Sweaty Bikram Dingleberrys Anyone? Advice for Bikram Yoga Beginners.
Pheweee! What a week.
With final preparations happening for my race on Saturday I have been a busy little bee checking off everything I need for the weekend trip as well as fitting in a few last-minute bits of training before total rest.
In doing so, I have tapered my running and also aimed to slot in a few massages and Bikram yoga sessions just to give my body a bit of TLC prior to the subsequent thrashing it will be getting on Saturday.
Now for anyone that has not experienced Bikram Yoga let me give you some insight… Bikram is a type of yoga derived from traditional hatha yoga where participants perform a series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. The classes run for 90 minutes in a room heated to about 40 degrees Celsius with a humidity of about 40%.
So imagine sharing a large sauna with 30 + people cranked to what feels like 50 degrees. You have an instructor at the front of the class enthusiastically talking you through core strengthening and balancing postures that make you bend and stretch your body further than you ever thought possible while simultaneously encouraging you to hold those positions making you focusing so hard you think a vein in your forehead might pop…… and that perhaps gives you a small indication of what Bikram is like for me.
So why did I decide to do it? Well Bikram yoga is touted by many athletes as greatly beneficial in the prevention and recovery of injuries due to the increased flexibility gained from the yoga practice itself. The heat of the room has also been thought to have a toxin flushing effect on the body as well as making it easier for participants to stretch further because their body and muscles are in such a warm atmosphere.
So in short, I quite enjoy it because it allows me to still workout at a low impact with minimal stress on the body and also because it enables me to get my ‘flexibility’ back after a long training schedule where I often develop tightening of the hip flexors, lower back and hamstrings and other areas I’ve neglected to stretch regularly.
Additionally I’ve also found that it forces me to concentrate better, and gives me a better quality of sleep during a time when I have excess energy due to a higher intake of calories and decreased exercise output.
However after my last experience at Bikram Yoga let me share some sound advice for those who are thinking of trying it out:
Get to class early! – Don’t rock up at the last minute like me to find the only space available for you and your yoga mat is in the middle of the front row right in front of the instructor. Normally the front row is reserved for the more experienced yoga enthusiasts. If you are a beginner you are expected to be in the back row so you can watch others if you are unsure.
Don’t be afraid to use the mirrors – I’ve found after a few classes my yoga has greatly improved by being able to focus on my posture in the front mirror. Being in the front row also has this benefit because you are less distracted by other people’s reflections wobbling out of postures enabling you to stay strongly focused on maintaining your position.
Be prepared for the heat – I’m not going to lie, it’s freggin hot in there! Drink plenty of water before class and make sure you have a towel and drink bottle with you. Nursing a hangover and deciding to ‘sweat it out’ in a Bikram Yoga session may leave you looking more like a dried up crispy shell of a human rather than a supple and fresh yogi. Plus no one will thank you for the alcohol permeating from your pores throughout class.
Wear deodorant and be mindful of others – everyone sweats a lot in the Bikram yoga studio and so it is a little bit damp smelling, don’t make that worse by forgetting the old antiperspirant under the arms and precious places. Also if the class is full and you’re likely to touch the person next to you when you’re stretching your arms out, don’t just wuss out of the posture, they haven’t got herpes and I’m 89% sure that no one has ever gotten pregnant by accidentally touching another’s fingers at yoga.
Be prepared for dingleberries in spandex and sports bras/hot pants combo – Perhaps this only applies to those who like me have a terrible concentration span and/or who are terribly immature, but it is inevitable that because of the heat people choose to wear next to nothing in the yoga studio. I recommend you try your best not think about the guys sweaty packages, or the girls backsides bending over in front of you and instead try to remained focused on what your body is doing.
Know there are two breathing exercises – There are two breathing exercises only. One at the start and one at the finish. So if you are more keen on the physical benefits and are ordinarily put off by the spiritual or respiratory, then just be aware they are short and don’t last long. I advise that you just focus on staying composed and do your best to get through them and then you will be able to take on the rest of the challenging postures. And just a heads up, even though I have no idea what it means, it is also considered good etiquette to for the whole class to repeat “Namaste” (pronounced nam-us-stay) back to your instructor at the end of the session while you are lying in the last pose lying down.
With all that great advice I hope some of you are willing and able to give Bikram a go and remember that it takes at least 3-5 sessions to be able to grasp the concept of certain postures and really reap the benefits. I believe if you give it a chance you will notice a large difference in your flexibility, focus, and core strength. It also encourages you to drink plenty of water which is always a good thing!
So go forth little yogi’s and stretch and flex your way to total body balance and inner peace and harmony … or something like that
With an early work finish on Thursday I will be collecting my racepack, going for a last minute massage and then making the 112km drive down to Dwellingup on Friday arvo. I am lucky enough to be camping with a couple of other runners for the long weekend and we will all be up bright and early with the sparrows to complete the 50 mile event at 6am on Saturday morning.
After the race is over, hopefully I will be able to enjoy a nice pub meal, have a sleep and then be up and about to cheer in the runners completing the 100 mile event on Sunday.