A Sweaty Bikram Yoga Review

As mentioned last week, I started doing Bikram yoga. I got one of those group coupon deals for 10 days of yoga for 10 bucks. I’d originally planned on going every other day, but I only made it to three. For ten dollars, that’s still a pretty good deal!

I tried out the two studios owned by Bikram Yoga Toronto. Twice in the Beaches and once on Bloor. Both locations had really friendly and welcoming staff, but the latter has the nicer studio. The floors at the Beaches location remind me of a kitchen linoleum, whereas the Bloor location has nice wooden floors.

Logistics aside, I really want to talk about my experience with hot yoga. Specifically, Bikram.

First, a little about Bikram.

  • It’s done in a 40 C (105F) room with 40% humidity.
  • It consists of 26 “asanas” or postures and two breathing exercises that are done twice in a row.
  • It’s 90 minutes long.
  • The combination of heat and postures are supposed to be good for blood circulation, delivering more oxygen to joints, muscles and organs.
  • Sweating is supposed to be detoxifying. One instructor pointed out the more you do bikram, the less salty your sweat will get.

Source

Now, I know a lot of you are wondering about the heat. Honestly? I didn’t mind it! I loved getting so sweaty, and detoxifying or not, I really did feel refreshed and rejuvenated after.

One thing about Bikram is the postures aren’t that difficult. There are no vinyasa flows or really hard warrior sequences. For the most part, they are static  poses that don’t get your heart rate up. Doing them in a normal room probably wouldn’t seem that trying, it’s really just the heat that makes it difficult.

I also never pushed myself as hard as I do in other classes because I wanted to be careful not to overdo it in the heat. In some ways I guess I was missing out because of this. Also, it’s hard to go deeper into poses when your sweating and sliding around everywhere!

Even though I liked the heat, I have to say I did not enjoy the posture series. Which for me, is key. It did get a little better with each class, but it was never something I looked forward to. I often found myself counting down the poses to just “get it over with.”

My least favourite is surprisingly the Pranayama breathing we started each class with.

Source

It’s this really strange throaty breathing where you have to tilt your head back. I’m sure this gets better the more you do it. But for me, I couldn’t take breaths deep enough and it hurt my neck. The instructor would say “I know this hurts but…” As a trainer, I just don’t dig the idea of purposely putting strain on your neck.

Half of the class consists of standing postures. Other torturous ones included awkward pose…

utkatasana

Followed by a forward bend where you put your hands under your heels, press your elbows into your calves and press your chest against your thighs.

I clearly had to bend my knees to do this. But if you listened hard enough, you could hear me swearing under my breath going into this pose.

Svanasana in Bikram happens halfway through the class when you transition to floor postures. In most yoga classes, I breathe a sigh of relief when we move to the mat. Not in Bikram.

The 17th posture had us place our arms underneath our body with palms facing down. My arms screamed in pain every time we did this. Another instance when the instructor would say “I know this hurts, but…” We would then lift our legs off the floor. You wouldn’t have to listen hard to hear me groan and curse during this one.

Finally, some people are blessed with the ability to do backbends in yoga. I am not. It’s something else I find incredibly painful and fear for my back while doing them.

Someday I will reach my feet in camel pose. But it certainly was not happening in Bikram.

Because you do two sets of every posture in Bikram, you get a slight rest between each. For the laying series, you have to flip around and lay in svanasana for a few seconds between each posture. It felt like I was flipping on to my back every 30 seconds a million times over. I know this seems like a petty complaint. But doing that in 40 degree heat actually made me feel the most sick and dizzy in class. None of the actual postures tired me out as much as that constant flipping over onto my back.

In all, it’s quite clear that I will not be returning to Bikram. I’m definitely happy I tried it. Like I said, it’s not the heat that bothers me, I just don’t get anything out of the posture series. I’ve done Moksha hot yoga before and really enjoyed the flow of that one. The room is slightly cooler and the postures aren’t set in stone like Bikram.

