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Feature Friday: Bikram Yoga

Posted Mar 12 2010 8:07am
Happy Apple Fritter Friday! mmmm. I love this Friday ritual. Have you ever tried any interesting fruit fritters? In Maui I had a pineapple fritter and it was sooooo good. I wonder.... I bet a Peanut Butter fritter would be sinfully amazing.

So on to Today's topic. Bikram Yoga ; aka oven yoga. Bikram yoga and I h ad an unexpected, yet pleasantly surprising reunion this Wednesday. I started Bikram 5 years ago, before it became the new "it" yoga thing. However, due to the cost (Hot yoga can cost major $$$!!!) I had to give it up for a while. (tears....) BUT! The studio near my house, the Bikram Yoga Santa Barbara has a special for new students ($20 for unlimited classes for ten days) so I eagerly signed up to escape the blustery cold weather we've been having. ( Image source )

Ahhhh. Bikram. I have missed you so. I missed becoming a glowing red, sweaty, disgusting beast at the end of 90 minutes. I missed the heat guiding me further in my poses. I missed you! I can't believe we had to be apart from each other for so long!

Just to clarify, not all hot yoga is Bikram Yoga. Bikram Yoga is a specific series of 26 poses done in a room heated to 105* F. I have taken "hot yoga" classes that aren't "Bikram". I liked them both, but my heart is set on Bikram :)
Image source

Each pose is repeated twice; starting with the warm up breath exercises, the standing poses, and the mat poses. My favorite are the standing balance poses, such as the Dandayamana-Dhanurasana (Standing Bow Pulling Pose, #6), and the Padangustasana (Toe Stand Pose #12). My least favorite though, is the Dhanurasana (Bow Pose #19). The bow pose is hard! And since it doesn't include any Downward facing dogs, or Chaturangas, my shoulder and writst are happy campers :)

I find that the heat, though, is my absolute favorite part about Bikram. Ahhhhh. The heat. I don't know about you, but I would much rather be a tad bit uncomfortably hot and sweaty than a tad bit shivering cold. That's probably why I can spend hours at a sauna but hate hate hate wintery days. Anyways.

I often do "Bikram Yoga" poses in a non-heated room. Though I find the poses challenging enough, I somehow cannot get the same intensity, the same stretch, the same results without the heated room. Personally, I don't find 105*F to be uncomfortable; I could probably be comfortable a couple degrees higher. I find that the heat allows me to move further into my poses. And that extra inch or so makes a world of a difference in the intensity my muscles are working at. Also, strengthening moves that incorporate a stretch (also seen in Pilates) is less likely to make you sore the next day. Stretching myself beyond my usual range of motion helps me feel looser and more flexible.

I've now gone two days in a row, and though I do have a bit of soreness in my lower back muscles (my weakest muscles), my body feels surprisingly fresh. At the end of each class, my body feels like jello; like I can barely manage to eek out another move. So I know i have gotten a great workout. And unlike most other classes, I actually feel that I get a decent "cardio" workout with Bikram, because I can feel my heart racing after some difficult poses. And yes, I do think Bikram Yoga can assist in weight loss. Another great aspect is that unlike pumping iron, there is less delayed muscle onset fatigue/soreness after yoga. And boy! When I was a regular practitioner, my lower back muscles were STRONG! (probably thanks to these poses: )
There are many benefits of Bikram Yoga , but there are just as many naysayers. I think Bikram Yoga is just one of those "personal preference" kind of things, just like barefoot running. It definitely does take some getting used to; and I do think it's a bit more intense and advanced than most yoga classes offered at the health clubs. Because the heat will take you further in your poses, you might not be ready for that kind of flexibility if you are a complete beginner. I would probably recommend taking at least a couple of non-heated yoga classes before plunging into Bikram Yoga.

If you've never tried it, but would really like to, here are some of my tips
  1. Google your city name and the words "Bikram Yoga."
  2. Ask if your local studio offers promotions or discounts for first-timers. (most places usually do)
  3. Maybe practice the sequence in a non-heated environment first. Yogadownload.com offers a great class called " Hot-Power Fusion"
  4. Arrive at least15 minutes (20 is better) before class and get acclimated to the hot temperature in the room
  5. Bring a BIG bottle of water and remember to hydrate WELL, both before and after class. (or else you will get headaches. trust me on this one)
  6. Bring a big towel, maybe a change of clothes for after the class
  7. DON"T be intimidated by all the devotees in the room with the skimpy shorts and bra tops bending like they're Gumby. You are there for YOU. Do what feels right for YOU. Don't overextend yourself the first couple of times. With patience you too will one day bend it like beckham. :)
  8. Don't panic; it's natural to feel a bit dizzy and lightheaded at first. Calmly lay back down, take a big gulp of water, and return when you feel better. It's best to stay in the room.
  9. Don't eat right before class.
  10. Sweat! :)
As for me, I've got 8 days left of hot, sweaty gloriousness. I also have the LA Marathon coming up in 9 days. (which, surprisingly, I am not at all worried about, even though I should be.... hello ITB) I probably won't be able to go more than two or three more times (bummer!) but I just wanted to share my excitement for being reunited with Bikram again. Love! ahh. Happiness.

Well have a super super duper duper awesome freaking weekend! (remember daylight savings time starts on Sunday! yayyyyyy!)
Namaste. Peace
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