Introduction to Bikram Yoga
Last week we heard from Gillian Gorman in an interview where she gave out some great advice about Yoga For Runners. Curious to find out more, I wanted to check other systems of yoga and my first port of call was Bikram Yoga.
Inspired to try out a new Challenge I decided to go and have a look at the Hot Bikram Yoga studios to meet with Olga Allon the studio director. I asked what were her top 5 reasons for choosing the Bikram practice:
Bikram Yoga is accessible to everyone. Whatever age, shape, flexibility, fitness level, there is a posture for everyone. Whoever you are, you will feel comfortable walking into a Bikram Yoga class.
The heat and humidity is an incredible support to your body to allow you to stretch deeper and in a safer way.
The Bikram Yoga sequence is simple and incredibly effective: in particular with aiding injuries, weight loss, building lean muscle strength. Simple, but incredibly challenging in every class.
Bikram Yoga is practiced in over 400 studios around the world by hundreds of thousands of people. It is tried and tested. It is the fastest growing yoga in the world and most importantly, it works!
- The Bikram certified teachers and certified Hot Bikram Yoga studios offer an incredibly high standard of teaching and customer service
So that was the theory behind it all, but what is it like to step into the Bikram studio for your first time? Here's my experience from my first session:
On entering the room I felt the heat but didn’t find it unbearable - 7 months working in Greece made me quite used to 40 degree centigrade - looking around I copied the other people in the room, laid my towel down on a mat, started chatting to the guys behind me (promptly realised you’re supposed to be quiet), lay down and relaxed.
‘This is great’ - my fatal last thought before the class properly began. You see for someone who has never contemplated yoga as a part of my fitness routine I was in for one of the biggest shocks of my life. We started with our breathing and already I noticed I was struggling – pulling air into my lungs was so much harder when it’s so humid.
You're told to breath through your nose so as to have a steadier breathing pattern but the temptation to open your mouth and gulp down air did get the better of me once or twice!
As a chronic desk-sloucher the first move (I have since been informed they are called postures but find it slightly amusing to wind up yogis) was the half moon which, when performed correctly, pulls the spine straight and then pulls up and over to each side. The instructor demonstrated a perfect half moon; I demonstrated what can only be described as the bent cue-tip.
I always go red during exercise but the brightness of my face during the cardio section could have stopped traffic! During the cardio section I was so shocked by how much my heart rate elevated - I wasn’t running, jumping, moving (other than the odd wobble with the one-legged stances) but my heart was going faster than when I cycle.
I had been told before the class that one of the biggest challenges would be to stay in the room for the whole hour and a half; there were points when I felt pretty dizzy but I had been told to just sit down if I felt I couldn’t do a pose and I took advantage of this a fair bit!
The classes at Hot Bikram Yoga are mixed ability, at first I found this quite threatening to be honest, but I think it was really motivating – even though I couldn’t do everything I pushed myself a bit harder than I would have if everyone around me was at my level. The thought of ‘what if people judge me’ vanished once the class began, everyone in the room is there to focus on their own body. The instructor acknowledged new members to the class at the beginning and used this as a teaching aid so she can correct you personally during the class (there were a lot of corrections coming my way).
The standing poses were the hardest for me, I had entered the class with the idea of being sat on a mat, probably cross-legged, feeling the warmth of my aura or something like that, but there was none of that; Bikram yoga is just a really good work out. It did push me to the limits but because each class is the same I see it as a challenge to go again and find it easier.
The following Tuesday I braved the mat again and what a difference! Definitely going back for more.
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