I have a few friends who have recently expressed an interest in trying Bikram, or are getting started. Here's some tips that I've put together based upon my experience with Bikram. Hope it helps!
1. If you are nervous about how your body will withstand the heat, ask where the heat source in the studio is and set your mat up away from it.
a. If there are fans in the studio, sometimes the instructor will turn on the fan during class, so situate yourself under it.
b. If there aren’t any fans, then situate yourself near the door. Some instructors will open the door briefly during class to let fresh air in. Also, some people won’t be able to withstand the heat and will leave the studio don’t class – you can take advantage of feeling fresh air when the door opens/closes. Just don’t be one of the people who leaves the room.
2. Bring at least 2 towels. I sweat A LOT during Bikram, so instead of using a yoga towel, I use a thick beach towel to absorb all the sweat. I also place a face towel at the top of my mat (because my beach towels aren’t long enough to cover my entire mat). Bottom line is, I prefer for every inch of my mat to be covered with a towel.
a. I also bring a 3rd towel to wipe my face during class. Some people will tell you that sweat is a cooling agent so you shouldn’t wipe your face because then you’ll just sweat more. But I can’t see when sweat is pouring down my face, stinging my eyes, so I wipe my face anyway.
3. Bring at least 2 water bottles, or one big one. I drink a lot during class and sometimes feel like I have to ration my water so I have enough at the end. Do yourself a favor, at least until you know how much water your body needs during a class, and bring 2 bottles.
4. Bikram classes move through 26 poses. Every class goes through the same 26 poses – it doesn’t change. And if it does, it should be advertised before class. Some people prefer this so they know what they’re getting before class. I like to mix things up so I can typically only do 2 Bikram classes a week.
5. The 26 poses are broken down into 3 sets:
a. Warm-up poses. These first few poses are designed to warm-up your body. You are standing for all of them. You start out with breathing poses, and eventually end with the Eagle pose. You do not drink any water until after this first set is over. It usually lasts about 25 minutes, and at the end of it, the instructor will prompt you to take a water break. After this water break, you are welcome to take a water break as you need to.
b. Standing Series. The next sets of poses are also done standing. They focus on balance and build core strength. They include such poses as Triangle and Tree. There are different levels to some of the poses and the instructor will guide you through your options.
c. Lying Down Series. The last 3rd of class are poses done on the mat. Mini savasanas that are followed by sit-ups are mixed-in to the sequence. Some of the poses (like Camel) can be intense. You are welcome to sit down and rest during any portion of the class. Like the Standing Series, there are different levels to some of these poses as well and your instructor will also guide you through your options.
6. The last pose is a breathing pose. I think it’s called “Fire Breath” although I’m not quite sure. The tip is to breath from your belly.
7. At the end of your class, take at least 5-minutes for your final savasana. You’ve earned it.
8. Bikram classes are popular. Classes get crowded. You may end up being closer to your mat neighbor than you prefer. Just go with it.
9. Wear a tank top and shorts – nothing more, nothing less (if you know what I mean). And you sweat a lot during Bikram so wear wicking clothing; you will not want to wear cotton. I just use my running clothes.
10. Do not be afraid. Yoga is a nurturing practice and no one is there to judge you. Everyone is at his or her own level and within his or her own practice. Stay within yours; respect YOUR edge and most of all HAVE FUN. Your body will thank you for caring enough about it to practice yoga.
Any other tips to add?