Focus On: Bikram Yoga

Hey hey hey :D How are you? Hope your day is going well <3

For this week’s “Focus On” post, I thought it would be fun to focus on one of my favorite types of yoga : Bikram yoga. I was actually very intimidated by Bikram for quite a while until I took my first class in Orlando. We became good fitness friends fairly quickly ;)

theposes

Source

What is it: A hot yoga practice designed by Bikram Choudhury, based on traditional yoga techniques. The room is heated (100-105*) with humidity set around 30-40% –which makes it feel like rainforest yoga ;) The practice consists of 26 postures which are completed twice and two breathing exercises.

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From Wiki:

Bikram Yoga’s goal is toward general healthiness and Bikram Choudhury claims the heated studio facilitates deeper stretching and injury prevention, while reducing stress and tension. Bikram claims that his system stimulates and restores health to every muscle, joint, and organ of the body. Bikram’s Yoga claims to increase circulation to all organs in the body, and claims this helps in the prevention of heart disease and organ failure. According to Choudhury, many people only use up to 50 percent of their lung capacity and thus the lungs must be stretched in order to withstand holding more oxygen. In a 2007 interview, Choudhury stated that when one is practicing pranayama she or he will eventually be able to enhance oxygen conversion and absorption, as well as improve blood circulation, as in many other forms of cardiovascular activity.

Choudhury claims that blood circulation is affected immensely during Bikram Yoga because of two processes called extension and compression. These two dynamics are said to work together to deliver fresh blood to every joint, muscle, and organ within the human body. While performing a specific asana (pose), the practitioner stretches or compresses a certain part of the body, thus cutting off circulation temporarily. This restriction of circulation causes the heart to pump more blood in reaction to the shortage. The pumping of excess, fresh blood is called extension. Once the asana is complete and the individual comes out of the posture, the new oxygenated blood is able to rejuvenate the arteries that were being compressed. Because of the volume change and influx of fresh blood, it is said that infection, bacteria, and toxins can be released through this process.

What to expect: To sweat BUCKETS. I sweat more during Bikram than I do, ever. It’s fascinating, really. The first time I practiced Bikram, I hated it. It was too “strict” for me –they yelled at me for drinking water before eagle pose- and the instructor was more like a drill sergeant than the warm, fuzzy yoga teachers I was used to. And then the weirdest thing happened: I started craving it. The second time I went back, I knew what to expect, was familiar with the poses and teaching style, and loved it. Bikram definitely isn’t for everyone- at first I thought it wasn’t for me. Now I’m a huge fan and have taken classes in Atlanta, Tucson, New York, Jacksonville, Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando.

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I’ve also found, like with all other fitness classes, the teacher makes a huge difference. Usually they’ll follow a “script” for classes… and let’s just say my teacher in NY didn’t do any of that. He was hilarious, kind and amazing.

A few tips:

-Familiarize yourself with the pose guide beforehand. I didn’t do this and wish I would have! It would have been nice to know exactly what to expect.

Here’s a list of the poses (and a diagram can be found at the beginning of the post)

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-Make sure to let the teacher know it’s your first time. Ask them if you need to rest, which pose they would like you to rest in [Some teachers say to sit down, others say to lay on your back]

-Don’t chug water during the entire class, or in between poses. Not only will it make you feel icky, but if the instructor is cranky, they’ll point you out. First water break is after eagle –they’ll let you know it’s “party time”- and after that, if you need water, grab a drink at the end of a pose before the rest period in between. In between poses, you get a rest to either stand motionless and reap the benefits of the posture, or you’ll be laying down in savasana. Right before then is a great time to sip some water if you need to.

-Take it easy the first time and make sure to hydrate the day beforehand. Drink TONS of water the day and morning before class. [But not too soon to class because it’s a 90-minute class and they discourage leaving the room]

-First-timers often get some kind of promo price (like 2 for $20, or $20 one-week unlimited), which is a great chance to try it out more than once to see what you really think about it.

bikram-yoga Source

What to wear:

-Less is better! [Good thing for you because it’s more comfortable.. interesting if you end up next to or behind a very hairy man in a Speedo. I’m just sayin’] Booty yoga shorts and a sports bra is my fave combo. You can wear pants, but I’d definitely recommend crops over full-length and tighter, sweat-wicking material. Nothing is more uncomfortable than wearing something baggy, drenched in sweat for 90 minutes.

