On Trying Something New

Last week, instead of doing my regular workout routine, I switched things up and tried my first Bikram yoga class. Info online had said to hydrate like crazy throughout the day, and to bring a beach towel along with a yoga mat to class. I showed up fifteen minutes early to fill out a waiver form, and chatted nervously with the yoga teacher, a slender man with a gray ponytail and soft demeanor. This won’t be so bad, I thought.

Once the class started, I was immediately taken aback. First, the class faced a mirror, similar to a dance studio, and we were instructed to gaze at ourselves the whole time. The lights were bright — cafeteria bright — and the guy to my right was in a very small speedo.

I didn’t realize this, but Bikram yoga is nothing like a regular yoga flow, instead, you go in and out of poses, repeating each one, and the teacher talks the entire time. I looked it up afterwards to see if it was my particular teacher’s annoying personal style, but it looks like it might be a signature Bikram thing. It reminded me of the last fifteen seconds of an infomercial; “Arms-up-by-your-ears-squeeze-your-elbows-pull-your-stomach-in-breathe-breathe-breathe-squeeze-inhale-suck-your-stomach-in-chin-forward-knees-locked-knees-always-locked-lock-lock-LOCK-THOSE-KNEES” while sneaking in phrases like, “your soul brought you here” and “if it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right.”

One thing: I was surprised to find that the heat element didn’t bother me as I thought it would — instead of feeling suffocated like I often do in the dry heat of a sauna, it kind of felt like we were doing yoga in the amazon (there were several humidifiers set up in the space). Fun fact: once the class starts, you can hear everyone’s sweat dripping off their bodies and hitting the floor. YEAH.

As I gathered my things at the end of class, the teacher was adamant that I come back and give it at least two more tries. “See you tomorrow morning!” he chimed as I ducked out, desperate for fresh air.

I get, or I think I get, what Bikram is about. The bright lights, the mirror, the eye contact, the focused, drawn out poses…the teacher mentioned something about it being a “moving meditation” and I can see how that’s true, how narrowing in on your own breath and experience turns it into meditative experience. Clearly, this takes practice. For now, I’m going to keep searching for my dream workout…maybe sans the speedos.

Have any of you tried it? What were your thoughts? I would love to hear! 

6 thoughts on “On Trying Something New

  1. i am addicted! i started last june (because my dad got really into it the year before HA, so funny, he is a preppy white man) and now i go usually 4-5x a week. i love how it makes your body feel all loose and relaxed and totally spent, like you just ran 13 miles!

  2. I have mixed feelings – I did it almost every day for a month, but I think I overdid it with my forward folds and developed some chronic low-back pain, so I eventually stopped. It’s easy to hurt yourself this way with the high heat… add in the lovely quality of being competitive with yourself and it’s something you have to be careful of. That said, I think it’s really only effective and you only get better at it if you do it consistently, i.e. a few times a week, so it’s a tough balance to achieve! Good luck though, I agree the sense of accomplishment and the feeling of always being challenged is great!

  3. I’m not a huge bikram yoga fan–I reeeeeally tried to like it, but eh. However, I did power hot yoga, and thought it was a better fit for me. Since I prefer HIIT classes, yoga (and bikram yoga) feel a little slow. Add to that the constant talking, it just made time pass by even slower. If you have a chance, try a power hot yoga class. It usually involves weights (2, 3, 5 lbs) and a quicker flow. Good luck!

    • Tee — that’s a good idea to try power hot yoga!! Sounds way more up my alley. I was just saying to a friend that I wish there was a class that combined hot yoga, Pilates, cardio, and like….. Dance music. Haha.

  4. I used to do bikram yoga all the time and loved it! The studio I went to didn’t have bright lighting, or mirrors, and I might not have liked it as much if it did. This sounds kind of gross, but I loved how much I would sweat, it felt really cleansing, like I was sweating out all of the toxins in my body.

  5. I think that it’s great that you’re open to trying new things to find your dream workout. However, Bikram Choudhury, the founder of bikram yoga, is allegedly a sexual predator and currently has multiple lawsuits against him for rape and sexual assault by women who trained with him. He continues to profit off of studios that practice bikram yoga with his authorization. Not all bikram yoga and hot yoga studios are under his authorization, but I hope that you researched the one that you attended beforehand to make sure that it was unauthorized.

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