Fitness Focus: Bikram Yoga
Bikram Yoga. Is it enough to say that Bikram Choudhury, Bikram’s creator, describes the rooms alone as “torture chambers”? The rooms are neat and spacious, with large mirrors, bright fluorescent lights and carpeted floors. In temperatures well over 100 degrees you attempt to contort your body in poses that seem humanly impossible. The humidity is nearly suffocating as you put your body and mind through unimaginable extremes. On top of all that, each class is an hour and thirty minutes. It is not a relaxing yoga, no soothing music or dimmed lights. The teacher speaks throughout class, while your eyes are wide open, focusing on your sweaty, half-naked body under the glaring lights in the front mirror.
The first time I attended I was thirteen. I sat in the back row and a series of thoughts rotated through my mind; I’m going to vomit, I’m going to die, I’m going to leave, I’m going to faint. It is no doubt a taxing workout, it takes focus, balance, flexibility and strength. To those inexperienced in the art of Bikram, a quick look around the classroom will leave you with a sinking feeling. Peeking at the unrealistically serene faces and expertly posed slim bodies will be a blow to your self-esteem. How are these deities keeping such impossible balance while you cannot even life your head, you may ask yourself. But don’t let that get you down, with a little practice that can be you, too! You will move from the back row to the hallowed front row, which is reserved for those well versed in the poses. In Bikram you get back what you put in. If you try hard and focus you will get results.
It not only builds your body, but also your mind. You learn how to better focus, to better control your movements. You have to learn to be calm in circumstances that are a bit excruciating. You have to learn to be at peace. When you leave the room you feel relieved and exhausted, but it is not contestable that it is a wonderful workout. Bikram in the morning leaves you energized for the remainder of the day. I’m not one to workout on my own, gyms intimidate me and I get so bored. I would also not consider myself athletically gifted. But I love Bikram. Bikram is never boring, even if you’ve been at it for years. (It’s the same postures and breathing exercises in the same order every class.) There is always something that can be improved upon.
If you’re looking for a new way to spice up your workouts, or if you’re just looking to start exercising more I would highly suggest you try Bikram. Admittedly, it’s not for everyone. But you might take to it better that you think. Once you try Bikram regular yoga pales in comparison. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and your body. If for no other reason, try Bikram because it is a new experience.
Advice for trying Bikram: Don’t be intimidated by the other people in the room, and don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone started once, and no one starts out as a master. Additionally, even the best practitioners have bad days and good days, and so will you. Your body is different from day to day. Don’t be mad at yourself if you can’t do something, or if you expected more from yourself. Be patient and be kind to yourself. If you feel sick, lay down, don’t leave the room. It will pass. You’ll get used to the heat, in the meantime just focus on your breathing. Listen to the teacher, the slightest adjustment to your posture can make a big difference. And once you get through the class, congratulate yourself. I’ve been doing this for years and I’m proud of myself after every single class for getting though.