I’ve been diligently doing Bikram Yoga lately, even doing it daily for 16 consecutive days! I’ve lost 2kg as a result and this is how Bikram Yoga has shaped my body:
Damn – the HOT BODS photoshoot for The Straits Times should have been now! Haha anyway, this is a result of hard work and determination to get through Bikram Yoga class everyday. I’m on Day 6 now, having restarted a new continuous stretch.
What is Bikram Yoga?
Bikram Yoga is a type of yoga different from what you probably have in mind. It’s a series of 26 fixed poses (means you do the same poses every class) in a heated room of 41 degrees Celsius done over 90 minutes. Sounds tough? Hell yeah!
I started doing the usual type of yoga in the air-conditioned studio with varied poses depending on the class type (there’s Traditional Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Ashthanga Yoga etc.) but found it not challenging enough so I started doing Hot Yoga.
Hot Yoga is basically Hatha Yoga but in a heated studio of about 37 degrees Celsius over the course of an hour. I learnt about Bikram Yoga but didn’t dare to try it so I kept practising Hot Yoga instead, once even doing it 11 times a week, 2 classes at a time.
The intent of the high temperature is to warm up your muscles and enhance your body’s ability to function properly, both internally and externally. It allows for a deeper stretch and creates a cardiovascular workout with increases endurance and burns more calories. The heat also encourages your body to sweat out toxins and helps to increase the efficiency of the immune system.
One day, I just touched down in Singapore after a 13-hour flight from Paris and was still jetlagged but my travelling partner said he was going for Bikram Yoga. In a moment of impulse I decided to go with him.
The series of Bikram Yoga poses starts with a pranayama breathing exercise first, followed by a standing series (means you are on your feet) then the floor series all the way to the last pranayama breathing exercise.
I used to struggle with the poses physically, ie. can’t seem to bend into the poses and all, but now I’ve gotten stronger (I can almost do a split now!) and it is the heat that’s the toughest battle.
No water is allowed for the first 25 minutes of the class, until after about 4 poses are completed. Also, no one is allowed to leave the class for 90 minutes. If you do not feel well, you just sit down with your head kept above your heart or just lay down in savasana (dead man pose – on your back with palms up).
It is perfectly normal to feel nauseous, giddy or even feel like fainting during the class. Even though I’m considered a regular practitioner now, I still feel giddy or nauseous at times. During my first class, I didn’t even finish it! I was pushing during the standing series, then when we came to the floor series my heart was so pumped out that I just stayed in savasana most of the remainder of the class. Oops
But I tell you – the sense of accomplishment at the end of the class is amazing! All that perspiration and hard work feels super good…
Unlike the usual yoga classes where the masters actually do the class with you, the Bikram Yoga teacher does not demonstrate any poses and all instructions are entirely verbal… so please listen up! They also explain the health benefits and some science behind the poses you are doing.
How has Bikram Yoga helped me:
1. Weight loss and toning
I haven’t lost like crazy kilos, lost about 2kg after doing it regularly for over a month, but I think I’ve lost quite a bit of inches. My clothes feel looser and I think I look a bit thinner.
2. Improves my strength
Initially when I first started doing Bikram Yoga I struggled with the poses as I couldn’t stretch and all that. But now I’m a lot stronger and not only can I touch my toes, I can almost do a split! This increased strength has also translated into better driving on the track, ie. in my karting. I
3. Helps me to sleep better at night
It used to be me getting so tired from the workout that I crash in bed after showering. But now that my body is more accustomed to Bikram Yoga, I don’t crash in bed anymore. Instead, I fall asleep much easier and I am able to sleep longer. In the past I used to have intermittent sleep where I keep waking up several times a night.
4. Calms the mind
Whenever I feel stressed about something I would go for a Bikram Yoga class to calm my mind. During that 90 minutes, my handphone’s in the locker, I’m in the the studio where I can’t come out till the end of the class and nobody can get me. Something like being on a plane…
5. Stretches my mental limits
It’s a real test of your mind when you get in there. For me it’s not about the physical challenge anymore but it’s about the heat and duration of the class. On occasions I will feel very sian and even start counting down to the end of class. So you just got to keep pushing and telling yourself not to give up!
Here are some tips to getting started:
1. Get enough sleep
2. Hydrate youreslf well before class
3. Eat right – Try not to eat at least 2-3 hours before class; once my friend’s friend puked out her creamy pasta all over the mat.
4. Dress as little as possible - Most ladies just wear a sports bra and shorts, while the men just wear tights or shorts with their shirts off.
Here are Cheryl Tay’s tips to survive:
1. Bring iced water to class (haha this is purely my own advice and not what the gurus say ok! I need frozen water so I will get semi-melted ice water during class)
2. Don’t think about the heat (after a while, you get stronger in the poses and don’t struggle as much physically, but your mental will get to you)
3. Find a strong motivation (be it weight loss, self challenge or being vain!)
4. Stand nearer to the door where it might be cooler
Right now I’m just pushing myself to see if I can break my 16-day record.. There have been people doing 30-day and 60-day challenges! In fact, to certify to be a Bikram Yoga teacher, you need to do Bikram Yoga everyday for three months or something like that. Sheesh!
So what are some of the benefits of Bikram Yoga other than a toned body and a strong mind?
- Reshapes your body
- Reduces risk of sports injury
- Aids recovery of existing injuries
- Reduces effects of stress
- Clears your mind
- Tones and strengthens muscles
- Increases balance and coordination
- Increases energy
- Helps you to sleep better at night
Each pose aids in enhancing the function of the skeletal, muscular, skin, circulatory, nervous, digestive, respiratory, endocrine, elimination, and mental systems of the body. Many people think that Bikram Yoga does not cause weight loss but rather water loss. While this may be partially true, Bikram Yoga increases the heart rate, warms up the muscles, and increases blood circulation causes a perfect combination of calorie burning and weight loss and muscle building.
Many international sporting stars, Hollywood superstars and globally-acclaimed celebrities round the world are into Bikram Yoga – Madonna, Britney Spears, George Clooney, Jessica Simpson, Beyonce, Jim Carrey, Quincy Jones, Goldie Hawn, Brooke Shields, Diana Ross, Lady Gaga, Ryan Giggs etc.
There’s so much I can go on about Bikram Yoga – it all started with this man called Bikram Choudhury (hence the name). Read his story here – he has even taught former US president Richard Nixon before! He doesn’t give private lessons to these big shots and insists that they have to come to his class – how’s that for above-red-carpet treatment man!
Amid all controversy for his supposed cult creation, I must say he is a GENIUS – now people all around the world are taking official licences from him to spread it around the world. Create a belief, have people spread it for you and boom you are a multi-gazillionaire!
Anyway, don’t worry about not being flexible – Yoga isn’t about stretching, but about your breathing. Now, if you think you would like to give Bikram Yoga a try, let me know – either leave a comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be more than happy to take you as a guest for a free trial class! I practise at Bikram Original Hot Yoga at Pacific Plaza, owned and operated by the True Yoga group.