One thing about me is that I love trying new things, and just a couple days ago when it was below zero, I thought it was the perfect time to warm up and try Bikram style yoga for the first time. In case you’re not familiar, it is a yoga session in a very warm room, 105F degrees in fact, in which you practice 26 different positions. Traditionally I would describe it as a “boot camp yoga” where it’s hot, you can’t drink water, and you don’t really get much help. Sink or swim. I think for some people it is just the perfect type of yoga, because it’s no fuss. It’s focusing on posture, positions, your strength, your flexibility, and just a tiny bit of stereotypical yoga goodness.
My Bikram experience may be different than you of course considered I didn’t take the class from the actual Bikram, and also every teacher and studio tends to be slightly different. So here’s my Bikram experience:
The studio I picked to try Bikram out for the first time is fairly new to my town and run by owners that I would describe as not your typical yoga crew. They have a definite edge to them and and totally there for your health. The studio itself was literally no fuss. When I walked into the studio, the heat of course hit me like a wall. I’d describe it as being transported to close to the equator. There were no decorations, no music, just a wall of mirrors and everything else was pretty much grey with an black industrial style ceiling. Like I said, no fuss. The class was actually already quite crowded with people laying in corpse pose/savasana. The teacher was a bandana-wearing male who had a therapeutic voice but with attitude. For example, I probably will never forget this, but he ended the class saying, “Spend time in your savasana, you’re going to do a lot of savasanas, so get used to it. Namaste,” and ladies and gentlemen Elvis has left the building! He literally said “namaste” as if he were to “drop the mic.” “Yo, I’m out, Namaste, y’all. Peeaaace!” (:Kisses peace sign, shows peace sign, leaves room, crowds cheer) I was floored. Really? Whenever I have ended yoga classes in the past the “Namaste” portion was really respectful to the teacher, the student, the world, where you can just feel those warm fuzzies fluffing up that room!
There was a variety of students in the class. They ranged from regulars, men who appeared to be healing from injuries, a teen boy cross-country runner, and teen girls who there to show off short shorts and try yoga for the first time.
Class begins with:
- A deep breathing exercise that I had never done before. I’d say it was a great way to warm up the core for the postures.
- Half moon was next, and I really felt the stretch in my side by the hip.
- Awkward Pose is quite awkward. It worked balance for me personally once I was on my tippy toes.
- Eagle pose is one of my favorites, and the Bikram style I’m assuming is to keep your elbows low rather than raise them equally to your shoulders. It worked just fine for me, but was difficult to balance to when I had three teen girls in front of me hopping up and down on one foot to balance rather than just trying to redo the posture all together. This is when I started wondering why the teacher wasn’t walking over to help them figure it out. Perhaps that is a Bikram style or perhaps the teachers personal style.
- Standing head to knee was next, and since having my second child this has been a struggle for me to do. Surprisingly I did okay! Maybe it was because my head was to my knee rather than seeing the teens hop up and down some more!
- Standing bow pose is a great chest opener/balance pose. I decided to set my gaze up at a paper lantern instead of in front of me, because there was more teen one-footed hopping going on.
- Balancing stick was a success, but reminded me of how various styles may approach things different. For example pointing your foot rather than keeping it flat.
- Standing seperate leg stretching pose was happily welcomed by my hamstrings.
- Bikram style triangle pose is a bit different than my typical Vinyasa style triangle, which threw me, because the teacher didn’t quite explain what we were doing. So as I began doing what I was used to everyone else was doing something different! Oh well!
- Standing separate head to knee pose reminded me of the humble warrior pose which is one of my favorites.
- Bikram tree pose was hilarious to me, because by this point my body was just wet from sweat and my foot was expected to rest on the top of my quad. I could get my foot there, but it just slipped down. I think the only way I could get my foot to stay on my quad was if I were to turn it into a standing pigeon!
- Toe stand was a surprisingly difficult balance pose for me. It might have been the way we moved into the pose that made it difficult, but that is one I need to go back to and explore.
- Corpse Pose/Savasana starts, and it felt like we did a ridiculous amount of Savasanas for the rest of the class! The teacher said it was to realign the body so the postures/poses were proper.
- “Wind removing pose” was a good stretch, but the name is rather funny because apparently that’s the time in practice you can “remove your wind” wink wink, not really!
- Sit up to knee.
- Cobra pose, which I was thrilled to see most everyone in the class did this properly. Usually people think of it as to see how much they can bend up rather than using the strength of their back to hold them up.
- Locust pose is another good one for the low back and glutes. Impressive yogi’s can bring their legs up quite high, but I was reminded once by a teacher that even if you can barely bring your legs up, it’s important to have proper form than “showing off” and doing it incorrectly.
- Full locust pose was described as similar to “the superman.”
- Bow pose is another one where there is slight variation as to whether the foot is flat or pointed.
- Fixed firm pose was probably my least favorite. It did nothing for me stretch wise, and if I went fully down I imagine it would hurt my runner knees.
- Half tortoise pose is similar to child’s pose, but slightly different.
- Camel pose surprises me when people have difficulty with it, but can do “the wheel.” I’m assuming there’s a fear factor to the camel.
- Rabbit pose was different.
- Head to knee pose was easy (at least for me).
- Spine twisting pose is decent.
- Ending Bikram with “blowing in firm pose” which again was a style of breathing that I haven’t done before, and obviously the teen girls never did either because they were trying to hide their distracting laughter.
After the 26 postures were over, we were in savasana, and that was that. I was thoroughly warmed up on that freezing cold night, glad I tried something new, but probably most likely not going to Bikram yoga again unless a friend asks of course.
I personally like Vinyasa yoga for the breathing with the flow of movement. I always feel strong afterwards. I could enter class in a poor mood and after working through challenging poses I feel like I can accomplish anything.
Overall, if you haven’t tried Bikram, try it! You may be surprised that you like it, or it confirms what you do like and why!