Fancy getting hot and sweaty in a room full of people, some near-naked? Try Bikram Yoga.
You’ll probably have heard of Bikram Yoga by now – it’s been around awhile. Well, yoga, of course, has been around a looong while. Bikram Yoga, or as I like to think of it, Sweaty Yoga, has surfaced more recently and was first popularised by Hollywood celebrities and the like, maybe a decade or so ago if I remember my glossy magazines correctly. ‘Invented’ by Bikram Choudhury in the 70s, Bikram Yoga takes yogis through a 90 minute sequence of postures, performed in a room heated to 40 degrees Celsius with 40% humidity.
There are a few theories for the heat, among them that injuries are reduced, that you’ll get a higher cardio-vascular benefit than other forms of yoga and that you’ll become ‘a fat-burning machine’. Or something like that. There are also some sciency-sounding benefits like better elimination of toxins and something about haemoglobin. I apologise if I sound glib or dismissive here, but I tuned out at that point.
Canberra has a little piece of the action. I tried a class at Bikram Yoga Kingston on a Saturday morning and I didn’t really know what to expect. I had been given a bit of a run-down about the etiquette of a Bikram Yoga class – no speaking, don’t take a drink until the instructor says you can, don’t leave the room before the instructor (which means if the heat gets to you and you feel sick you’re just meant to sit down and wait out the rest of the class). Etiquette also suggests not wearing perfume or other strongly smelling things, but is sadly silent on wardrobe choices – there were two men in speedos and I discovered what kind of underwear the fabulously flexible woman in front of me favoured within minutes as I was ‘treated’ to an up-the-shorts vantage point. But I digress.
The class was in a massive room, and it was full to capacity with people of all ages, shapes and sizes – a bit too full if you ask me. We began with the lights down low, and lying there in the heat, on my towel (mat underneath, you’ll need to take both), I could have fallen asleep. I was surprised that the heat didn’t bother me, I’m not normally fond of it. Soon enough the instructor entered the room and talked us through our postures and breathing techniques. For a novice like me her instructions were helpful, she talked us through what to put where in a calming low voice. She did encourage us to ‘push it’ a bit though – which is okay for an experienced student but I wasn’t sure where the limits were and could probably have hurt myself if I went too hard. The 26 postures begin with essentially standing and breathing before moving through a range of more complicated ones. Being Yoga, they had some fabulous names (I wasn’t good at the Awkward Pose but was very good at the Dead Body Pose). We spent a few moments in each pose before shifting into the next one – I found it a bit static actually and suspect that yoga of any kind is not for me. I did find some of the poses quite challenging, I’ll say that. At the conclusion of the class I wasn’t sure if I was meant to feel energised or relaxed. A friend who had accompanied me loved it and was practically glowing but I was mostly relieved it was over.
The 90 minutes went surprisingly fast. Not so surprising was how sweaty I got – and I wasn’t on my own there. My hair was drenched and every inch of my clothes too. There are post-class shower facilities at the studio but the ratio of shower-to-student was woefully inadequate, so plan ahead if you’re going to check it out.
Look, don’t necessarily take my word for it – there are millions of yoga devotees the world over and they can’t all be wrong. It just turns out that I’m not one of them.