So… Bikram Yoga

Yeah. I’ve been messing around with it. Cheatin’ on my Vinyasa Yoga with Mr. Bikram Choudhury.

Bikram Yoga: 26 postures and two breathing exercises. Most postures are repeated twice in a row. The room is heated to 105° F with 40% humidity. Personally, it is very difficult. I’m a little mad about it because I’m a hardcore, tough-ass dancer who is very bendy.

Every class takes a large amount of willpower and discipline on my part to even get myself to the yoga studio, one stop away on the subway from my apartment. Pathetic. It’s just ten blocks away, but every time I get ready to go, it feels like I’m preparing to Lewis-and-Clark it across Amurika.

Here are some things I’ve learned from personal experience:

  1. Do not eat at least two hours before Bikram yoga. If you do, you will feel really awful for the 90 minute class and beyond.

    (yes, that is a black cat in my twitter avatar. I think it's HILARIOUS.)

    (yes, that is a black cat in my twitter avatar. I think it’s HILARIOUS.)

  2. Expect people to toot. (Sorry, I don’t like that “f” word. The other “f” word, I’m fine with using, but the short one that deals with flatulence somehow crosses a line.) Yes, people toot, and everyone is apparently ok with it. There is a pose (number 14 to be exact) that is called the Wind-Relieving Pose because it massages/puts pressure on your colon. Really.
  3. You’re going to be nearly naked in a room with nearly-naked strangers. And you will get over it very quickly. Eventually, it will become oddly comforting in a “I’m so open-minded and self-righteously free” way.
  4. Bring a change of clothes for after class. Your classroom gear will be soaking wet and embarrassing out of context.
  5. Once you are allowed to drink after the first few postures, you will drink water like it is saving your life. And it will feel like it is, literally, saving your life. Bring. A. Lot. Of. It.

The “costume” (their words, not mine) is usually a sports bra and booty shorts. Except if you’re a dude. The guys wear just booty shorts or very short swim trunks.

Before you go to a class, you have to know what to bring and what certain studios will provide.

These are some of my Bikram Yoga supplies. There are other great brands out there for yogis, but I'm partial to Lululemon. And I'm partial because I get a discount for being a dance and fitness instructor (15% booyah!) You have to use a towel over your mat in Bikram; otherwise, you will slip on your own sweat and drown in the puddle of perspiration accumulating on your mat. The Lululemon thin mat (purple) doubles as a matt and a towel. I throw it into the washing machine after class. Easy. I also enjoy having an extra mat towel so that I don't have to use the mat for Rabbit pose, so I add the big orange thin towel over the purple mat. Not necessary, but I do it. I also have a small towel (grey/purple) that I use to wipe my face because Bikram makes you sweaty. Really, really sweaty.

These are some of my Bikram Yoga supplies. There are other great brands out there for yogis, but I’m partial to Lululemon. And I’m partial because I get a discount for being a dance and fitness instructor (15% booyah!) You have to use a towel over your mat in Bikram; otherwise, you will slip on your own sweat and drown in the puddle of perspiration accumulating on your mat. The Lululemon thin mat (purple) doubles as a matt and a towel. I throw it into the washing machine after class. Easy. I also enjoy having an extra mat towel so that I don’t have to use the mat for Rabbit pose, so I add the big orange thin towel over the purple mat. Not necessary, but I do it. I also have a small towel (grey/purple) that I use to wipe my face because Bikram makes you sweaty. Really, really sweaty.

In the scientific/fitness community, the jury is still out on Bikram Yoga.

I’ve done a lot of research on the benefits and the negatives. And I’ve tried to check my sources for bullshit. Ladies and gentlemen, there is a lot of bullshit out there when it comes to this practice.

Scientifit.com has an article citing two studies on Bikram. Here’s the article. The first study found that it improved balance. Ok. Fine. The second study found that it increases psychosis in those predisposed to psychosis.

So are all the other “benefits” of Bikram exaggerated? What about the instructors I see in class who are cut cut cut cut cut?

Bikram Choudhury (the creator of his namesake yoga) says that beginners should try it for 60 days straight. He says the benefits include:

  • Detoxification the body through profuse sweating.
  • Increase of metabolism and heart rate
  • Increase of flexibility through heat with less strain on body, reducing chances of injury
  • Increased circulation to seldom-reached parts of the body
  • Improved lymphatic system function which aids in detoxifying the body
  • Reshapes the body through toning and stretching muscles
  • Strengthens the body’s immune system
  • Relieves stress
  • Increases flexibility of joints, tendons, and ligaments.
  • Sharpens focus and discipline
  • Strengthens bones
  • Expands lung capacity
  • Improves heart function
  • Promotes healthy sleeping patterns
  • Boosts energy level
  • Increases stamina
  • Improves balance (this is the only benefit supported by the 2008 Hart and Tracy study.)
  • Stimulates nervous and endocrine systems
  • Strengthens spine and relieves back pain

Look, I know that there is a lot of hype around Bikram, and some of it may be total bullshit, but I do know that I burn a hell of a lot of calories in class. I also know that it makes my muscles slightly sore, which means I’m doing SOMETHING right. I know that my heart rate goes up, especially during the floor series.

I’m thinking about doing the 60 day challenge, but I’ll have to wait a week or two because of my schedule. At Bikram Yoga Harlem, if you pay $150 and come every day for one month, you get an unlimited month package FREE.

By adding a slightly competitive element, my interest is more than piqued.

Let’s hope I don’t start seeing demon people and talking to an invisible cat that tells me to kill babies. (Lu and Pierre’s 2007 study.)

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