6 Dirty Little Secrets About Bikram Yoga

Posted by   Annette on    May 25, 2014

Bikram yoga is done by the numbers.

It's sweaty, stretchy math: 26 postures, done 2x each in a 104* Fahrenheit room kept at 40% humidity. Those numbers add up to one hell of an experience. Digging in will be one of the best things you've ever done for your body (and brain), but there are a few things you oughta know first. Here goes.

origin_304135429.jpg1. You will want to go on a killing spree during your first class

…and your first prospective victim is going to be the person who convinced you to go. It's that hard.

Slight correction, to better make my point: It's that hard for everyone. You are not unique in this regard.

Hard is OK. You can do hard. Commit to going every day for the cheap "intro week" you've almost certainly purchased, and you'll be shocked. By day 7, you'll be loving the heat. Seriously.

After class #1, you will not believe me. In fact, you will probably add me to your kill list. Suck it up, buttercup. Go again and again and again and see how right I am.

2. Every single Bikram class is cut from the same cloth.

As a former Catholic schoolgirl, I liken Bikram class to Catholic church: It's the same exact ritual everywhere you go, from poses to timing. This means that you can step in to a studio anywhere in the world and, even if it's not even being taught in your language, you're perfectly good to go. For location independent yogis and yoginis like us, that's gold.

3. …but every teacher is different. 

Despite the unusual standardization of the class itself, Bikram teachers range from unnervingly militant to sweetly encouraging, from hyperactive to somnolent (and cover all the bases in between). Don't be put off by your first teacher's bedside manner. Take a class from each of the teachers at your current home studio and pick your favorites. 

4. You're going to start hurtling towards nakedness with startling speed, and you'll be fine with it.

OK, maybe not nakedness -- but you'll probably do your first class wearing pretty standard yoga togs, your second class wearing less, and so forth. The teensy shorts you laugh at on the mat next to you in class #1 are probably going to be your go-to pair by the end of the month.

The best part? Nobody cares about your body. Bikram is the least-judgmental of any yoga practice I have ever done. Everybody looks like hell, but everybody knows how worthwhile the investment…and nobody carries any electronic tools for documentation into a hot, humid room, so your dignity is safe.

5. Fancy new gear? Naw. 

The $50-and-up sticky towel must be nice, but I've never owned one. I use the same Manduka Superlite Travel Yoga Mat(which dries super-quickly and is dead easy to clean) that I use for my other yoga practices, and top it with whatever ratty bath towels are lying around. 

Do be sure to bring your own water, as it's far cheaper than what's lined fetchingly up in the ubiquitous lobby fridge. (I use the same Platypus that comes with me on BASE jumps, and toss in a packet or two of Emergen-C.)

6. Bikram will change something profound about your approach to yoga.

I now rely on YogaToday for my daily practice, as I'm generally living in places too remote to support a Bikram studio (or any studio, for that matter). Bikram, however, was the practice that rooted me into daily practice and showed me how mind-blowingly effective yoga can be. The heat delivers an unprecedented depth, allowing not-so-flexible practitioners to access tissues they've never been able to get to before, healing deep stuff so quickly it's a little shocking. That's addictive enough to keep you going back to "the room" -- and, in cases like mine, back to the daily mat indefinitely.

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If you do a 30-day challenge -- which you totally should -- then write me at hi @ sustainablelunacy.com and tell me about your experience. How'd it go?