my first bikram yoga class

Posted on Jul 23, 2012 in Fitness

On Friday morning, Babyface and I packed up and headed down to Indiana Bikram to try out our first ever Bikram yoga class. If you don’t know the deal with Bikram, it’s 90 minutes, doing 26 postures in a room heated to 105° with 40% humidity.

It was intense.

Babyface and I are both definitely yoga novices. I had taken one “official” vinyasa flow class before (and had a terrible experience) and we’ve both dabbled a bit with yoga DVDs, but we were definitely newbies. Neither of us had any idea of what to expect, so we did a lot of research beforehand to quell our nerves. Because of our extensive Googling, we knew that the class would probably be voice led, there would be no talking allowed in the room, and the main goal for the first class was to just stay in the hot room. And those were all the case!

I’d read a lot of horror stories about mean instructors barking orders (after all, I’ve heard Bikram referred to as the “boot camp” of yoga), but we didn’t experience that at all. Our instructor was incredibly nice, gave us a whole run down of everything before we ever entered the room and gave us lots of positive feedback.

The room is hot. Obviously, but I never thought it was unbearably so. Maybe that’s because of the obscene heatwave we had a few weeks back, but I actually think there was something comforting about the oppressive heat. Of course, I was hot and sweating, but I never felt uncomfortable. Babyface, on the other hand, became pretty overwhelmed by the heat in the last half hour. I think it totally depends on the person.

As far as the postures, I was actually amazed at how relatively simple and clear they were. I didn’t feel like anything was overly complicated or confusing for a beginner (and that could be because of our awesome instructor). Of course, the heat really helped me to be more flexible. The first half of Bikram classes is always standing poses, followed by floor poses. I did get dizzy quite a few times during the standing poses. I’m pretty susceptible to fainting, especially when I go from being inverted to right-side-up pretty quickly, and that happened a few times during the standing series. I had to sit down and watch (but stay in the room!) for a few poses because I felt really light-headed, but I was able to do the vast majority of the postures. I’ve been told that dizzy feeling goes away once you get more used to the heat and postures.

But once we did the floor postures, I rocked ‘em! The instructor even told me afterward that she wishes she had her cameraphone with her so she could document a first-timer doing Full Locust pose so perfectly. Brush my shoulders off.

By about 20 minutes left in the class, I was just ready to be done. But I think that’s when the real mental work starts. I’d love for the class to be a bit shorter, but pushing yourself to get through and stay in that hot room for the full 90 minutes is a really good practice in willpower and strength.

My only real issue actually happened after class. I’m not sure if this is normal, but in our class, during the final relaxation, the instructor opened all the doors to bring in some cool air so we could all start to regulate our temperature. Great idea! I stayed in savasana for about five minutes, but I still felt extremely dizzy and light-headed as soon as I hit the cooler air out in the hallway. By the time I’d gathered my purse and put my flip-flops back on, I was starting to see spots and was for sure I was going to hit the floor. So I popped a squat and regained my marbles for a few minutes. But as soon as I got up again, the spots and dizziness came right back. I powered through, thinking I could just get to the car, but the instructor stopped me to chat in the lobby and, well, long story short, I ended up collapsing against some old trunk.

The instructor told me that next time, I should try staying in the room for 5-10 more minutes during savasana to give my body a chance to acclimate to the cooler air temperature. She said it’s very common for first-timers to pass out after their first class. Apparently the contrast between the hot room and the cool hallway is just too much for the body to take.

Babyface helped me back to the car, we enjoyed the breeze outside, ate some watermelon (which was pretty much the best tasting thing ever) and drank some coconut water. Within about five minutes I felt totally normal. Actually, better than normal! I felt invigorated. I felt calm. I felt really freakin’ proud of myself for conquering that class!

This is the only picture I took. Hey, coconut water!

We actually headed grocery shopping afterward and Babyface and I both remarked at how—pardon the cliche—Zen we felt. Normally I get pretty stressed while grocery shopping, but I was cool as a cucumber. It was a pretty awesome feeling.

The next morning, I was sore, but in a bunch of really weird places. My neck muscles were super sore as were my obliques. My whole back wasn’t really hurting, but it definitely felt like it had a good workout. I loved that there were poses to focus on the lower, middle and upper areas of the back.

So, will I do Bikram again? Absolutely. But not all that often.

It’s expensive. Crazy expensive. We paid $16 each. And as great as I felt afterward, and as amazing as it felt to sweat that much, it’s just too insanely expensive to do frequently. But I’m so glad I did it and I can’t wait to try it again!

Have you ever done Bikram? What was your experience like?

20 Comments

  1. Congrats! Bikram is the real deal!

    I know it isn’t the same, but I bought the Bikram series from yogadownload.com. Exact script. $8 or so. And I did it regularly on my back deck last summer. I missed the mirror, but Kentucky summers can feel like the hot room.

    • OH! You are genius! And considering it’s gonna be 97° here today, I think that’s perfect!

