home.

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robynn April 3, 2014 at 9:51 PM

hi there…i was a bikram devotee for many years, however, during that time I was somehow never fully engaged in just that particular practice. I also learned to do real, regular, good old fashioned yoga along the way and have since given up the “bikram” method. There is just so much wrong with it, and if you are “drinking the cool-aid” of bikram, you won’t see it, but once you are out of it, you know. Side note…you can’t sweat out all the toxins. Just read about sweating and how very little toxic bodily waste actually comes out in sweat. It’s a ridiculous notion that Bikram made up himself. Ignorance is not excuse. Really sad that so many pour souls are falling victim to this nonsense, myself coming out of that situation. All I am saying is do your research and judge accordingly. Namaste.

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robynn April 3, 2014 at 9:54 PM

** poor souls…pardon that typo :)

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