My First Bikram Experience

In lieu of my usual Touch Your Toes Friday yoga pose description and explanation (though I realize today is Saturday), I dedicate this post to describing my first time doing Bikram yoga. Yes, up until about 9:30 yesterday morning, I was a Bikram virgin. I mostly attend vinyasa classes, along with a few ashtanga classes here and there.

I originally planned to title this post: Bikram=Boring. That sentiment pretty much sums up my reaction to this style of yoga. However, I realize that title might generalize the discipline of bikram, thus turning off any potential readers. And as a budding yoga blogger, I welcome all the readers I can get!

With the help of (another) lovely Groupon, gifted to me by my friend, fellow college grad, and bikram yoga accomplice, Jenna, we attended this class basically for free. After registering, admitting to our instructor that we have yet to swipe our bikram v-cards, and dumping our stuff in the locker room, we entered the studio.

The heat hit us hard. The 105-degree room certainly overwhelmed me at first. And my body gleamed with what seemed like buckets of sweat. However, once class started and we began to move, my body adapted. Expelling a significant amount of toxins from my body felt fantastically cleansing. In fact, the heat barely bothered me throughout the 90 minutes of asanas because there was no cardio portion or advancement of poses.

Which brings me to my next point: I was bored throughout most of the class. Not because the sign on the studio door read: “Silence.” Not because that rule was enforced, rendering me on the verge of bursting with laughter as soon as class began and Jenna and I made eye contact in the studio mirror. Not because our instructor, though very passionate and nice, repeated the same script, in a rather monotone voice, as we took each pose twice: once on the right, once on the left, on the right, then on the left.

What bored me to tears was the second half of class, after we completed our standing poses and went down to the mat to finish our last 13 positions. Wow, I’ve never taken as many savasanas as I took in that class. After each stretching or compression pose, our instructor told us to immediately release and take savasana (lie flat on our backs) for several seconds so our oxygenated blood could “do its job.”

I understand the importance of allowing blood to rush throughout our bodies and rejuvenate us (I think), but lying down immediately after taking a pose frustrated me. It also caused me some pain, as I usually release my muscles in Camel Pose by arching my lower back. But no, I had to get on my back. Jenna and I definitely exchanged a few eye rolls as we made our way from some spinal twist or kneeling pose back to savasana. This would have been fine if we were doing poses that actually demanded more stamina and visibly strengthened my muscles. Though the heat certainly challenged me, it failed to raise my heart rate and work my entire body.

However, I think bikram serves as an exercise in patience and staying present. I realize that the leaders of the bikram world present bikram yoga as a purifying practice that focuses on working the internal organs rather than an athletic practice that focuses on the externa organs. So I might need to change my perspective on how this kind of yoga can help me achieve optimum health, and what optimum health actually means.

Maybe next time (oh yeah, I’m going back-sigh, the benefits and downfalls of the Groupon), I can use this half of the class to find some peace in the floor poses punctuated by the many savasanas. Maybe I can treat bikram as a more of a mental practice than a physical one. I might use this discipline to bolster my regular practice of vinyasa and ashtanga to deepen my connection to yoga overall. Perhaps I can challenge myself to breathe deeply and consciously through every pose and every savasana and repeat some kind of mantra in my head like,”I am here.”

Or maybe bikram just isn’t for me. Though I still have 9 more classes to go…all hail the Groupon…right?

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5 thoughts on “My First Bikram Experience

  1. so many thoughts! how about a list format?

    1. i too want to laugh every time i’ve subjected myself to the bikram mirror… along with the token hairy overweight fortysomething in short-shorts and super scary skinny fitness lady in every class.
    2. i too hate the super short and repetitive savasanas.
    3. i agree that bikram is dull. it’s the SAME SEQUENCE, people. and all the teachers have monotone voices and they don’t sound at all enthused to be “present” in the room, let alone their bodies.
    4. i like that you are keeping your mind open to the practice, something i can’t do. i’ve tried it several times (maybe 5?) and dislike it more and more each time. though i do have a free week pass at a union square studio conveniently located near my office… but i just don’t think i can suck it up.
    5. i was on a bbc radio show about bikram and the commercialization of yoga. it’s called “corporate karma” and goes into the history of bikram, yoga and spirituality, lululemon, yadda yadda. good stuff, if you can find an mp3 of it! i may have a copy on my computer if you’re interested 🙂

    • Sofia, thank you SO much for validating my dislike of bikram! People rave about it a ton and I felt like I must have been one of the only people who thinks it’s BORING. Haha love the list format and your usual sarcastic, yet sincere tone. Dude I’m totally going to search for that mp3. The commercialization of yoga fascinates me…and the whole increased sex appeal of it, you know? Your comment is much appreciated!

  2. What can I say – Bikram has changed my life. It’s true it’s always the same yet every journey is completely different. I’m really sorry that for anyone who has instructors who seem bored – totally not the case where I go (Leicester, UK). Namaste

    • Peter,

      I really appreciate your comment-it’s nice to hear an honest and open-minded account from those in favor of Bikram.I wonder if you’d consider detailing your experience with Bikram overseas for my blog?

  3. I have never been bored doing bikram. My heart races during much of the class. I lost inches in my waist and hips. Yes it is the same but always different. But no it is not for everyone:)

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