I’m going to be honest. In the 10 years I’ve been practicing yoga, I’ve never had the courage to try Bikram. Why? Simply put, the idea scared the heck out of me.
Fear #1: Practicing in 105 degree heat. Why would I want to sweat out a gallon of liquid from my pores? I understand the idea of cleansing and detox, but sweating buckets, huffing and puffing as I struggle through is going way past my limit.
Fear #2: Practicing in a stinky, uncomfortable space alongside 30 other sweaty bodies. Admittedly, this fear is based upon a story a friend told me: when she practiced Bikram yoga for the first time, there was a man next to her who farted a lot and his unkempt feet and dirty toenails were in her face (bless his poor heart). Sorry for the dirty details, but that image in my mind was a huge turnoff.
Fear #3: It will hurt or I’ll pass out. Yoga should push me gently to the edge, but I want to remain comfortable and not in pain. In my mind, I imagined Bikram would overwhelm my body with all the heat and movement and that my eyes would suddenly see black and I would pass out.
Now, I’ll be the first to tell you to not avoid something out of fear. But here I was, scared for a decade even thinking about powering through an hour and half of repeating 26 hot yoga poses. It took the rugged encouragement of another friend (who loves it) to convince me to try. Her favorite Bikram studio, Fluid Yoga, is only four blocks away from my house and offered a new student special. Now what’s my excuse? Begrudgingly and nervously, I drank as much water as possible the day before, the morning of and finally gave it a try.
I did not pass out. It was sweaty, but not stinky. And afterward I felt absolutely amazing, like I could do anything. My husband (The Zen Dude) told me that my skin was glowing, like I had just had a facial. It was true, I felt incredible. But why? No one had ever explained the benefits of Bikram to me, so I feel compelled to share my experience and observations in case you’re not trying it out of fear.
Pointers and “Ah Ha” Moments About Bikram Yoga
1. The air is fresh. Instead of re-circulating the air like an airplane, fresh air is pumped into the room along with the heat (at least in this studio). It was certainly hot, but not stinky. Oh, and the floor was antibacterial. Bonus.
2. It detoxes your skin. It’s an absolute must to hydrate as much as possible the day before, the morning of, during class and after class, and even the following day. You will sweat like a pig from every single pore in your body. However, now my skin feels soft and refreshed, like I had a delicious spa treatment.
3. It pushes your comfort zone. I didn’t realize I had such a cozy yoga comfort zone until I tried this class. With the combination of the heat and the asanas, there were times that I felt dizzy and light-headed. Anytime that happened, I stopped to rest until the feeling passed and I caught my breath again. Just like with anything, listening to your body is key. Because of the heat, I was able to stretch deeper than usual without pain. I was a little sore the next day, but the good kind of sore.
4. It’s cardiovascular exercise. I have bad knees so typical cardio outlets, such as running or aerobics, are not easy for me. But in Bikram, my heart rate stayed way up without the impact or pressure on my joints.
5. My mind was clear of thoughts. Because my mind and body were so intently focused on surviving together through this challenging experience, there was no room for wandering thoughts to float around in my head. The time flew by and I was in a meditative (albeit survival) state for the majority of the time.
So what did I learn from this experience? The fact that I boxed myself in because of a fear and judgment about something I had never tried, and now I wonder what other things out there I shut out because of fear. Often, we think of ourselves as who we are and what we do rather than what we could be. It’s easy to ignore possibilities, but that narrows our experiences.
The moral of the story? Try something new. Do something you know you won’t excel at and do it for reasons that are bigger than your need to be the best. I hope that my new found interest will help me expand my viewpoints, move more freely and provide something in my life that was missing around the perfect stillness in the midst of what seemed like chaos. Give yourself chance to explore, be someone new and I have a feeling you will be both surprised and pleased with yourself.