Bikram: A Newcomer’s Guide


For those headed to their first Bikram class, it is hard to know what to expect. It can be a daunting prospect to head into a hot room for 90 minutes of the unknown. So we offer a bit of a primer, on what the class is like, how to prepare and have the best experience. And after the first class, the best thing is to come back quickly for a second, when it will all start to make sense.

Please share this post with friends, or anyone contemplating trying Bikram. It should answer a lot of questions and squash a few myths.

What is Bikram:
* It is a series of 26 Hatha yoga postures, developed by Bikram Choudhury, practiced in a 90-minute class in a room heated to 105 degrees. The heat promotes flexibility and detoxification.
* Yes, it is hot, and that takes getting used to. Do the best you can and your body will adapt.
* Any studio labeled Bikram Yoga must be certified and its teachers trained by the Bikram’s Yoga College of India. Other studios may offer “hot yoga” but they will not be this particular series or taught by Bikram-certified teachers.

A Few Basics:
* Our studio asks all students to stay in the room for all 90 minutes. That is so the teacher can look after your well being, and so you can grow accustomed to the heat. You may sit down and rest as much as necessary.
* Bikram teachers do not demonstrate postures. They describe them with very specific dialog designed to explain proper form.
* The class begins and ends with a breathing exercise. Most postures are done twice. The class is always the same series of postures, always in the same order.
* The first rule of a first class: Don’t judge anything (yourself, the yoga) on the first class. Do the best you can and come back as soon as possible, preferably the next day. Your body will know what to expect and everything will make much more sense!

Prepare, prepare, prepare: It will make a huge difference in how your class goes
* Hydrate thoroughly. It helps to start a day ahead, drinking much more water than you are used to. If your body is properly hydrated, it will handle the heat much better. Electrolytes are important too.
* Don’t eat for 2-3 hours before class. Food sitting in your stomach will make it much more likely you will feel nauseous.
* Don’t wear too much — or too bulky — clothing. Cover everything important (and remember, you will bend every which way) but things like T-shirts get heavy and uncomfortable when they get sweaty.
* Arrive early, so you can fill out paperwork and not feel hurried. Come at least 20 minutes before your first class. You can rent a mat, towels and buy water at the studio.

Class Pointers:
* Focus on yourself in the mirror. As uncomfortable as watching yourself for 90 sweaty minutes sounds, it is how you monitor your postures and how you focus. If your eyes are wandering around the room, your concentration will wander. It will also drive the students around you nuts. They are trying to concentrate too. Sneak peeks of others to help you understand postures, but then focus on yourself again.
* The postures are not destinations. You will not reach the full expression of the postures in your first class. Many will take months, and some will take years, often requiring dozens of classes to even understand what muscles are operating the posture. The only way to progress is to build from the basics, follow the instructions religiously, go as far as you can and work at it every class. It is a journey and there are no shortcuts. Doing one percent of a posture right is better than doing 95 percent of it wrong. Read more on this here.
* The best way to work through difficult moments is by breathing deeply, always through your nose. Your breath is your natural source of oxygen and serenity.
* Stillness is power. Your natural reaction between postures will be to fidget, wipe sweat away, pant. But all of that expends energy. So try to be as still as possible. You will gain energy. You can read more on this here.

Again, remember, the goal of the first class is to get through the first class, and then come back to begin to learn what the practice can bring to your life: fitness (core strength!), better health, a calmer mind, weight loss, ability to deal with stress, better sleep, great skin.

Hope to see you in a class soon!

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One Response to Bikram: A Newcomer’s Guide

  1. Pingback: It’s not all about the heat « Bikram Yoga Manhattan's Blog

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