After years of complaining about sun salutations and vinyasa flows, can you believe I actually missed my chaturangas??

chaturanga-dandasana2

I can’t wait for my next Ashtanga class :)

 

Question of the Day: Have you done Bikram? What’s your favourite kind of yoga?

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Posted on December 14, 2010, in Reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 40 Comments.

  1. Loved your post! Everything you wrote is exactly how I feel about Bikram. All of those lying down poses interspersed with savasanas just made me felt sick and dizzy too!!

  2. Back when I was more active, I used to LOVE bikram yoga. It was weird since most exercise can’t hold my attention span for very long, but bikram was the one thing that allowed me to clear my head completely.

    Backbends are no longer an option for me either, so bye bye bikram!

  3. I’ve never done Bikram, but I do love the Moksha Classes I’ve been to. Moksha Flow is probably my favourite- a nice balance between a power yoga class and a more relaxing class. One thing that makes me laugh in the hot yoga classes is just how much I sweat. I sweat a LOT. Sometimes I feel like I’m sweating twice as much as the people around me…makes me laugh to hear the “drip…drip…” hitting my mat.

  4. I’ve never done formal yoga, just yogadownload.com mp3’s. My favorite ones are the “power yoga” and “flow” classes. Hatha yoga bores me to tears. I would assume I’d be the same in Bikram. Honestly, 90 minutes is much longer than my attention span. 45 minute classes are my favorite.

  5. ashtanga is my true passion! It’s been “my” yoga for the past 10 yrs. It also inspires power/flow/vinyasa.

    Bikram is my least fave kind of yoga, that and kundalini. Just not my thing. My #1 thing about bikram is that it’s simply Just Hot. I could do all the poses without cracking a sweat in my living room. Not saying that to brag, just saying that without all that heat, the class truly just doesnt challenge me and I dunno, just not my yoga. But to each her own! Diff strokes for diff folks :)

  6. I stumbled upon your blog the other day and it’s fantastic! As a Beacher, I am loving all of the local business and restaurant reviews. And I do not love the Bikram – it just makes me feel dehydrated and bored. If you try those poses outside of the heat, they are really not that hard. I felt like I was cheating because I was sweating so hard but not really exerting much effort. I tried last year to get into it for a solid month and ended up with a really bad UTI from dehydration. And I do drink a ton of water, so go figure. I love Ashtanga….I feel a lot stronger and more flexible when I’m doing it consistently.
    Anyhow, keep up the good blogging work!

  7. All ashtanga all the time!

  8. I am not a fan. I think it’s mostly the fact that I don’t deal with the heat that well!

  9. I tried really hard to love bikram yoga, but because of most of the reasons you listed above, I really didn’t enjoy it. I don’t like the poses, the heat or the breathing techniques. Thank god I only spent 10 dollars on it as well..

  10. Great post! Thank you for your feedback. As a recent yoga fan, I am always curious what others opinions are of the different classes. I have not tried bikram yoga and honestly don’t plan to. I loved your comment about chaturangas, I feel the same way!

  11. funny – I’ve been doing yoga for 10 years now. Right now I’m more into ashtanga but I did bikram regularly for a year and a half. I absolutely love the sequence, its still the sequence I find the most grounding of all yogas I’ve tried. There are certain postures I find unpleasant and challenging (with or without heat actually), but I find that the pattern (same poses, same rhythm) really relaxes me and lets me get into focusing on myself and not what others are doing around me.

    Am now getting into Ashtanga because you generate your own heat internally (rather than a heated room), and with the right instructor you can also get into a rhythm, plus I feel there’s more muscle development and challenge to just complete the sequence. But it’s less of a personal relaxer than Bikram because I just can’t flow through the sequence as smoothly. Am also liking yin yoga now and then for the deep runners stretches. Have never tried moksha …

  12. Yes! I did Bikram once, and really didn’t enjoy it. I get really sweaty when exercising to begin with, and I was sweating so much during the series that I was having a hard time focusing on the postures :S

    My favourite type of yoga by far is ashtanga. I would highly recommend the classes at The Yoga Sanctuary (I used to go to the one at College and Yonge but I believe there is one on the Danforth as well).