-Make sure to bring a huge water bottle, beach towel and yoga mat. If you forgot any of those things, NBD, you can rent them at the studio.

Pros:

-Great workout and calorie burn. This style of yoga encourages me to work extremely hard each time I go, and afterwards I feel amazing. I’ve never worn my heart rate monitor for class, but know a few people that have and it’s ranged from 500 to over 1000 calories per session, which is pretty amazing.

-Always room for improvement. You can always take the pose to the next level, and since the poses are the same, it’s easy to see how you improve over time.

Cons:

-The script gets a little old after a while. Sometimes, I love the redundancy and knowing exactly what’s coming next and others, I’m thinking “if they tell me to take off like a 747 jet plane one more time I might punch something.”

-It’s a major time commitment, which is one of the reasons I stopped practicing so often. Driving to the studio + class + changing out of nasty sweaty clothes = easily 2.5 hours out of the day. The results are awesome, but it’s definitely a commitment.

-Sometimes the studios are stanky. Lots of sweat, lots of people, it’s not a huge shocker. Some studios still manage to smell lovely, but others.. ewww. Haha.

-Like I said before, the instructor will make or break a class. I’ve been fortunate to practice Bikram with at least 20 different instructors, but I do have to say that by far, the best of the best is Rob in Jacksonville, FL. If you live in JAX, take one of his classes- you will not regret it :) He’s extremely laid-back and kind- a good dude :D

Have you taken Bikram yoga before? What was your experience like?

I’m off to get started on the day’s to-dos :D

See ya later today!

xoxo

Gina

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Comments

  1. I finally found a studio that is close and has bikram! I can’t wait to try it out sometime soon!!

  2. I actually JUST tried Bikram for the the first time this weekend. It was pretty much what I expected except I really had no idea what the humidity would be like. I really did feel like I might pass out about half way through the standing series…but just rested a lot and made it to the floor series no problem.

    I think the instructor really did make the difference! She was super nice, funny and very informative. she understood the back injury I’m working through and knew when to push me and when not to.

    The room full of super drippy sweaty people didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would…but the men in wet, tight, white shorts were totally distracting! LOL.

  3. I agree that it can get a little repetitive. I like hot yoga, but bikram is a little too strict and rigid for me. If you ever head to CA or CO try out Core Power Yoga, their classes are amazing!

  4. I LOVE Bikram for days when I’m feeling sore. It is kind of a gross analogy, but at the end of class I feel like I’m a pork chop in the crock pot, and my muscles are loose and just falling off the bones. I’ve also noticed a definite improvement in knee/ankle pain from dancing and running since I’ve been practicing.

  5. What I love about Bikram: heat, 90-minute classes (yeah, I know I’m weird), and breathing exercises.

    I did Bikram for almost two years until I discovered hot vinyasa. My main problems are that the teachers follow a dialogue and don’t teach to what they see in their students – this is how people get injured. Also, there are over 300 yoga poses, and Bikram never taught me awesome arm balances like firefly, dragonfly, etc.

    I was perpetually sore in my lower back unless I had just finished a class. Switching to hot vinyasa with teachers who know their alignment really helped my practice and my pain. YOGA DOES NOT HAVE TO HURT. Also, in only 6 months I’ve gotten so much stronger in my upper body and am working toward some crazy arm balances.

    Don’t mean to be a downer, whatever works for each of us is great, and whatever gets someone doing yoga is alright by me! I guess I just don’t like the limitations of this particularly practice.

  6. I tried hot yoga for the first time when I was in Chicago! The lady that did it was really nice (suprising seeing as though she was pregnant) and really helpful since it was my first time. I can’t believe you said your instructor was pushy, ours was far from it! Well, I mean, she encouraged you to push your limits, first timer or not, but she knew if you needed a break to take it; or tell you a “good job” on nailing a new move. Anyways, onto the class. I’m not a huge yoga person but ever since reading about Bikram on your blog I’ve wanted to. I normally do NOT sweat. Ever. E.V.E.R…but this? Yeah, I was dripping within the first 5 minutes. I was kind of proud! My heart rate was going 2000 miles an hour and I felt great ( and sore) after. I’d encourage anybody, first timer or not to go for it.

  7. I did a $30 for 30day challenge last summer right at this time (for the month of June). I had a similar experience to you – I did NOT like it the first time…but after awhile I started craving it. I totally agree with your assessment 100%. The reason I don’t do it more often is the time commitment (plus the nearest studio is over 30 minutes from my house!!!)

