The founder of Bikram Yoga says that sweating through his 1 1/2 hour class every day for 2 months will change your life.
I was ripe for change and decided to try this class on a trial basis a couple of weeks ago. I had been suffering with a frozen shoulder for months. I also have osteopenia, chronic pain from some accidents resulting in arthritis and herniated discs plus scoliosis. I also found myself crabby and irritable, with a very short fuse given provocation.
I am delighted to report that after 15 consecutive Bikram classes, I have noticed more change in my shoulder than I experienced during a whole year of chiropractic, massage therapy and physiotherapy treatments. Other positive changes I have noticed after more than two weeks of stretching and straining in a steamy room is that I am much more relaxed and laid back - my reaction to stress is far less volatile than previously. Things that would have sent me through the roof now evoke a shrug and some philosophical thoughts.
I was a little leery of attending a yoga class, but I quickly realized there was no need to be nervous. I was worried about finding myself in an uncomfortable situation with a quasi religious or spiritual experience. The class is all about the work. The only nod to traditional yoga is that the instructor sometimes mentions the Sanskrit name of the pose and on the way out the door "Namaste" is the salutation to close the class. The focus is on how to do the pose correctly and encouragement is given to push yourself to do your very best. Apparently, the dialogue for every class is scripted by Bikram himself with succinct commands cuing alignment.
I did notice that a few of my classmates were bronzed, buff, tattooed and wearing teeny outfits, but there were lots of ordinary folk as well and no need to feel self conscious, since everyone is there to primarily stare at their own reflection in order to monitor their poses and by the end everyone looks like hell anyway.
Feeling a bit dizzy or faint is common at the beginning and I did have a moment where I felt a bit woozy, but that quickly passed. Participants are encouraged to at least stay in the room and can lay down on their mat if they need a break. I have been having a teeny twinge of pain in my left knee during some poses, but my instructor reassures me all will be well, so I am just going to trust the process and continue with the practice. Also, I had to bring a small piece of thicker mat to put under my tailbone as I rubbed it raw after the first few classes doing the situps, but all is well in that area now.
Some of the poses are more challenging than others and what is easy for you may be difficult for someone else. The focus is on doing what you can and trying hard, not comparing to anyone else in the room. The exercises are exactly the same every time and designed to prepare the body for what comes next.
If you decide to try this wonderful therapy yourself, make sure to dress lightly, preferably in wicking fabrics and bring lots of cold water and a beach size towel. You will also want to shower off afterward as you will be drenched, so bring another towel to dry yourself off. A word of warning for any of you insomniacs out there - try to do a morning or mid-day class because the energy you gain from the class can lead to a sleepless night.
You will tone up, lose weight, moderate your appetite, improve your posture, heal any injuries and mellow out. Side benefits are a glowing complexion and detoxification from all that sweating. But I have to say, the main benefit of this class is when it is over and you feel like a million bucks with tons of energy and a feeling of peace and calm.
What's not to love? As for me, I am going to continue my classes for at least two months, every day - my shoulder is already significantly better and I am looking forward to a full recovery. It isn't easy and it can be painful, but I am so thankful to find this therapy for a frozen shoulder and everything else that ails me and am looking forward to becoming a new and improved version of myself.