When patients bring something to my attention over and over again, I am sure to go check it out. I feared Crossfit for awhile before I ever decided to give that a go. Bikram Yoga is no different. I kept hearing “it’s so hot” and “there’s no way that’s good for you.”
On the other hand, I had some healthy looking patients that talked about how much they loved it. They spoke about it with such excitement that I knew I would have to go see in order to give an educated opinion about whether or not I could recommend it.
I initially visited the Bikram Yoga location in Meyerland to get some information about what I needed to do to start. Their front desk staff was very helpful and I could tell that they answer the same questions all the time. They anticipated that I would be concerned about the heat and whether or not I would pass out (or die).
“The goal of your first class is just to stay in the room for the entire 90 minutes.”
They may sound like a warning sign, but to me that was a relief. That meant that it was going to challenging (usually that translates to “good for you”) and it wasn’t going to be weird if I felt like bailing in the first 15 minutes. Setting expectation levels is a good thing.
She did let me walk into the room and feel the temperature for myself since there weren’t any classes going on. I really did not think the heat was that bad. I’m usually hot, so I expected to have a real problem with it.
I decide to try it for myself
Convinced it was worth a try, my wife and I visited an early morning class a few days later. You’ll want to bring a yoga mat, a couple of towels and some water. They have all of that available for rent or purchase if you don’t have them handy. Dress in loose clothing (or yoga clothing if you have it) and as if you’re about to be hot, because you are.
When you walk in the room (which is surprisingly more of a carpet than a hard floor), everyone is either sitting there quietly or laying down with their feet pointed away from where the instructor will be (I’m told this is the polite way to do it).
For the first 15 minutes, I didn’t think it was hot at all. They encourage you not to drink water until after the first 30 minutes, when they will stop to give you a brief water break. Their logic is that you’ll be cooling down your body and not giving it a chance to adapt to the heat. I didn’t find this to be a problem.
I had a patient complain about not being able to drink water, that Bikram was “too militant,” but I didn’t find this to be the case. The “no water” suggestion was just that, a suggestion. A recommendation from the people that know how to do this. All of the movements are directed, and it’s not the soothing, calm voice you might expect, but it was fine.
The movements all make sense. I’ve always looked at yoga as taking your body through all of its natural movements and directions, but through ranges of motion that you just don’t have any reason to do on a daily basis. There are going to be movements that you just can’t perform due to physical limitations and pain. Don’t do them.
No one at Bikram Yoga will tell you to do painful movements.
You can’t do them anyway, so think about it as an indicator of where you need to work, and take mental note so you know the areas you need to pay attention to.
You can also take breaks as you need them. They don’t want you huffing and puffing or complaining in the back of the room, so you’ll just lay down on the floor face up with your feet pointing towards the back of the room. Feel free to stay in this position as long as you’d like.
I would just count during these breaks. I would give myself a count of 90 to get back up and start doing the movement again. It’s easy to want to stop and run out of the room to cool air, but that’s not the point of going. Laying on the ground is “cooler” air anyway, so it does feel like a small break from the heat.
During my first class, I think I took 3 – 4 of these breaks. The next class it was 2 times. The following classes required just one break. You will get used to the heat.
Overall, I enjoyed my time checking out Bikram Yoga. I ended up going about 5-6 times in a 30 day period. They recommend that you go more frequently to see a faster change, with a new client special that gives you unlimited visits the first month.
I decided not to continue for only one reason; boredom.
The routine does not vary (the routine is the Bikram method, so it will not change), so it can get boring. In some ways that was a good thing, as I knew where we were in the routine and knew how much time was left. As in, “oh good, we’re almost done.”
I also thought 90 minutes was just too long. After about 30-45 minutes, I was ready for it to be over. After an hour, I was just watching the clock and talking myself into finishing strong. I have had a patient mention that he’d tried 60-minute yoga classes and found he just didn’t get the same results as he did 90 minutes at Bikram.
The class times were too long for me to want to be consistent about going. I have not yet tried a 60-minute yoga class, but will do so soon. It may be that I actually need the 90 minutes to see results, but I’m not positive about that yet. Overall, I did enjoy my time at Bikram Yoga and I would recommend it to others.