  8. Got your Macaroons today! Best Ever Ever! Melt in your mouth awesomeness!

    Thanks again!

    B

  9. Katheryn says:

    I love Bikram Yoga. Definitely one of my favorite practices.

  10. I love Bikram, but I have to be really careful or else I’ll get a major migraine. I have to drink a coconut water (and a liter of regular water) during class, and another coconut water after. Otherwise I’m pretty much out of commission for the rest of the day.

    The time commitment does suck. I used to go 3-4 times a week but just couldn’t devote that much time to it anymore.

  11. I’ve only done hatha yoga, but after hearing a friend recommend Bikram I’ve decided to give it a shot soon. I am looking forward to the intense workout, :)

  12. Ahhhh I want to try it!! I just can’t commit so much time to yoga. I really gotta do blood-pumping running/biking very often or I go nutty!

  13. I’ve never taken Bikram, but I do go to a “hot yoga” studio in my town frequently. It’s about an hour and fifteen minute class, but with the teacher that teaches the Saturday morning classes (the ones I go to), it’s more like power yoga I think than what traditional Bikram looks like. Anyways. I think I’d really like Bikram if I can ever find a class!

    Good post!

  14. great post! I still have not done bikram. (shhhh) Don’t get me wrong…I Love all Yoga, do it all the time, but no thanks to sweating and the smell. One day I will. but for now I am happy with my Vinyasa, Power, Yoga Hop, and Yoga Tune Up.. :)

  15. I’ve never done Bikram, but I just got a 30 day pass to a local yoga studio, and I’m so excited to try out hot yoga!

  16. Thank you for this post! I’ve always been a bit intimidated, but think I should just go for it and find a local studio!

  17. I tried a 2 week unlimited Bikram yoga class and LOVED IT. The first class was really hard for me but like you…I craved it and went back.

  18. i’ve taken bikram quite a few times and i have a total love/hate relationship with it. every single time i go (before, during, and after) i’m wondering if i love to hate it, or hate to love it, haha. either way, i’ve gotten in a few times and regardless of what my final opinion is, i feel great when i leave.

  19. I have never done it, but I would like too. I sweat a TON already, I’m not sure I can handle sweating more lol!

  20. I have taken Bikram quite a few times and enjoy it. I am not a “sweater” (my dad used to always say when we ran together “are you even trying?”) – but this is no joke you can’t not sweat – I was drenched before the class even started. One thing I recommend is bringing an extra towel to leave in the car to sit on for the ride home – after a few classes my car started to smell…um…not too good :)

  21. Great, comprehensive post, Gina! I’ve done Bikram a few times, and I pretty much agreed with everything you said. I thought it was super challenging and I felt like a badass when I was done, but sometimes it was a bit too intense for me. Actually, a couple of times I felt like I was going to pass out—and that’s not something I usually look for or enjoy in my workouts! Glad I tried it, though.

  22. Amusingly, I took my first Bikram yoga class last week, and loathed it. Now, I’ve done yoga before, and I love it. “Regular yoga”, that is. Hot yoga, not so much. The class was only 60 minutes, but lawdohmighty! The room was heated at 105 degrees, but they told the n00bs to set up in the back of the room. Turns out the back of the room is where the overhead heaters are located. So it might have been 105 degree where the instructor was, but it was about 120 degrees, or more, where I was. Let’s put it this way: I sat in the sauna today, and the temperature there slightly higher than it was in the class. Basically, it was too darn hot in there. 20 minutes after the start of the class I had to stop practicing, about 20 minutes after that I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes, my hands and feet started cramping up and twisting in weird positions, I couldn’t catch my breath when I was just laying there, and about 20 minutes after THAT, I had to say “eff it” and walk out, barely able to stand. I was ripe-tomato red, never been redder.

    I’m young, healthy, not at all over (or under) weight, I bike, box, do jiu-jitsu, and lift weights, no health problem at all. Not sure what happened. I think it’s too bad, I would have loved to love it, but I’m sticking to “cold yoga” now, no chance I’m going back and keeling over!

  23. thanks for the overview. especially like how you included the poses to expect. i have always wanted to try this but right now it’s just mommy and me yoga. i love it, though. i can practice yoga with my little guy hanging out on my mat which i hope will instill healthy habits for him. sometimes it can be a challenge doing balancing poses with him right under me but we make it work ;)

  24. Hey Gina,

    I just cut a bunch of rhubarb from my garden – how about a recipe? Have you ever made anything with it?

