Travel Tuesday: Bikram Yoga
I love yoga so much that I actually drop-in at three different studios which are different distances from my home to ensure that I can get to class a few times a week no matter how late I work or what direction I’m coming from. Except for the exception: summer. As a school employee I have flexible summers, which always begin with the intention to attend yoga like it’s my job. I started off strong this summer, but then the heat kicked in and I backed off and started to intersperse some non-hot classes into my day and woah, what a slap in the face that is. It is so much harder to get into poses without the heat!
With loads of celebrities flocking to Bikram classes, including the likes of Lady Gaga, Gwenyth Paltrow, Anne Hathaway, Jenny McCarthy and so on and so on, it’s been on my “try it once” list for quite some time. About three weeks ago I picked up a Groupon for a local Bikram studio at a ridiculous price (aka: the price of the voucher was less than one class at any of the studios I attend). After reading that someone close to me just knocked out the 60-day challenge, I figured it was a sign to give it a try. So today, I traveled to a new yoga studio.
I was “prepared” in the superficial sense: I had my mat, my towel and water and previously glanced at the poses online. I was greeted kindly upon checking in and was told to set myself in the back row. The room was just as hot as a typical hot vinyasa studio with the following exception: carpeted floor that had a strange smell to it. It wasn’t outwardly offensive, but not the fragrant scent of incense I’m accustomed to.
There were only 7 students in the class which allowed for ample mirror space which I found quite helpful throughout class (something my typical vinyasa studios do not all have). The class started slow with pranayama and quickly picked up the pace from there. There was no background music, just the instructor seated on a stool reciting the dialogue. I have to say, I was not expecting the standing series to wind me as much as it did. Also, this may be a good time to share that I attended a 75-minute EXPRESS class, so my heart rate was really pumping (I was told this meant less pausing between poses). On a few occasions I found myself wishing for a child’s pose, or even worse, a sip of water.
So here’s my rundown on my Bikram experience:
Things I liked about Bikram: (1) The intensity of holding the poses. In vinyasa I often know that a tricky pose will only last to a 3- or 5-count and use that knowledge to help me maintain focus. In the Bikram classes the poses were held far longer than I am used to, offering a challenge to maintain focus and balance longer.
Things I missed from a vinyasa class: I’m surprised to say that the music is not something on this list, although I thought it would be. I was so intensely focused on the poses that music would only have been a lovely afterthought. (1) I immediately missed the dharma talk and setting an intention. No OM to seal the deal? (2) I also quickly began to miss a more appealing smell in the room (pungent odor seemed to develop over time). (3) I wasn’t a big fan of the carpet and stepping off my mat for poses. We all have yoga mats, so why are we not getting into triangle pose or standing separate leg pose horizontally on the mat? I found myself sliding on the carpet and unable to maintain a good grip in these poses. (4) No adjustments. The verbal cues are pretty good and I was called out a couple times, but sometimes I crave that correction for muscle memory.
Things that I wished were better explained to me: (1) When we are allowed to sip water as I kept missing these “allowed times” and found myself parched at the end of class; and (2) the correct way to breathe, as I tend to reset to ujjayi and was the loudest breather in class.
Overall I enjoyed my experience today and haven’t soaked my clothes that terribly in a long, long time. I also haven’t smelled that bad either. I think I’ll return a few more times during my 30-day trial and see how my feelings progress. If nothing else, it’ll be one more class to mix into my pocketful of yoga studios. And hey, I tried something new. Yay to that!
Have you tried Bikram yoga? Have a yoga preference?