Hot Yoga – My First Experience

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Those of you who follow me on my FB page knew that I’d been toying with the idea of taking a hot yoga (bikram yoga) class. Well last Friday I finally took the leap and went for it. I had done some reading online about what to expect and what NOT to do before, during, and after the class so by the time I found a studio I felt like I had a decent enough idea as to what I was getting myself into.

The night before the class I fretted a little bit about what to wear…a lot of the information I had gotten about the class suggested wearing form fitting clothing, sports bras, shorts, etc….because the room was going to be HOT. Like…105 degrees hot. So I chose a pair of shorts and a racerback running shirt, figuring the wicking power of the top would help and the shorts would help me stay cool. BUT like most women, last minute wardrobe change on the day of and I opted for a pair of capri tights that I usually wear to workout in. As hyped as I was about the class I had to realize that it’s still just a yoga class, and when I go do yoga, I dress comfortably. And I just didn’t feel comfy wearing those shorts.

The day of the class I took one of my 24oz water bottles and filled it with a tray of ice and added enough water to cover the remaining space. A friend told me to freeze a bottle of water, so I figured this would be the next best thing. I took a separate 20oz water bottle and started to actually freeze that one, but by the time I had to head to class it was only very partially frozen. I grabbed my yoga mat, and my Aquis towel* and was out the door.

*Note: The Aquis towel is a microfiber towel that is meant to be super absorbent and come in handy for folks with extra dense/thick hair. I usually will use these towels to dry my hair since I have dreadlocks, but since I knew I’d be sweating a lot in this class, I figured it might do me better than a regular towel. They’re very light and meant to me very absorbent. You can check them out here.

I arrived at the studio about 5 minutes or so before class and the owner of the studio (who was also the instructor) welcomed me to the studio, gave me a quick tour and gave me a heads up about the hot room itself. In the room there were several rows of white lights on the ceiling. These lights were where the heat itself came from, so he advised me to not stand under them as it would be hotter there. He also pointed out where the cooler spots in the room might be and advised me on where to stand. I was thankful for the tips and the instruction, especially as I stepped into the room.

Boy…it was HOT! Like so hot that it took me by surprise a little bit. Ever experience a super hot day where you just feel uncomfortable and just want to lie still? Yea…like that. It took me a few minutes to adjust, namely I had to find my breath again and once I did I was fine. Class began with the instructor leading us through some breathing exercises which helped me get my mind off the heat, and into my breathing. Then we moved into the poses.

If you’ve ever done hatha yoga, bikram yoga is basically that but in a heated room. The moves were not particularly complicated, and everyone moved at their own pace and did the moves at a depth that was comfortable to them. Throughout the class it was emphasized that the point is not to do all the poses or even do them deeply, but rather to do them correctly. The instructor was kinda awesome. He made his way around the class, paying attention to everyone’s form, guiding and coaching them through, adjusting their posture as needed. Very helpful. The first half of the class was all standing poses, then the second half moved to the floor. *sigh* Yes the floor…it felt so good to lay down in between poses, lol. I will say, that towards the end of class, I found that I was able to go deeper into my poses. Which was the point of the heat in bikram yoga…warm atmospheres warm up your muscles…and warm muscles allow for greater flexibility…greater flexibility means deeper stretching.

At the end of class we were allowed about 2 minutes to just lay in relaxation pose. You didn’t have to stay for it, but I did and would recommend that anyone who takes any kind of yoga class, stay for the calm down/meditation portion at the very end. I laid there and just let myself feel the heat and relax a little more. When I was ready, I got up and left the class. They had sugar free popsicles afterwards for those who wanted. SCORE!!

Yes, I was sweaty…throughout the class I sweat all over…there wasn’t a place that I didn’t sweat, lol. But that’s fine by me because I love a good sweat. I felt so very relaxed afterwards…it was just a good cleansing feeling! I plan on going back again, I would like to make this a weekly occurrence,

If you’re interested in giving Bikram Yoga a shot, I would offer you these quick tips:

  1. Drink water. Before class. During class. After class. You will need to stay hydrated
  2. Ice water will be your friend. Freeze water beforehand if you can. Bring more than one water bottle.
  3. Dress comfortably. You will be hot, so dress light. Avoid cotton. Try performance/wicking material.
  4. Double up on towels. Now, I only used my one Aquis towel and I was fine. But I noticed some folks had beach towels or bath towels that they used to lay on their mats to prevent them from slipping on sweat. Not a bad idea. So, towel for you…and towel for your mat.
  5. Focus inward. Don’t worry about what others are or are not doing. Focus on your individual practice, nothing else.
  6. Pay attention to your body. You need to stop? Stop, go into child’s pose. You feel faint? Speak up. Do NOT try to ‘power through’ this. Be smart.

For those of you out there who are bikram regulars, any additional tips for other Bikram newbies?

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5 thoughts on “Hot Yoga – My First Experience

  1. Tip for newbies! If you find that you’re super dizzy, dehydrated or getting muscle cramps during class, make sure you work those electrolytes. Coconut water, gatorade, or stuff that dissolves in your water bottle (like Nuun tablets) a couple hours before class will work wonders. You’re sweating out more than just water, and you need to replenish the elements you’re losing in class so that your body can continue to function ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Yes. As a curvy regular of Bikram yoga, I got some tips.