    Have a good night,

    Mo

    • Fitnessista says:

      i actually haven’t! i’ve always been intimidated. let me know what you come up with!
      xoxo

  25. I’ve been to a few Bikram classes, but only at one studio. I thought I didn’t like it at first but now I think I’d like to go once in awhile. And definitely try out some different studios :-)

  26. I like Bikram – but it’s the only form of hot yoga in Salt Lake (until my recent studio find), and it definitely isn’t something that I wanted to do every day. I love how it makes me feel, but the routine and some of the instructors have made it hard for me to begin a regular practice. I like it every once in a while, but I’m looking forward to trying hot yoga with a little more variety that is less regimented! Great review!

  27. Gina,

    As an avid bikramer this was a very descriptive and informative description of Bikram. I actually just finished my second 30 day challenge two days ago. I had a day off bikram yesterday and fit in an amazing pump class/ and run, which thrashed me for today class.

    It is always important to listen to your body and hydrate!

  28. Perfect post–my sister-in-law and I were just talking about taking a class. Glad you gave me a good what-to-expect :)

  29. I tried Bikram in my younger days. No question about it, it is an intense workout and definitely life changing for many people. Personally, I didn’t care for the regimented order of the classes, the “drill sergeant” style of instruction, the sequence being exactly the same each class and the feeling that I was going to pass out.
    Yoga, for me, is more than the asanas. It is the merging of mind, body and spirit and I wasn’t getting that in this style.
    Bikram works for many people, but it didn’t for me.

  30. good, comprehensive post on Bikram yoga! i’ve practiced it for a while. you definitely have to eat properly and hydrate well or else..once i heard a girl say she had a glass of wine and a scone before class and i knew she was not going to make it. she bailed after 20 minutes. i took class with Bikram before and got yelled at by him. haha he didn’t like my outfit (long yoga pants). it feels like the most amazing thing when class is over. ah i am craving it now..

  31. Haha, I was so not prepared for my first class and felt like I was going to die by the time I was done. I felt like I had so much energy afterwards though and went home and blogged about my experience. Now I’m hooked on it and definitely don’t feel as awful as I did that first class.

    I really want to do one of the 30 day challenges but since Bikram is kind of a time consuming class being 1.5 hours, plus showering, etc, it’s hard to fit into my schedule right now. A friend of mine just completed a challenge and will be doing a guest post about her experience soon. And hopefully when the next challenge comes about I’ll be able to participate!

  32. I did Bikram 3x/week for two months at the start of the year. I wore a heart rate monitor once and it said calorie burn was over 800. I don’t think that’s right. I didn’t lose weight those two months and I was doing Weight Watchers as well. I think your heart rate is elevated to cope with the heat, not due to cardio demand from movement. Probably to keep your blood moving close to the skin surface for cooling or something. I’m not sure but would love more info if anyone has any.

    The cost and time commitment and the fact I didn’t lose weight made me quit. Sometimes I miss it. I think that the feeling afterward is amazing. The Tempe studio has a state of the art vent. system and it never smells funky in there. I liked the predictability. You could check out mentally and make it very meditative.

    • This is exactly how I felt! Everyone said how much weight you would lose and that was not the case for me. I actually cut down on my cardio to make time for Bikram and feel that I might have gained a little! I havent chnaged my eating habits at all… i think all the people who claim they lost all the weight from bikram probably did it everyday or so. I also think alot of it is just water weight.

  33. Anna S. says:

    I have been practicing Bikram for almost a year and really love it! There’s something comforting about the repetition, but it’s always still challenging. Every day is different, even though it’s the same. I, too, struggle with the time commitment, but I’m always glad I went when class is over.

    As for the expense, I am fortunate that my studio has a program that offers people an opportunity to clean the studio one night a week in exchange for unlimited free yoga. Luckily, I am one of the lucky few and haven’t paid a dime for 11 months of yoga. It’s been amazing and I also have a much closer relationship to the studio and the people because of it. It’s a great deal for me and for the studio, since they don’t have to pay professional cleaning services. I’m sure other studios do this too, but if yours doesn’t, maybe recommend it to them. :)

  34. I’ve tried Bikram and was turned off by lack of variaty, but that is just my personality! I strive for variety in everything from projects at work to yoga teachers to food! I prefer Baptiste and Ashtanga-style yoga from a variety of teachers. I actually just graduated from yoga teacher training in the Baptiste style and it sparked a new passion for trying other yoga styles and teachers. I learn something new about myself or my practice and with each class leave inspired. I love yoga;)

  35. I practice hot power yoga on a regular basis (3- 4 x/wk) so one day I was visiting a friend and decided to check out a Bikram studio. I was not a fan of the whole laying down and getting back up thing at the end. When I’m down, I wanna stay down, dangit!! haha But I love the heat!