  13. I LOVE MOKSHA YOGA! So much! I go 3-4 times a week!

    Bikram is “meh” for me. I go every once in awhile (like once a month) to mix up my practice but I do NOT find it challenging at all and find the floor series very boring.

    I also HATE that breathing technique. It hurts my neck and makes me feel a bit cultish. Hehe

  14. I love yoga (i wouldnt be an instructor if I didnt) but bikram is a whole other story. I wrote about my take here: http://edenseats.wordpress.com/2010/08/19/eggplant-hoarding-giveaway-and-bikram-woes/
    the recipe aint bad either in that post

  15. i like restorative yoga. sadly, the place near me stopped doing their sunday night classes 2 years ago, so…i haven’t gone in two years?!

  16. I LOVE Bikram! I have gone between Bikram and a power vinyasa flow. I really love both! I recently moved to a new country – Spain – and everything is new and different. Going to a 90 minute class where I know exactly what to expect has been my saving grace.

    Some people are turned off initially (I loved it from my first class) but I know many who continue to go and become addicted to the way they feel and what it does for them physically and emotionally.

  17. I love bikram, I can’t afford it at the moment but in the new year I’ll definitely be going back it really helped my back. I’ve only tried fitness yoga before which I enjoyed too, its definitely something that I will benefit from once I have the money! x x

  18. This is so interesting. I still want to try it once, just to form my own opinion, you know? But I am totally an ashtanga girl so we’ll see… thanks for the insightful review!!

    xo

  19. Great review Susan! I also got a bit tired of the whole chaturanga repetition thing in Ashtanga, but based on your feedback, I think I prefer Ashtanga far more than I’d like Bikram! I’ve been to several hot yoga classes at Moksha and really liked them – like you, I like to sweat! But I don’t understand the “do this, it’ll hurt” thing either. I like to enjoy my exercise, not be in pain!

  20. I’ve never tried it just because I don’t like the concept of patenting a series. But I do enjoy other types of hot yoga, including moksha (which is also not super challenging strength-wise, but super relaxing!)

  21. Wow – I couldn’t agree with you more! Like others have expressed, I love the ashtanga sequences but just couldn’t enjoy the Bikram style as much as I tried to love it. I too, am a personal trainer and I just kept wondering “Is this REALLY good for my body?” My neck and back hurt in the same poses and the instructor said the same thing: “It’s totally normal to feel dizzy and nautious, and it’s supposed to hurt.” I’d like to think I don’t always CHOOSE comfort over discomfort by the activities I do and the lifestyle I lead, but this type of discomfort didn’t quite feel right. I’m kind of relieved to hear that others felt the same! :D Great thoughts.

  22. I agree with you 100%, Susan! I tried Bikram once ( and only once), and you hit every single point that irked me about it! I especially hated how the instructor kept barking orders at the class like a demented drill sergeant/ auctioneer and insisted that the only way to get better was to push past the point where a position was painful. I have had back problems in the past and ‘working’ through pain has only worsen it, so I always make sure to listen to my body and stop when it hurts, especially in spinal positions. The breathing exercise at the beginning really hurt my neck too, and I quite honestly felt hung-over the next day! I love Moksha and ashtanga though!

  23. I love Bikram yoga! I’ve been practicing it for about eight months now. When I first started I absolutely hated the pranayama breathing in the beginning (or whatever it’s called, haha). It stopped hurting my neck after the first few classes. I do have to respectfully disagree with you- my heart rate is seriously jacked up during half moon, the balancing series, spine strengthening series and camel pose. ;) Although you did qualify it with for the most part, so I guess I’m not completely disagreeing :D I didn’t fall in love with it until a month or two in… now I’m seriously an addict. :p

    I’m glad that you gave it a try and stepped out of your typical yoga practice! It’s nice to find things that make us appreciate our normal workout routine even more!

