Is 2016 The Year You Try Bikram Yoga?

This post first appeared on my blog in 2014, but I decided to post it again as we head into the New Year. Is 2016 the year you take your first Bikram Yoga class? 

Everyone remembers his or her first Bikram Yoga class! And for good reason! It can be overwhelming, unfamiliar and a bit scary! But don’t be disheartened. Follow these easy tips to make sure your first class is as positive an experience as possible. And don’t be discouraged if it is tough. It should be tough! For many of us, it is the first time we have worked so deeply into our bodies. Plus, it’s 105 degrees in there!

Please don’t be scared off! You can read about my first class here. It was challenging, yet inspiring, and I am so grateful for it, because it led me to this wonderful practice that I have now enjoyed for five years. Here are my tips for a great first Bikram Yoga Class. Enjoy!

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When Is the Right Time To Drink Water in Bikram Yoga Class?

It’s the start of the year, so there are a lot of new students in class lately. Sure, that can be inconvenient — super-crowded classes, lots of extra explanation up-front from the teacher — but it’s also a wonderful opportunity to re-examine your practice through a new lens. Many times new students can question the norms and provide an interesting insight.

That happened for me in class today when there was a dispute about drinking water during the warm-up. A new student (2nd class) started to drink during awkward pose, but the teacher stopped her and asked her to wait until the first water break. While I have seen this happen before, and the student usually sets aside the water and waits, this particular student said, “But I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be allowed to drink water when I wanted it. That is a problem for me.” The teacher further explained that it was proper Bikram etiquette to wait for the first drink until after the warmup, and the student decided to wait.

A little disruptive, but it got me thinking — when do I drink water in class and are those the right times to be drinking? What I discovered is that I have a very regular pattern for drinking water during class. I drink at (1) party time (of course!), (2) before standing separate leg stretching, (3) before the first savasna, (4) before cobra, (5) before fixed firm, (6) before head to knee pose with stretching pose, and (7) before final savasna. All of this adds up to one 40 oz flask of water per class.

I also noticed a few other interesting things.

1.  I drink more often during the floor series than during the arguably more strenuous standing series. Maybe all the savasnas between postures on the floor provide more opportunities to drink, while the standing series moves more rapidly. Or maybe I am just thirstier as the class goes on. Or maybe I start to lose focus and the water is a distraction.

2.  I only drink BEFORE postures, not after them. This really only applies to the floor series, where I make a point to always drink at the start of a new posture rather than at the conclusion of a posture. I believe that getting into savasna right away is important in making sure I get the full benefits of the concluding pose.

3.  I am not a sipper. I drink several full swallows each time. Teachers warn this can fill your belly with water and make you nauseous, but so far it has been fine. And boy does it feel good.

4.  I probably should not be drinking before cobra pose. Teachers warn us not to drink right before the spine strengthening series since you will be laying on your belly. I have not had any issues yet, but I can see that it really is not a good idea. I also noticed that no one else was drinking at that time. I should try to cut that out of my routine.

Fellow yogis, when do you drink water in class?

My First Bikram Yoga Class

I will never forget my first class. Having never done a yoga class, let alone a Bikram Yoga class, I decided to look the part so I had on yoga pants, a workout tank and a t-shirt.  I felt very resourceful as well, having brought my own water bottle with me.  I arrived 20 minutes early to fill out paperwork and meet the teacher, Chris.   He was exactly what a yoga teacher looked like in my eye – svelte, calm, in control.  I felt strong, confident, ready.  But then he began to talk.  “Your goal for the class is to just stay in the room,”  he said.  “Oh, and you’ll need some more water,” he mentioned noticing my half drunk small bottle of water.  Now I was nervous.  If that was really my only goal, then this was going to be harder than I thought….

I set up in the back row in what I was told would be a cool spot.  The teacher was a popular one so the class was crowded.  I looked around the room and saw men and women of all ages, shapes, sizes and body types.  Nice.  The room was hot, very hot.  I was already in a sweat.  I took off my t-shirt.

The class began and I followed along as best as I could.  My shoulders ached from the breathing exercise, the sweat was running into my eyes, my legs were shaking, but still, I kept at it.  Chris explained everything so clearly and the monologue was so calming, that I just focused on his voice and did my best.  By the time we got to the floor series, I was thanking the yoga gods (and Chris!) that I had brought in more than my small bottle of water!

I attempted every posture – attempted being the operative word.  By the end of class, I was spent.  I had given all that I had and was a puddle of mush on my mat.  But I had done it.  I felt exhausted, but exhilarated.  I felt crazy, but calm.  I went home and cried from the sheer exhaustion and effort of it, but then began to feel empowered.  I had done it, and I was going back for more.

Fellow yogis, how was your first class?