Little known fact: The Mat yoga mat doubles as a message board.
Which two words have a way of starting a hot debate at our office? Easy. Bikram Yoga. The regimented practice has a way of either winning die-hard fans or strong opposition. Here's what we've noticed makes people hot or cold (pun intended).
According to the official website, Bikram Yoga is the 26-posture sequence selected and developed from hatha yoga by Bikram Choudhury. While it is one of several types of hot yoga, the methodical 90-minute practice challenges body and mind in a unique way. It is always the same routine and each posture is practiced twice. While it is suited for yoga virgins and veterans alike, it is very challenging.
For Meenu, a self-proclaimed gym rat, the challenge was the attraction. "One of my friends teaches Bikram Yoga and she convinced me to take her class. It was the toughest workout I've ever had and now I am hooked." Personally, I thrive on consistency. In a Bikram class, I can easily track my progress because the postures are always the same. ("I held Standing Bow Pulling Pose for one minute today! I rock!") I know exactly what to expect and I celebrate the little milestones along the way.
Not everyone loves the routine. "It's so monotonous!" was a recurring response when I asked people what they thought about the class. A lot of folks crave the variety that comes with other practices.
The 26-posture series, as practiced by little faceless people
image courtesy of indianabikram.com
The class takes place in a 105⁰F room. Why? The official Bikram site says that "yoga changes the construction of the body from the inside out, from bones to skin and from fingertips to toes. Before you change it, you have to heat it up to soften it because a warm body is a flexible body." The air is thick and moist, encouraging toxin-releasing perspiration. For some, it's a mini tropical getaway. For others, the humidity is oppressive.
Erin, an avid Bikram yogi says, "I love to sweat. The more I sweat the more I feel I accomplished something. Spending ninety minutes in a room dripping with sweat feels like quite an accomplishment."
Annika also loves to sweat too, but she wants to be the one getting the credit for it. "If I'm sweating, I want it to be because I'm working hard, not just because I'm in a hot room. It feels like cheating." Others are wary of stretching beyond their body's limits.
The one thing that everyone agrees on is this: the toxin purge is a natural high.
Bikram Yoga has a reputation for being a strict class. If you've tried it, you know the game: keep quiet before and after the class, hold off on water until after the first three postures, stay in the room, etc. There are valid reasons for instructors to strongly encourage these things but it's too much for some yogis.
For people used to strict physical disciplines like martial arts or ballet, the rules are all part of the deal. "They are there for a reason. They have people's best interest in mind and they help people develop habits that lead to optimum results," says Alex, Bikram buff. Annika admits that the drill-sergeant style teaching really appeals to her Type A personality, another trend I noticed.
"I boycott the classes because they are way too strict for me," says Julia. "I like a challenge but I can't handle the way the classes are taught. If I want to drink water after the first posture, I don't want to feel like I'm rebelling against the teacher."
Teacher training means sweating bodies as far as the eye can see.
Image courtesy of bikramyoga.com
the length of the class
Ninety minutes is asking a lot in a world that relies on 140 characters and instant status updates. The commitment can be too much for some people. For those who make the effort to consistently attend, the benefits abound. According to them, you reap what you sow - just read a few testimonials and you'll see.
"It's a long class but I feel fantastic when I consistently go to Bikram," says Erin. "I sleep well, my appetite is regulated, I really only crave foods that are good for me, and I have more energy throughout the day." It's true you have to carve out time in a busy week but with the right preparation, it can leave you with more gusto to tackle your day in record speed.
"I did a 30-day challenge once," says Anita. "Taking at least two hours out of my day was really tough. Sure, I felt great but my time with my husband, my family and my friends was the first thing to go and in the end, it didn't line up with my core values. I prefer a good 60-minute class."
a word from an instructor
Lauren is an key leader at our Bondi Junction store in Australia and moonlights as a certified Bikram instructor. She acknowledges the division the practice can create among yogis.
"I know a lot of people don’t have great things to say about Bikram Yoga but I have great respect for it. It started me on the path of yoga. It is a great introduction for beginners because it mainly addresses the physical realm of yoga, something people can easily identify with. With regular practice, practitioners begin to have a deeper connection with their body, mind and soul, something they may not have been in touch with before. This is when they may start to seek out deeper and more meditative forms of yoga. Bikram Yoga is a great starting point."
more on bikram yoga
- See the 26 postures in action. We love this Bikram Yoga slideshow series.
- Find a Bikram studio. Chances are there's one near you.
- Get ready for a class. Read "Some Like It Hot" for hot yoga tips from our experts.
- Read up on other yoga practices. Our Yoga Info 101 page is packed with information.
Bottom line is don't knock it 'til you try it. There's a lot more that could be said but we don't want to have all the fun. What's your opinion: hot or not?