  24. Actually, the poses are that difficult if you work the practice and are in the correct form. For me, Bikram gets harder every day, the harder I push myself!

  25. The first yoga I ever tried was Ashtanga in 2002, then I tried whatever I could afford or what was free at the YMCA for about four years, like Power Yoga, Pilates, Flow, and a Chinese Yoga of some kind; but not since I found Bikram Yoga in Vancouver in 2006 has anything ever helped me so much mentally, physically and emotionally.

    I was an athlete of many sports, and a runner, I also worked labour jobs like planting trees and restorations, I had had a few bike accidents, and I had been hit by a car as a pedestrian…so you can imagine the innumerable injuries I’ve had on my ankles, knees, ribs, lower lumbar, SI joint, hip, shoulders, neck, and wrists. I also went through a marrital separation when my husband left me for another woman, and had a divorce at the age of 26 while I was a student who simultanously had to work to support myself.

    There were times in my twenties when I thought I was going to die. Then I met a guy who had been a pro snowboarder who said he was opening up a Bikram Yoga studio in the space that had been my former Ashtanga studio. He helped me change my life. Nothing works like Bikram.

    I’m sorry to hear that anyone who tries it gives it up so easy. Not only does it help repair your body’s aches and pains from injuries and overuse, it helps you lose weight, it helps you focus, it makes you strong and flexible, it detoxifies your body, it helps with sleep apnea and digestive problems, improves the glow in your skin and erases wrinkles in your face! I mean, I’m turning 33 in a couple of months, and people still think I’m 25. I love the script, I love that I know exactly what I’m doing when I go in that studio, I love that I have goals to work on and I know how I’m going to get there, and I see results.

    Now I’m in New York City. I moved here by myself in January. I had never been here before, and I knew nobody when I arrived. I still don’t have a job, and my father just died of brain cancer a month ago. But I have Bikram yoga. I have tried many different studios in Brooklyn and a couple in Manhattan. I hope to be able to share my experiences with you about them, because aside from praying to God every night, Bikram yoga has been the one thing I have been able to rely on.

  26. I tried Bikram two times. I really loved it. I love heat too. I don’t have much experience with yoga, so it was really challenging for me. I felt great afterward both times.

  27. It’s unfortunate that you didn’t enjoy it but to each their own.

    Personally, my body feels best after Bikram yoga. I’ve tried other types of yoga but I find I get annoyed when yoga instructors go on about enlightenment and spirituality since that is not what I want to get out of my yoga practice. And I also have just never gotten the same workout from any other type of yoga.

    I started up Bikram years ago but stopped because I became a student and it got too expensive. Then I tore my ACL and went through the lengthy ordeal of surgery and physiotherapy and, of course, I thought my knee wouldn’t be able to handle anything.

    It turns out that Bikram came up with the sequence after serious knee injuries so when I heard that I decided to take it up again as a form of physio.

    It’s been fantastic for me! Not only is my knee pretty much back to normal (I couldn’t sit Japanese-style when I started) I can also balance properly on it because of the emphasis put on locking your knee in the one-legged series.

    I also find that since the postures are always the same, I improve a bit each time because I know what mistakes I’m prone to making. With other types of yoga, it’s new postures each time and the instructors (or at least the ones I’ve had) don’t interfere as much if you’re making a mistake.

    So, even though I live a 5 minute walk away from an Hatha yoga and a 10 minute walk away from a Moksha studio, I still walk 30 minutes to get to Bikram every other day.

  28. I am loosing weight (already lost 40 pounds but need to loose 70 more) I used to be a very good athlete (soccer, raquetball, table tennis, badmington, jai alai etc) Then I started to eat and stay sedentary. My weight ballooned and am totally out of shape. I am 53 and have a myriad of phyical injuries, hurts and difficulties (ankles, knees, wrists, elbows, neck and other etceteras) I had never practiced any kind of yoga and was told that Bykram….

