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.
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.
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…
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??
I can’t wait for my next Ashtanga class :)
Question of the Day: Have you done Bikram? What’s your favourite kind of yoga?