My Introduction to Bikram Yoga

I went to my very first Bikram class today and it was quite a big deal for me. You see, just like a marathon, Bikram yoga was one of those things I said I'd never do, because we all know how much I hate heat. Last Monday, as I was being tortured during my 2-hour sports massage, Alan (the therapist) kept emphasizing to me over and over again how important yoga is. He practiced Thai massage during the first hour so he knew how pathetically inflexible I was. He told me that Bikram might be something I would want to try because the heat would really help loosen up my muscles.

So as I mentioned a few days ago, after much research, I picked a local yoga studio and signed up for an introductory package - $30 for 30 days.

I am always open to try new things - like stand-up paddling, meeting new people at blogger meet-ups and doing to countless races solo. Now I've practiced yoga off and on for 4+ years, so while Bikram was new to me, I am pretty familiar with yoga basics, yet I found myself unbelieably nervous for this class. Not only am I not a fan of heat, I also get pretty bored in yoga and can barely survive a 60-minute class. I spend most of the time counting down the minutes till it's over. Today's class was 90-minutes and I just wasn't sure how I'd do.

I poured over the studio's web site reading their FAQ's and etiquette guidelines like:

- Don't eat 2 hours before a class. I tried, but I couldn't do it. As soon as I wake up in the morning, I have to have a bowl of cereal. HAVE TO. I knew I wouldn't make it till mid-morning without eating anything, so I went ahead and had my Kashi Heart-to-Heart breakfast and hoped for the best.

- Come to class hydrated. Okay, I drank 2 bottled waters before the class and had to the restroom 3 times from the time that I arrived at the studio till the class started. I wondered, how do people who attend the 5 am class manage to do that?

I arrived at the studio 30 minutes before class, as instructed. When I walked in, I introduced myself and they said, "We've been waiting for you!" At first I thought, "Yeah right buddy", but then I remembered that I had signed up online and pre-registered for the class so they really were expecting me. They were really nice, had me sign some paperwork and then gave me a brief rundown of the class. There would be 26 poses, each done twice. I was really happy to know that beforehand. It gave me a little bit of context going into it.

I arrived just at the right time because once I got situated the room got packed. We ended up being thisclose to each other. Thankfully my neighbors were really nice ladies. Once was a long time member of the studio and told me what to expect and gave me some tips. She was honest and told me that some of the poses might seem weird, and if I felt light-headed or uncomfortable, just to sit down and get my bearings. She also told me that even if I didn't like Bikram, I should come at least 3 times just to be sure I gave it a fair shot. All sound advice, I thought.

The room was heated and I thought, "This isn't so bad." It had been a cold morning so the warmth felt nice. But as soon as class started, the heated feeling increased - a lot! I was already breaking a sweat during the first pose and by 15 minutes into the class, I was dripping with sweat. Now I understand why they have us lay a towel over our mat.

One reason why I find yoga, in general, so challenging is that because I am so inflexible. It is very hard to me to get into some poses, let alone hold them. But today I felt that the heat really relaxed my muscles and enhanced my yoga experience. While challenging, the poses weren't extremely difficult. Not only did I feel like I could get into the poses easier, I didn't really have any trouble holding them.

The poses were all ones that I'm familiar with - eagle, warriors, etc and there wasn't one pose that I felt I couldn't do. I did recognize my edge and didn't push beyond it.

The first 75 minutes of the class flew by, but the last 15 minutes of class were the toughest. Maybe it was because I was getting tired, but the intensity of the heat seemed to increase. I was wishing I had a second towel to wipe the sweat off my body. It was like I was bathing in sweat from head to toe.

When we laid down for our final savasana, the lady next to me reached over, patted my hand and said, "Congratulations, you did it!" Not only did I survive the entire class without leaving the room, I enjoyed it. Dare I say, I might have even loved it!

When the class was over, I did a quick assessment - my muscles felt looser than they'd been in weeks and my mind felt focused. The first breath of air I took as I walked out of the studio was so refreshing. I felt calm and rejuvenated. I'm so glad that this first experience was such a positive one. I'm already planning to take another class tomorrow!