  29. Was told that Bykram would help me get rid of my difficulties.
    I want to share my experience.

    I paid $20 for a week of unlimited classes. First impression as I entered the class was the heat and the smell. I don’t mind the heat and the smell stopped bothering me after 5 minutes. Then it started. Since I didn’t understand the commands because the were given very fast I was confused the 1st 90 minutes. I went 5 times (the last one today). Out of the 26 postures, 14 were completely impossible for me, just 2 or 3 I did fairly well. I have one very bad knee so balance in that leg is almost impossible so as bending it. I, can’t get on my knees for the love of money because it hurts so much is not funny. In all the time in there I could only take a couple of deep breaths, the rest of the time I felt like an asthma patient, more so when I was supposed to breath wile I was lying face down to the floor “resting”. Throughout I was told that feeling pain was ok, that it was gonna get better. I had an old injury in the groin for almost 2 years it hurt. It was gone already, now it returned and my knee is hurting bad.
    Then I read about the dangers of Bykram. The one that applies to me is that “Is definitely not for beginners”

    I know I was told to keep coming back, that everything will get better. I I won’t go back. I appreciate that a lot of people do it almost effortlessly, that the postures are a bit difficult, just a bit to 98% of the yogis there. For me, I it is impossible and excruciatingly painful. I will try to get in better shape and loose at least another 50 pounds before giving Bykram another try.

  30. The longer you wait the harder it gets. People want to believe that our bodies get better with age by doing nothing. Sorry to break it to you, but you’re wrong. Just read the testimony above. Gabriel admits to having been an athlete all of her life.Then she stopped exercising due to injuries, starting eating, and becoming sedentary. Now look at the experience she has had with Bikram Yoga. She says her groin injury was healed, but really, it wasn’t healed because we all know that if you have had a major injury as an adult, the likelihood of it healing fully is slim to none – you have to keep your body strong or else those old injuries creep back in and cause pain once you start moving your body again. All the testimony shows is that our bodies don’t get better with age without hard work, and that if you sit around and wait for some miracle cure, you will likely suffer. Your first ten sessions of Bikram are likely the hardest, so why quit when you’ve come this far? It won’t get easier by putting it off.

  31. I attended a class which was LOADED with commercial after commercial — what services the studio offered and so and and so on. SOOOOOO TACKKKY!

  32. I have done Bikram seven times in the past 10 days. I am aiming to go four times a week. The first class was horrible. I was so hot, and I had no idea how to do most of it. I went again the next day and it was much better! I have really enjoyed the other ones since and can’t wait to go tomorrow. I love the instructions, the heat and the sweat. I plan to join the studio and continue for as long as I can. I have done extensive research and people either love it or hate it. The claims that it is too hot to be safe are a bit silly as people have been practising yoga in India for hundreds of years and it is pretty darn hot there! There are also claims that it is dangerous, but I feel that there are dangers to any form of exercise. I drink a coconut water after and feel amazing. I hope I will continue to find this fun and challenging. I am fairly fit and run, do weights and other fitness class. I plan to focus on Bikram for the next while to see how I change. I think you really need to try at least three classes before deciding.

  33. hello yoga !

  34. Did a full week of Bikram daily.. Had a sense it is being positioned too commercially by the founder. Buying coconut water, the Bikrm sit up etc. Think he even lives in Hollywood like a non materialistic yogi should. Lol. Postures were ok but i personally would get bored if i did only this form for a long time. did get used to heat and continous flipping.,will continue but interdispersed ith other forms.

  35. This is a great post! Thanks for being real. I’ve always wondered why more people don’t wonder about the “I know this hurts but…”

  36. Great post! I’ve always wondered about the “I know this hurts but…”

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