Bend it like Bikram

About a year ago I got into a car accident.  I thought everything was alright after taking a few prescriptions and using a neck brace, so I continued my daily work out/run.  At the time, I pushed my body to its limit and it became worse.  My back is never the same.

I had to take it easy with my workouts so started to incorporate more yoga in my routine.  Just around that time, I saw a Groupon for Bikram yoga.  It’s a sign.  Bikram yoga is a form of hot yoga.  It’s a series of 26 postures completed in a heated room of 105-110 degree Fahrenheit for about 90 minutes.  Sounds like I would pass out, but I decided to take a plunge because I love challenges.  In the beginning I thought what on earth did I get myself into.  This must be the most difficult workout I ever had.  This is no ordinary yoga class with a few relaxation poses and smoothing music.  This is intense. Hardcore.  After it was all over I drove home with my windows down and felt incredible.  I initially thought it was torture and was unsure if I would even come back, but I felt amazing afterwards.  It was as if all the stress that clung on to me for so long fell right off my shoulders.  Let it go.  Physically my back felt better and as I continued to go to class the pain started to disappear.

I didn’t get much direction when I started, so want to share a few tips on how to prepare and what to expect when taking your first Bikram class:

Hydrate:  Hydrate a couple hours before yoga.  Depending on the instructor they will not allow you to drink water until specified.  Also, it’s good Bikram etiquette not to drink while in a pose.  Everybody is concentrating on their pose, so be sure to be a good neighbor.  If you are allowed to drink water, I recommend not drinking water if you are about to do any backward bends.  I did this once and started to choke.  Totally embarrassing myself. If you must take water make sure you give enough time for the water to go down.

Don’t be shy:  You will sweat in places you never imagine you would.  Everyone will look like a hot mess.  Wear clothing like you are going to the pool.  Heck I see men wearing speedos or booty shorts.  I wore capris and a t-shirt the first time and I was dying.  At the end of the day my clothes were dripping in sweat and I look like I came out of the shower.  Since I’m shy, I typically don’t wear sport bras or short shorts when I workout, but I do in Bikram.  People have to look at themselves when performing their poses, so don’t worry about who is looking at you because they won’t.  What they will probably notice is smell, so be sure to wear deodorant.

Essential Items:  You will need to bring a yoga mat.  That’s a given.  Bring a towel large enough to cover your mat, like a beach towel.  A good friend got my husband and I matching beach towels, so when I’m not at the beach the towel is with me in Bikram which I got a lot of compliments on.  You’re going to be dripping sweat, so the towel will prevent slippery spots.  If you forget one ask your studio.  Take with you a large water bottle.   You can bring a small towel to wipe your face, but I find that sweat cools me down.  Another item is coconut water which will rehydrate you quickly and put nutrients into your system after all that sweating. Coconut water is what the cool kids drink in Bikram.

Instructors:  Bikram instructors will call out poses, but they will not perform the poses for you.  They are there as your guide.  Your instructor may go around the room to correct poses.  Don’t take anything personally.  They are there to help you improve.  You know if they are a good instructor if they make sure you do it correctly so you don’t injure yourself.  Tell your instructors it’s your first time and they will take good care of you for your first experience.  Overtime you will know your instructors well.  I know who keeps it challenging and who turns the temperature high or low.  Use it to your advantage.  On days when I want to bust my butt I go to a intense instructor.

The Right Spot:  For your first time, get a spot in the back so you can watch other yogis perform the poses.  Remember to find a spot so you can see yourself in the mirror, but don’t cover the yogi behind you.  I got scolded a couple times for blocking the person behind me.

Don’t Leave the Room: Instructors will encourage you stay in the room at all times.  The reason for this is that you are in a heated room and when you leave your body temperature drops, so this can shock your body.  I stay in the room for an extra 15 minutes after the class ends so my body can gradually adjust.  Depending on your instructor, they might open the door at times for a short breeze.

Don’t Rush:  It is so important not to rush into or out of a pose. A big part of yoga is meditation and concentration.  You exercise your brain by concentrating.  When you commit to a pose you are 80% there so meditate to make that decision.  You will have an amazing feeling when you take your time. You won’t get that feeling when you rush and you can even injure yourself.   Take your time, clear your mind,  and stay in the moment.

Dessert: All I can say is the lavender scented towels is dessert. You’ll know what I mean.

Bikram does wonders for me.  It’s a special treat for my body and mind, like a massage.  You’ll hear me talking more about Bikram in other posts because this is a very important part of my workouts.  It healed me on several occasions and prevented so many injuries from my other intense workouts.  I’m not an instructor, so please consult with your studio.  I’m just offering a few suggestions since I had people ask me about it.  If you want more information go to the Bikram site.

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