Feeling Hot Hot Hot! Challenge # 1 – Bikram Yoga

As part of my healthy & natural living theme, I was convinced to try Bikram Yoga by a couple of friends who recently started going themselves.

Bikram Yoga is a kind of Hot Yoga developed by Bikram Choudhury in the 70s, which seems to be spreading fast. It’s made up of 26 postures or Asanas done in a room at 40°C (104°F).

“It’s really great,” enthused Michelle, “you’ll love it, it’s hard but you’ll feel amazing afterwards!”

Bikram Yoga is reputedly excellent for detoxifying the body, strengthening muscle tone & improving flexibility and general health, with the added bonus that the heat helps minimise the risk of injury and allows you to go deeper into the postures.

As with all Yoga practise it also has a spiritual side. More than just a set of stretching exercises, Yoga is a spiritual practise which brings spiritual insight, inner peace and tranquility to the practitioner or Yogi.

Having practised Hatha Yoga for the past year and a half, I was interested, but admittedly a bit scared at the prospect of doing Yoga in a 40 degree room. At the same time, as someone who tends to suffer from cramp in my toes at the slightest hint of cold, the idea of a nice warm room was also rather appealing.

Getting cramp in your feet during Yoga is very frustrating, not to mention painful, and you have to sit out until it passes.

I have to admit that I was more than a little concerned at how hot the room would be, whether I’d be able to breathe and whether I’d cope.

I’m not a fan of saunas or steam rooms, so the idea of a hot room was a little unnerving. The first and last time I went in a sauna, I had a panic attack, started hyperventilating and raced out the door back to the pool within about 30 seconds of the door being closed.

I decided it would be prudent to research Bikram Yoga thoroughly on the Internet to reassure and prepare myself for my first class.

Reassuring it was not – the more testimonials I read, the more nervous I got. Apparently I was going to feel faint, dizzy, sick and probably throw up at some point. I should also drink a couple of litres of water before and afterwards to make sure I didn’t dehydrate.

What was I letting myself in for?

I arrived at the Bikram Yoga Bournemouth, mat, towel and water in hand, filled out my forms and sat waiting for the teacher to arrive.  I couldn’t help noticing the other students were scantily clad to say in the least – tiny shorts and cropped tops appeared to be the order of the day, and I began to feel a little overdressed in my regular Yoga leggings and top.

While waiting for the beginning of class, I popped into the room and laid down my mat and towel to secure my place – right at the back with the beginners.  Flanked by second-timers Michelle & Sam, I was starting to feel a little better.  The room wasn’t as hot as I was expecting, which was a relief. It reminded me of the sensation of stepping off the plan in the Dominican Republic, the heat wraps itself around you and you can’t escape. It’s strangely soothing.

The class finally started, and the newcomers were warmly welcomed by the teacher and owner of Bikram Yoga Bournemouth, Amber Fidler.

She explained to us that as it was our first time, the challenge was simply to stay in the room for the whole 90 minutes, and that we shouldn’t worry whether we could do the postures or not.

I started OK, the first section went pretty well. During the harder middle section, I started to feel sick,  and found myself fighting the unexpected urge to run screaming out of the room.

I paused, sat down and sipped some water. Once I felt ready again I stood up and joined in again.

I lost count of the number of times I had to sit down and wait for feelings of faintness and nausea to subside, but I quickly learned that they were only temporary, and would pass each time I sat, breathed and sipped some more water.

The class around me were pouring with sweat – literally. I’ve never seen anything like it!

It became clear very quickly why it’s compulsory to have a large towel covering your Yoga mat during class.

I was expecting to hate the sweaty part, but it was OK. You sweat so much that it just runs off, and the high tech fabric of my sports gear was doing an excellent job of wicking the moisture away from my skin. I concluded that the long leggings were a good idea after all.

It’s an unusual sensation being soaked with sweat all over, but it’s not unpleasant.

I was able to join in again properly for the final section of floor work, which I actually enjoyed.

I’m not sure if it was the relief at the class was finally over, and that I’d made it through the class alive, or simply some deep emotions coming up, stimulated by the Yoga, but at the end as we lay in Savasana, the dead body pose looking up at the ceiling, I felt a rush of emotion and tears starting to pour down the sides of my face. I’ve experienced this kind of emotional release during Yoga before, so I just let the tears flow, landing on my soggy, sweat-soaked  towel.

It was all over – the class slowly made their way out of the room, and most sat looking dazed and bedraggled in the corridor outside, resting and rehydrating with water and coconut water sold at the reception desk. There was a real feeling of achievement and camaraderie, and my fellow yogis appeared happy although clearly exhausted.

Rehydration is absolutely vital after Bikram Yoga. Staying on the natural theme, I bought myself a carton of coconut water which is a natural isotonic  – drinking chemical-laden Lucosade just wouldn’t have felt right under the circumstances!

It was a very strange feeling coming out of the hot room back to normality. Physically, I felt exhausted and weak, but mentally I felt excited, pumped and a little crazy!

After resting and rehydrating, I drove home and parked up outside my house. I sat in my car and burst out laughing. It all felt so  surreal!

Today, day one after my first ever Bikram Yoga class, I’m really feeling the benefits. The more I move, the more muscles I find that have worked out and are aching as a result.  At the end of class Amber told us we’d worked every muscle group – she wasn’t exaggerating!

Apparently, to achieve the best results, it’s best to go back to Bikram Yoga within 48 hours so I’ve agreed to go back tomorrow for my second go.

It’s very hard to describe how Bikram Yoga makes you feel, but I think I’m starting to understand why people get so hooked. It was difficult, challenging and awful, feeling sick and faint wasn’t pleasant, but it was an amazing experience at the same time, my body had a great workout and I felt incredible afterwards, really positive and uplifted.

All I can say is try it – it’s definitely worth a go!

 If you’d like more information about the class I attended, please visit www.bikramyogabournemouth.com