So for a month or so I’ve been going to a thing called “hot yoga” (otherwise known as Bikram yoga) with a girlfriend of mine. She’s been doing it for a while and finally persuaded me to go along with her. Bikram yoga is like regular yoga, only in 40c heat and 40% humidity. And also, where in normal yoga the routine changes each time depending on the students, Bikram yoga uses the same 90 min set every time.
If it sounds scary, that’s because it is scary. The first time I went, the teacher told me that if I feel dizzy, like a want to vomit or black out, I’m doing it right.
So why am I doing it??
In actuality it’s not that bad. Often, going into the pose I feel really ill but once I’m there and I’m breathing as the teacher is telling me to, I feel stable and not like I’m going to throw up. And I sweat. Everyone sweats. You have to bring a full towel to cover your yoga mat because you will sweat so much it’ll be as wet as if you’ve dunked it into a swimming pool by the time you’ve finished.
I went for the first time because I was looking at lots of photos of yoga people on Tumblr and I decided I wanted to be cool like them. I am ridiculously influenced by things I see around me. I’ve just finished painting my nails green after seeing a girl at work with green nails and deciding I want green nails too. I made the boyfriend a strawberry – avocado – spinach sandwich the other day because I saw a photo of it online and decided I wanted one. And so with yoga, I decided I wanted to be the people in the photos and so I joined my friend in her class.
I’m going to be completely honest here and say that while mental pictures of me being cool and flexible were what brought me to Bikram yoga, it is the changes to my body that keep me going. Sure, it’s water weight. But you burn about 1000 calories each class, and I do see a difference the morning after every session. My legs look amazing. So amazing I just go out wearing knee high socks and I don’t even care. I’m 26, I go to the gym often, I eat well and now I have this one thing that boosts my confidence and my legs look amazing and I don’t even care if I’m not “meant” to wear knee high socks.
The other reason why I keep going back is that I have pretty weak knees and the heat in the room makes the exercises a lot kinder to my joints. I’m a lot more flexible in the hot room, and my knees aren’t nagging me nearly as much any more. I feel they are much stronger which is great.
The downside is that it IS super scary. Being told that wanting to pass out is normal is usually a sign that you should get the hell out of there. I still can’t do the whole routine through. There’s this pose called the camel pose which looks simple but comes towards the end of the routine and I can’t even start to bend back – I just want to vomit. The best I can do it kneel “Japanese style” and wish for the day that my Bikram sea sickness goes away.
The last scary part is that the routine and the teachers push you. If you clicked on the camel pose video above you’d have heard the teacher say “it’s supposed to hurt”. Things like that are said often. They want you to push yourself beyond your boundaries and stretch that little bit more but often it’s said in ways that sound like they don’t have your health as their priority. However, when doing this kind of yoga you really need to just listen to your body – you know your limits – and use your common sense.
HERE is a nice video showing each of the poses in the routine. It’s pretty positive. But if you search you can find lots of negative things about the yoga and its founder. Personally, Bikram yoga makes me feel better about myself and as long as I look after myself, I don’t see it having a negative impact on me.