Tried Bikram Yoga

May 10th, 2010 by Steve Pavlina

I did my first Bikram (hot yoga) class today with Rachelle. She’s been asking me to try it for 4 months, so I finally decided to attend a class with her this morning to see what it was like. I’ve never done hot yoga before, so you could say my curiosity finally got the better of me. That and the fact that I told Rachelle I’d try Bikram yoga if she’d help me buy some new clothes. She spent 16 hours shopping with me this weekend — she really knows her colors. :)

This particular yoga studio is right around the corner from my gym, so for the past week I’d drop Rachelle off for her class and then head to my gym for my usual morning workout. And each time the friendly people at the Bikram studio would offer me a free class and nudge me to try it. I had to explain to them that I never met a yoga I liked. As many of my friends know, I can be quite vocal in my distaste for all things yoga. It bores me to tears. I keep suggesting they add a sparring element to make it more engaging.

This is a fairly new studio — it just opened earlier this year — so there weren’t many students in the class. It was just Rachelle, myself, and two others (one male, one female). The next class coming in after ours seemed a bit more populous. (Hmmm… Populous… I used to spend hours playing that game. Anyone remember that one?)

This class was 90 minutes long, and it takes place in a heated room, so you sweat continuously. I think it was set to 95 degrees or so, but I’m not sure about the exact temp. (Edit — turns out 105 degrees is the standard setting for Bikram studios.) It also seemed pretty humid in there. I don’t know if the humidity was by design or if it was from the previous class sweating it up. I drank almost a quart of water and a quart of fresh carrot-apple-celery-spinach-greens-ginger-lime juice before class (but no solid food), so I was well hydrated before I got there.

The class was easier than I expected in terms of the workout. I haven’t done martial arts in a while, so my flexibility has a ways to go, but other than not being very stretchy, I didn’t find it overly difficult. My usual morning workout (intervals + weight training) is more challenging for me than this yoga class was.

I actually liked the heat. It felt good to sweat so much. Sometimes the A/C at my gym is turned up a bit high, and I found the warmth of this yoga room to be a nice change of pace. The heat wasn’t a problem for me at all, maybe because I’m used to 110-degree days during the Vegas summers. I wouldn’t have minded if they cranked up the heat a bit higher in fact.

The first half of the class was standing exercises, and the second half involved floor exercises that were done sitting or lying down. There were 26 postures in all, and we did each of them twice. Most of these postures weren’t new to me because I’ve done yoga before. But there were a few I hadn’t tried before, like the rabbit pose. The instructor talked very fast, but I was able to figure out what to do pretty quickly, partly by listening to her and partly by watching the other students.

The hardest part for me was staying silent because in group classes I tend to enjoy cracking jokes now and then. But overall I didn’t mind the policy of silence because it kept me focused on what I was doing.

I thought the workout was very relaxing and refreshing, almost like hanging out in a spa for a while. I’m sure the heat helped with getting into the stretches more deeply.

I’d expect that one of the benefits of the heat and the sweating would be better skin. Rachelle’s skin is amazingly soft and smooth, and she says it wasn’t like that before she started doing Bikram yoga. She’s been into it for about 4 years. She says that if I keep doing it, I should definitely see a difference in my skin within a few weeks or less. I can believe that.

Until today I always hated yoga, but I have to admit that I actually enjoyed this class. Afterwards I felt very energized, more than I normally would after one of my usual workouts. The class ended about 5 hours ago, and I’m still feeling more energetic than usual, both mentally and physically. My body seems more oxygenated, and it feels like I’m breathing better. My mind is in a state of relaxed alertness.

I’m considering doing a 30-day trial of Bikram yoga to see what the results are (going to class every day for 30 days in a row). I don’t think you can get a good idea of the benefits of any particular workout unless you keep it up for at least a few weeks to see if you notice any difference. I’m just not sure if that would be practical for me at this time of year because I have some travel coming up. I plan to attend another Bikram class tomorrow and make a decision on a 30-day trial a bit later. This weekend I’ll be busy doing CGW #3.

At this time I invite all the pro-Bikram people who’ve been bugging me to try this to finally indulge in their gloating session. ;)

I still think they should add some sparring.


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