Bikram Hot Yoga: Because Exercise in 105°F with 40% Humidity Sounds Like a Good Idea
July 25, 2010 § 3 Comments
After taking my $20, the pint-sized yogi directed me to the studio. “This is your first time,” she started, “So you will feel dizzy, likely feel nauseous, and might faint or vomit. Just try to work through it and drink your water.” OH MY GOD.
The first time I heard mention of hot yoga was probably close to ten years ago, when they opened a studio a few doors down from the coffee shop I worked at. I still remember the blinking neon sign, pulsing the words HOT YOGA. For some reason, I found this sign absolutely hysterical – a close second to only the sign from the A&W adjacent to the nudie bar that advertised “2 Teens for $5.” Just the word combination HOT YOGA seemed all kinds of strange: I pictured a bunch of Gumby-esque people in their underpants (maybe even NAKED!) pretzel-ing themselves in a steamy sauna. Turns out, I would find out I wasn’t too far off the mark with that mental picture.
Entering the darkened studio, I was hit by a wave of heat. Not unpleasant, but definitely more than I had expected. I was sweating in seconds. Taking my cues from my classmates, I rolled out my mat and towel and lay on the floor. Yes, first unpleasant realization. The towel I thought would be for delicately mopping my brow was actually a sweat drop-cloth. Mine was probably about half the size of my yoga mat, which would lead to a few “slip & slide” moments later in class. I felt like I had “Newbie” stamped on my forehead. I resisted the urge to start some nervous chit-chat. One of the rules of studio, I had learned, was absolutely no talking. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been totally silent for 90 minutes!
Still, the warm room, low lights and silence were working their magic on me within minutes. There’s something really basic and primal about it. OK, this could work for me. By the time our instructor (I found out her name was Linda) raised the lights to start class several minutes later, I was willing to try anything. I hadn’t felt so relaxed in MONTHS. Pretty impressive as this was in spite of the fact that I was sandwiched between two rather robust, hairy gentlemen in little more than boxer briefs. (Yes, my imagined “dress code” for hot yoga had been eerily accurate.) Let the games begin.
We were welcomed with a smiling Namaste and some encouragement. Linda took the time to explain the purpose of each posture, and to correct any mistakes in form. Immediately, I could see that the heat of the room had definitely improved my flexibility. I learned that there are two complementary aspects of the 26 exercises: asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises). Using extension and compression, fresh oxygen is sent to joints, muscles, and organs. Hot yoga creates some really amazing sensations in your body, and everything about the process seems to be designed for you to experience them completely. I could feel my muscles stretching, hear my pulse, and feel the blood rushing to my head. I realized how out of tune we often are with our bodies. I did experience the dizziness and nausea I had been warned about, but I chose to just go with it – basically just see where my body was taking me. Once I chilled out about it, any unpleasantness passed within a few seconds. I found it to be as much of a challenge to my mind as to my body. For the first time in ages, I let myself simply BE.
As class ended and the lights were once again dimmed, I was a tad overwhelmed by the experience. It had been so challenging, I’d thought about quitting a million times – and there I was. I actually did it. Holy crow. I returned to class five times over the rest of my trial week and loved it more and more with each session. Maybe exercise in 105°F with 40% humidity is a good idea after all.
Westwood Mall (between Superstore and Fitness World), 108-3000 Lougheed Hwy, Coquitlam, BC, V3B 1C5