  2. Never tried it before and like you I dabbled in yoga once before but never found it to be my forte. Maybe we can take a bikram class when we come visit?
    I think i’d like to try yoga again as i feel my muscles and mind need it

    • Yes! We can definitely do one. It’s definitely an experience I think everyone should have in their life. :) At least once.

  3. I actually just switched my gym membership for a hot yoga membership and I am loving it. Definitely a really nice change. I felt I needed to get a good solid hand on my eating, and doing intense workouts like I was, I was hungrier and having a hard time balancing it out. This summer I am focusing on my eating and doing yoga – and loving what yoga brings to my life. I love the heat too, I find it helps me with my flexibility and sweating so much is good for my skin :)

    • I’ve heard a lot of people say the sweating is good for the skin! I totally believe it. I felt so…oddly clean…after sweating for 90 minutes.

  4. I have been looking at trying, but since i am a non bendy person I have been sort of scared… reading this was helpful- thanks!

    • Don’t be scared at all! You’ll be amazed at how much more flexible you are with the heat and even if not, it isn’t about being flexible compared to other people, it’s about pushing yourself!

  5. I’m so glad you had a good experience! I’ve still not taken a class at a proper studio, and frankly I don’t know if Bikram will be right for me…I don’t do well in really hot spaces! But I have certainly always been intrigued by Bikram. I like Krissie’s idea of getting a podcast and trying it outside during the summer!

    • Bikram was right up my alley. I always felt like yoga was a bit…hokey for my tastes (no offense to the big yogis out there!) but Bikram was a lot more about pushing yourself and getting through the heat and a lot less about the spiritual side, which I like.

      I just downloaded the podcast for free from YogaDownload.com using the coupon code KLUTCHFRDL. Sweet!

  6. I’ve been to Bikram a couple of times. It’s pretty sweet how much you sweat in there, but I prefer a vinyasa class over one like bikram where you hold poses.
    I got yelled at for using a towel in pose #5 because my hands and legs were too sweaty for me to actually grab my calf without it slipping. But I talked back to the instructor and told her I was going to use the towel anyway because I really needed it.

  7. I’m a big fan of hot yoga. I go to a hot yoga studio that is not Bikram. I practice not hot vinyasa yoga during the week and on Saturdays, I do a 90 min hot yoga power class. The class in intense. A power class moves fast for about 2/3 of the 90 minutes. It gets seriously, sweat dripping down your face, puddling on the floor sweaty. I love it! Best detox EVER! I have definitely grown a lot through not hot and hot yoga. I never feel hot anymore (outside of yoga, that is) and my flexibility and strength are constantly progressing. I think my favorite part about hot classes are that amazing feeling of lightness afterwards… the bliss is unmistakeable, and it doesn’t really go away. I’m also a runner, and the runner high disappears after a while…. but the bliss after hot yoga hasn’t forsaken me yet. Enjoy!

    • YES! The feeling of lightness! That’s such a good way of putting it. What is that from? I’m craving more!

  8. My first Bikram class was awesome, and I would love to do it more, but 1) I think I know of one Bikram studio and it is about 45 minutes away and 2) it’s expensive! After my first class the front of my neck was crazy sore from the breathing exercise at the beginning. Turns out I have crazy tight neck muscles and that super stretched them out. Yikes! Beginners often have to be careful not to “overdo” in the heated room and get hurt (that extra flexibility thing). You are right that handling the heat depends on the person, but it also depends on the day, what one has had to eat and drink, etc. Just like any other workout how one responds to the hot room depends on each day. Way to go for doing Bikram. It IS intense! I actually miss going and I only went a few times.

    • MY NECK HURT, TOO! It almost felt like I was getting sick (swollen glands) but was definitely a muscle thing.

  9. I LOVE yoga! I’ve done the Bikram series a number of times, but prefer the Vinyasa hot flow classes to Bikram, personally. Maybe it’s all the sun salutations :)

    I need to re-visit my fitness calendar so I can fit in more yoga.

    • I had such a terrible Vinyasa experience (a really horrible instructor) but I hear so many positive things about it that I should really try it again.

  10. Hello! Congrats on your first Bikram class!!! I love love love Bikram-I started recently going consistently 3-4 times a week after I bought a groupon type deal and I have toned up/lost weight more than I ever did in 6 months at the gym. But more importantly I think that “clean” feeling you get and the mental strength/stamina are the greater rewards. I totally feel you on the whole not being into the spiritual aspect of other yoga styles even though I frequent those from time to time. :) And finally if they would only make it affordable….

    • I would love to find a Groupon for it! But for now, a Podcast and my back deck in the July Indiana heat is working well. :)

  11. Hi there. I haven’t tried Bikram yoga yet, but I have been loving these yoga flow videos designed by Kate Potter. They’re each 22 minutes long; sometimes I do two at a time.
    They are gorgeously filmed.
    http://www.namaste.tv/collections/shop

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