  36. I LOVE bikram. Luckily, i found a great studio with an amazing teacher. He would never yell at anyone… my first time, he encouraged me so much. I cannot believe that any teacher would ever yell at someone for drinking water at any point during the class!!

    Funny story – I told my BFF to try bikram, but I let her know that it would be difficult. She said, “oh no problem, i like yoga and i like the sauna. This will be a piece of cake!” Let me just say that she called me immediately after her first class to tell me that it was no joke (and that she smelled like an italian hoagie) hahaha!

  37. I’ve done hot yoga a few times. I’m not a fan. Like you said, it’s a huge time commitment and I just don’t get that same feeling of zen that I get from regular yoga. Also, stretching in those high temperatures can really increase the risk of tearing muscles. And I really didn’t like how the teachers were constantly telling you to lock your knees. Umm, that’s how you screw up your knees people.

  38. What yoga studio did you attend in Orlando? I am a UCF student and looking into trying Bikram.

    • Fitnessista says:

      orlando power yoga and you HAVE to take rob and kristen’s classes at full circle (tell kristen i said hi!) :)
      the bikram studio west is pretty good, too

  39. This post was beyond helpful! I just completed my first class this morning and felt prepared based on how you described it…question though…do the instructors normally do the poses with you or simply stand and talk through them?
    Thanks!

    • Fitnessista says:

      i’m so glad it was helpful!
      they usually talk through them, so the first few times, it’s helpful to be in the back so you can watch

  40. Caroline says:

    Hi Gina! I had a quick question for you. I am working on really trying to get in shape/tone up and was curious about how often you thought Bikram was useful for those purposes. I already run 4-5 times per week at least and wanted to add in something else to work more on strength/flexibility/toning. There is a Bikram studio near me that I like a lot, and I have the time for the next month or so to do it fairly often. Do you think Bikram everyday is appropriate? I still want to have some time to run and maybe incorporate other strength training workouts in, but I would also love to dive head first in to Bikram and go as much as I can. Let me know what you think. Also, would it be too much to run and do Bikram in the same day? Thanks for your advice. I love your blog- it is so inspiring! Have a great Monday!

    • Fitnessista says:

      hi caroline!
      i don’t think you need to do bikram everyday, but that there are definitely benefits to doing it max 3x a week if you want to work on flexibility. do you strength train at all? running, bikram and strength training are a killer combo :)
      xoxo

      • Caroline says:

        Thanks for getting back to me- you rock! I think I am going to make it my goal to Bikram 3-4 times per week in addition to my running! And then I am going to check out some of your strength training routines and try to work them in- I seem to have a harder time sticking to them because I’m not that comfortable in the weight room- but maybe some of your workouts that can be done at home/with minimal equipment would be a good place to start!

  41. Great post.
    I love Bikram, took a couple of classes to get used to the heat but now it’s fine…most of the time…yesterday I thought I’d die from the heat, lol.
    Did a 30 day challenge in January that turned into almost 60 days of daily classes and my back that was in great pain before is as good as new.
    The teachers at my studio are super nice and they push us to the limit while making sure people know they can stop if they have to and recommend to try and stay in the class all the way through, and they do point out corrections and improvements.
    Even though it is the same every day there is always room for improvement so it doesn’t feel the same, and after practicing more regularly the effects are very noticeable in many ways, back general shape, how deep I can go into the postures…I am even getting some balance, used to fall as soon as I took one foot of the floor :)
    I think there is another great thing, sometimes the hard part is to find the determination necessary to keep trying, to stay in the room even if you feel like leaving, to do the next pose when your brain is shouting at you to sit one down and that helps in other areas of life.

  42. I too enjoy Bikram yoga; however, I just wish there was not such a stigma to a man wearing a speedo. It seems socially acceptable for a woman to wear form fitting clothing next to her skin which can outline private parts, but it is a double standard for a man. What is the aversion to the male form? I liken a speedo to a man like a sports bra to a woman; both lift and support without getting in-the-way.

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