    1) Curvy people tend to have a harder time with heat. This is not to say this is universal, or that some non-curvy people don’t have an exceptionally hard time too, but as a rule of thumb, hot is just not comfortable when you have more body fat.
    Eventually you will start to adjust, but there are going to be times you just don’t want to do it. In which case, don’t. In addition to the hydration and heat coping tips, I would like to add:
    a) the Bikram studio tends not to always be the same exact heat every single time. It can range from 100 to 120 degrees (sometimes more depending on the studio, but they are NOT supposed to do that). Don’t be afraid to ask someone running the place if they can check the temperature of the room for you and lower the heaters if it is above 110. If they are not willing to do this, walk out. Go to a different Bikram studio.
    b) the more crowded the studio is, the hotter, more humid, smellier, and generally more-faint inducing it is. I’m generally not a very claustrophobic person. I actually like wedging myself into corners and crevices. I like being play-buried under sand and gardening dirt. I like doing the 6 person huddle-cuddle. It’s comfy for me. HOWEVER! Being in the Bikram studio with 30 people is atrocious. It’s not nearly enough space for curvy people to actually perform the poses comfortably, and it’s just too hot. First time I ever had a claustrophobic-type panic attack was in a Bikram studio. Sooooooooooo. Here’s the tip. Find out when the studio is least crowded. Ask around, drop by. Generally, the evening classes are the most crowded, and weekend classes have more people than during the week. If you can rise early and not miss work or anything by going, I recommend early morning classes. This, or if you can do Sunday morning, anytime starting before noon, or if you have a several-hour long lunch break during the weekday, do an afternoon class during the work week. These classes tend to be the least crowded. I’ve been to a morning class where I was the only student, and I got the special treatment with real helpful work on my poses… by a really cute guy ๐Ÿ˜‰ … Most morning classes there are only 2 to 5 other people.

    2) Check out the instructors. Some Bikram studios have instructors who are so obsessed with doing the pose correctly, that they won’t allow for adjustments for curvy folks. For those of you who have to do twists or savasana differently, make sure you talk to the instructor beforehand, and gauge their reaction. Maybe there is only one intolerant instructor, and the rest are all good. Or maybe you want to check out other studios. Find out when the good instructors tend to lead classes. I’ve had some negative experiences with a few Bikram instructors, but most are fantastic. (I had one instructor actually make a snide comment about my breasts. She fussed with my shirt, and then proceeded to ask me: “Are you even wearing a bra?!” Yes, I was. I just have big, heavy breasts that hang down, and my breasts don’t lie flat against my chest when I wear a sports bra.)

      • I wanted to make one more note about the heating: Some instructors are resistant to changing the heating because they aren’t aware of how much the room temperature will change during the day. Bikram yoga studios are *technically* always supposed to be 105 degrees. However, it’s nuanced. I live in a rural area where most of the buildings are still made with wood. The Bikram studio I go to was installed in an old sorority house (which also means carpet couldn’t be installed, so yay, no stinky carpet!), and the temperature is vastly hotter at 1pm than it is in the morning. Luckily, my instructors are aware of this, and usually lower the thermostat and humidifier.
        Also, at the beginning of a class the temperature might be right, but as more people show up and body heat accumulates, the room can easily get 10 degrees hotter, and feel like more.
        If you have a Bikram instructor who isn’t aware of this, and doesn’t adjust the temperature regularly, get a new instructor. A good indication is whether or not there is a thermometer in the room somewhere.
        Also, good Bikram instructors will open the door to let whisps of cool air in at the end savasana, and place a cool towel on your head (my instructor also adds a few dabs of rose geranium oil for aromatherapeutic purposes). My current lovely instructor gives everyone a foot massage while in half tortoise pose, by kneading our feet with her heels. It’s very relaxing, it’s almost as good as child’s pose. She is also very gently spoken, considerate of injuries, and reminds everyone to return to their center and their breath if they get overwhelmed. She always has new, relaxing, and elating music for the end.

        I’ve heard a lot lately about people having issues with “drill sargeant yoga instructors” in Bikram. I think, unfortunately, this has to do with Bikram himself and his training. My own instructors recall their training fondly, saying that he was very funny and challenging, and would hop on people’s backs to deepen their postures (I don’t agree with that because I think it could be dangerous, especially for people with injuries, but at least my instructos go gently).
        Unfortunately, a lot of trainees have alleged harrasment and sexual assault. Bikram has also sued studios in America for copying his patented form of yoga, which most yogis say goes completely against the thousand year old tradition of yoga to capitalize on it that extensively as to put a brand on it.
        This is all such a shame to me, because the Bikram routine is my absolute favorite. I love the hot room, and I love the simplicity of the same 26 poses and monologue. It keeps me consistent and helps me to get better and better at those basic poses. Plus, the health benifits truly are phenomenal. It’s sad to me that more people can’t enjoy it because of how harsh and competitive the wider Bikram culture is.
        There are really good Bikram studios that are more in line with the overall gentleness of yoga. But I don’t feel the leas bit guilty saying that if you can’t find one, look at other Hot Yoga options. Not all Hot Yoga is Bikram yoga. Unfortunately for me, most other hot yoga incorporates vinyasa flow, and I’m just not fond of the constant moving between poses. I need to be able to come back to my center between poses. But if you like it, then knock yourself out. Some other hot yoga types I know of are Modo yoga, and Evolation studios’ hot yoga. They might be worth checking out.

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