Skip to main content

Bikram Diaries, Part 1

There are all kinds of, forgive the pun, hot topics in yoga.  Skyrocketing prices to take class at a studio or to wear the most fashionable yoga clothes, debates about alignment in certain poses, teachers giving hands-on assists to students, spiritual differences and beliefs - there was even a huge debate on a yoga forum about whether you can be a true yogi and drink.  (My vote is a resounding Yes You Can).

One of the more contentious topics you can raise among a cross section of different yogis is Bikram Yoga.  This is a school of yoga in which the same 26 poses (including two pranayama or breathing techniques) are taught in each 90 minute class.  The practice room is heated to approximately 100 degrees, sometimes up to 110, which obviously causes the practitioners to sweat.  A lot.

Its devotees swear by it, some practically deifying the founder, Bikram Choudhury.  They believe the detoxification the heat provides is paramount to health and long life.  Some, however, are uncomfortable by a perceived highly sexualized culture, with the half-naked practitioners dripping in sweat in close quarters.  Some find the idea of the heat itself to be dangerous.  Some are simply bored by the idea of doing the same set of postures, or think it's damaging to push your body too far in the same poses time after time.  Some are turned off by the more physical, almost athletic emphasis as opposed to a more gentle and spiritual emphasis.  And that's not even getting to the reputation that many Bikram studios and instructors have of being unfriendly bullies who believe humiliation is a motivational tool.

Why am I telling you all this?

I received a dozen or so coupons as part of my goodie bag from  Summer Solstice in Times Square. One of them happened to be for Bikram Yoga NYC, New York's first Bikram yoga studio, established in 1999.  I find that, despite having practiced hot yoga before in studios in Virginia and really enjoying it, I held a lot of negative preconceived notions about the practice of Bikram based on what I've heard and read.  I realized none of those things were based on my own personal experience, and decided to change that.

My feelings are so multifaceted and this experience has been so interesting so far that I knew there was no way I'd keep it to one entry.  For now, I'll settle with sharing the basic background of Bikram for those who may have been unfamiliar.  Today was my 5th class and the end of my first week.  I have three weeks left with Bikram Yoga NYC, and I may extend it to a 5th week with Bikram Union Square (hooray for coupons!).

So far, I'm enjoying it more than I expected, but it's also much more challenging than I remember.  I most often practiced hot yoga at a great studio in the Williamsburg, Virginia area called Body Balance in the summer of 2009.  I was there almost every day - that place was my summer home away from home and I could not get enough of the sweaty sweaty room!  I was surprised that I enjoyed it considering normally I am extremely sensitive to being too hot.  I'd rather be too cold any day of the week, but for some reason hot yoga really appeals to me.

I'm not sure if I'm just not used to it or if Bikram NYC's rooms are hotter than the ones I'd practiced in previously, but the first class I took there this past Friday, I was dying.  Luckily, I really liked the teacher and the environment he created.  I didn't think I was going to get yelled at if I came out of a pose (which can occasionally happen in a Bikram class) and I survived.  It's gotten mostly better, and I'm happy to report that of the 4 different teachers I've had, I like 3 of them tremendously.  One...not so much.  But I'll explore that more in a future entry!

So far I am enjoying it, I must admit.  I'm a much more touchy-feely-spiritual yogi and this major hardcore stuff is not usually my cup of yogi tea.  But I'm sticking with it and the best part of it - it's making the unbearable heat on the streets of NYC right now much more bearable!

Are you a Bikram fan or foe?  Or have you even heard of it?  Or does it sound insane?  Or, if you're my sister or Kendra, like heaven?


  1. Yay extreme heat and sweaty-ness! I might put my yoga mat outside tomorrow in the 110 heat index and get a free class in :)

  2. Oh god, seriously! I wish I had the time to do that too, but I'm on a train to Boston tomorrow afternoon and I don't think Marc and his brother and sister-in-law would appreciate my disgustingness ;)

  3. The heat IS heaven!!!
    Bikram, not so much. I get bored with the same 26 poses and no chaturangas. I felt like it wasn't as much of a workout as other yogas, and the only reason my hear rate was elevated was because of the temperature.
    I love me some vinyasas and extreme heat. Hence, Baptiste is my yoga soulmate.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Magic of Brain Gym

I cannot believe I haven't blogged about Brain Gym yet!  That is absolutely bananas, and also sort of great because after a few years of incorporating the little bits and pieces I learned from Shari (founder & director of Karma Kids Yoga and the only boss I've ever had with whom I've also done crazy things like the pose on the right, which she named "fart neck"), I finally took the "Brain Gym 101" course this past weekend to learn more in depth about the what's and wherefore's.

Brain Gym is a lot of things, but what it is primarily is a way to facilitate better learning through movement.  Although it started in the field of education and helping children learn better, everyone can benefit from it.  You may be reading and writing just fine, but do you have a situation where you struggle to communicate your needs clearly to a partner, a friend, a co-worker?  Do you struggle with random bouts of unexplained anxiety that you struggle to release…

Home is Where the Heart is

One of the most cloyingly saccharine cliches of all time?  Yes.  True?  Also yes.  Sort of.

It's been an incredibly eventful three weeks.  At the end of June, my sister underwent major abdominal surgery to repair a major diastasis caused by two back-to-back large pregnancies.  On that same day Marc and I headed up on the Megabus to Massachusetts for a fun long July 4th weekend of family (including our two delicious little LeVasseur nephews!), wine, fun, and going through endless boxes of nostalgia from his childhood as his parents prepare to put their gorgeous house on the market.  The baby pictures!  The metric tons of books! The middle school poetry!  Oh, the earnest and terrible middle school poetry...

Then last weekend, I flew to SC for a whirlwind celebration of the twins' third birthday with family (third!!!), helping out my sister, who is recovering beautifully in every sense of the word.  Just shy of three days of nonstop work, play, and extreme highs and lows of overs…

Health Scare

I had a whole draft of a blog in my head all made up, but it has been a day.  And now that I've come down from all the life-stuff of the day, I'm left to ponder with a growing, nauseating dread what 217 elected representatives voted for today.

Forgive the pun-y and ridiculous title.  I'm just so afraid that this is our country now.

In case you're wondering who voted how, check out this helpful page in the NYTimes.

Listen - we all know Obamacare wasn't perfect.  But I know several people who would literally not be alive today without it.  I wouldn't have health insurance without it - and you better believe I use my health insurance.

Instead of having a group of adults who can intelligently discuss policy and talk about improving our health care system, we have a group of children who stick their fingers in their ears and simply shout about destroying any bit of legacy President Obama may have had.  They've denigrated this so deeply that there are literally p…