In 30 days, they won me over and this wasn't easy to do. My previous experience with Bikrams's was not too rosy. After these 30 days, I would recommend this studio, and hot yoga, to anyone. I do believe it's a therapeutic practice and it has (at least temporarily) cured my Ashtangi insomnia issues.
I don't know if my shoulder is really any better, but that's a story for another day.
I gleaned a few tips from my 30 day hot yoga experience that I wanted to share here, in case other Ashtangis are curious about the style and decide to take the 40C (105F) plunge.
Hydrate *before* you go to class. It's takes up to 40 minutes for the water you drink to benefit your body. Drink lots of water in the hours leading up to class, but stop a half-hour before you go in (or you'll need to pee halfway through).
You'll get used to the heat. After the first week, you'll only notice it if it's unusually hot or unusually cool. Otherwise, it feels just like doing yoga in a warm room after being drenched by a bucket of warm water. And the Bikram's people aren't making this part up: It feels GREAT afterwards.
Don't drink water during the standing poses, and drink as little as possible during the rest of class. As I was struggling through my first few classes, I found this great article by Mary Jarvis, talking about water and why you shouldn't drink it in a Bikram's class. We don't drink water during Astanga practice so I was open to the suggestion. I decided to experiment and see how water affected me. I was stunned by the difference it made, *not* drinking water, especially during the first half of the class. I felt less exhausted and dragged down. My balance and focus was better.
Every time you think you need to drink water, breathe deeply instead. I can't emphasize this enough: Breathe, early and often. I also found that visualizing sipping cool water as I stood in Tadasana breathing was helpful. Topping up your oxygen will benefit you more in the practice than water. Whenever you find yourself at a standstill between poses (or in Savasana), breathe, breathe, breathe!
Save your energy! Stillness is your friend! Don't fidget, or play with your towel, or moan (really, moaning won't help you feel better). It's hot enough in there as it is, any extra movement will just add to your body heat. Save your energy for the postures and transitions between them. Also, there are mirrors - if you're tugging at your clothing and pulling out your wedgy, or making sexy little hip circles while you admire yourself, *everyone* will see you doing it!
Many poses in Bikram's look the same but have different goals. Learn them! In Astanga, forward folds aim to lengthen the hamstrings. In Bikram's yoga, a great many forward bends are 'compression postures' that put pressure on the glands of the body, especially the Thyroid. For example, Parsvottanasana is called Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Janushirasana (Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose) in Bikram's. Entering this pose, you must tuck your chin to your chest and keep it there as you place your forehead on the knee. If your hamstrings aren't long enough to accommodate this, the front leg is bent. The important part is the compression, not the stretch.
Learn to love sweat and don't bother wiping it away - it will just come back. I found sweat to be most annoying during the first 20 minutes of the class, then it got better. The simple truth is, the sweatier you are, the less you notice it. Towels and 'wipe rags' are frowned upon in Bikram's. Also, don't use a towel to hold your slippery leg in Pavan Muktasana. The teacher will laugh at you!
Know your 'resting poses', they'll help you survive the class! To me, these classes often felt like a series of 'sprints' between islands of calm. My 'resting poses' might not feel that way to everyone (hello, Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Paschimotthanasana) but I knew that if I could just get to one of the easier poses, I would have the space to breath deeply and replenish myself for the next series of more difficult ones.
And one last nugget of wisdom: At some point you'll probably think you need to pee. You don't! This always, ALWAYS happened to me during the spine strengthening series and it always caught me by surprise. Yet, I never once wet myself during Shalabasana. Well, not that I know of, anyway... (I'm KIDDING!).
I also found myself getting weird food cravings in class, but I'm not sure if that's because there was a breakfast cafe upstairs. I do know that water tastes terrific after a hot class (so drink lots of it), Emergen-C is addictive and my morning porridge has never tasted so good!
Above all, have fun! You won't die (though there will be times when you wish you could) and you're going to learn at least one trick that will be very useful in your Astanga practice: expertly and *quickly* flipping yourself into Savasana. ;-)
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