Monday, January 17, 2011

A New Practice

If you wore this much clothing to practice Bikram,
you'd be seriously regretting it.
I took my first Bikram yoga class yesterday. If you don't already know, Bikram yoga is a type of "hot yoga" that is practiced in a room that is heated to 104°F with 40% humidity. It's hot in there. (I bought one of those group coupon deals for this yoga studio where I got 20 classes for $20, so I figured if I even just went once or twice, it would be a worth the price.) The class is 90 minutes long, and it consists of 26 postures (Asanas) and two breathing exercises. The heat is meant to facilitate deeper stretching, prevent injury, and help to restore and detoxify the body.

I've never liked being dirty or sweaty. I'm also not someone who has ever enjoyed "hardcore" exercise programs. I like being comfortable and clean. I don't like feeling judged by a fitness instructor, or being yelled at in the name of self-improvement. I also don't enjoy being in pain (who does?!) and because I have fibromyalgia, I usually experience quite a bit of pain after engaging in almost any physically-exerting activity.

So, imagine my surprise when I genuinely enjoyed the Bikram yoga class yesterday. It's probably one of the most hardcore exercise practices that I've ever heard of. I mean, why would anyone want to willingly subject themselves to an hour and a half of intense heat and sweating, all the while, being expected to do yoga? I think the heat really helped my muscles and joints to avoid becoming excessively inflamed from the yoga, and I'm not experiencing an uncomfortable level of soreness today.

The instructor said at the beginning of class that the ultimate goal for the first class is simply to remain in the room for the duration of the class. If that meant sitting or lying on your mat the whole time, then you still succeeded. Dizziness and nausea are normal—expected, even—bodily responses to the temperature of the room. These side-effects (reportedly) diminish after repeated exposure to the heat, meaning, you probably won't feel dizzy or queasy forever...but you may in the beginning. I was surprised that I was able to participate in at least half of the class, though I did have to sit down several times because I was feeling dizzy.

I expected to feel totally drained at the end of the class, but when I left the room, I felt energized. I felt re-charged! I felt great (even though I was totally drenched in sweat and in serious need of a shower).

One thing I've always really liked about yoga is the language used to talk about doing it. A person practices yoga, she doesn't perform it, and she will never master it. Practice implies a journey, a process, a continual improvement through personal effort.

I'm excited about my new practice. My next class is tonight!

Have you ever tried something new and were then surprised at how much you ended up liking it? Do you have a regular practice (for fitness or otherwise) that you enjoy? I'd love to hear your story!


  1. This explains a lot! There's a van a couple blocks away that says "Bikram yoga makes me HOT!" and I was sure it was some sort of porn service. (The style of the van in question? Did not help.)

  2. @Ashley: That's hilarious! I'm picturing an old van with fringed curtains...and the look on your face when you read that phrase. LOL!

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