Hot room yoga – my first experiences of Bikram

Created by Elly McGuinness

Last Updated: May 5, 2017

CATEGORIES: Physical Fitness

I think I was destined to live on a tropical island.  I have all the signs.  My fingers and toes go numb in any season that’s not summer.  I can lose all motivation when the days are constantly cold and dark.  Sometimes in the middle of winter, the only way for me to get warm is to get in a hot shower and then go straight to bed with a hot water bottle in tow!  So I thought that hot room yoga would be perfect for me. 

Specifically, I was going to try a form of hot room yoga called ‘Bikram yoga’.  I could stretch myself out while dripping with sweat in a 40-degree room, ease my tension headaches, and get rid of general aches and pains.

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My first experience with hot room yoga

I have often taken my clients along to classes like this.  It encourages them to do something different, helps build their confidence, and inspires them.  The activities we go to are sometimes things I haven’t tried myself.  Therefore I have to do my very best to step up to the mark and be the knowledgeable and skilled trainer I am expected to be and want to be. To do this I try out a number of different class styles and training methods so I can experience them for myself. Many of my clients falsely believe that I don’t feel pain; I only inflict it.  Therefore I give you my unedited, honest experiences at Bikram hot room yoga.

Arriving two minutes before a hot room yoga class started was not a good idea.  Do know that feeling when you walk into a room like this? It’s packed to the brim, everyone is dead silent and you quickly scan around for somewhere to perch yourself without making eye contact with anyone for too long.  Then you find your spot but it’s definitely not the one you would have chosen had you arrived ten minutes earlier!!  So here I find myself squeezed between Mr short shiny lycra one and  Mr short shiny lycra two.

[Side note:  If you are wondering what to wear to hot yoga, tight fitted clothing and as little of it as possible really is a good option.  Whatever you wear be prepared to throw it straight in the washing when you get home.  It will be saturated.  Mr short shiny lycra one and two really did have the clothing aspect sorted.]

The next thing I notice is the unmistakable and unrelenting smell of stale sweat.  I don’t have to dwell on it long though as we are straight into the first set of breathing exercises.  Just from the breathing exercises, I notice how tight my chest muscles are and I wonder how I’ll be feeling an hour and a half later.

Progressing through Bikram yoga poses

We move through the standing series and the room gets hotter and hotter.  The temperature has now been cranked up to 40 degrees or so.  It’s lucky I love summer!  My tendons and muscles are so tight from too much exercise and not enough stretching and I push myself a little further than I should.   I’m going to feel it tomorrow, and probably for the rest of the week.

We move onto the wide leg forward bend and my nose is centimeters away from the buttocks of Mr shiny lycra one.  I find a happy place in my mind because it’s certainly not here in this position.  The intensity of the class increases with each exercise and I rest from time to time as my tendons are tight, my muscles are shaking and I don’t want to topple over!

The lying-down postures are the easiest ones, right?

We finally move into the lying series and I incorrectly assume that this part will be easier.  It gets harder.  I need to have more rest.  We do this posture where we have to get our arms all the way under our bodies while lying on our stomachs.  My elbows have never been stretched so far and my arms tingle with pins and needles for minutes afterward.

We move from exercise to exercise, from being on our front to our back to twisting, turning, bending, and stretching.  My low blood pressure protests and sends me into constant head spins and feelings of weakness and nausea.  It’s ok; the instructor has said it’s normal to feel anything but normal.

I’m not going to die.  I’m going to be ok.  The benefits of Bikram yoga for my body and mind will be worth the challenges experienced.  Mr shiny lycra two shares some of his sweat with me as we move from posture to posture but I think happy thoughts and try to block it out.  His sweat literally flies through the air to greet me, sometimes in the eyes.  I can’t give up so I focus a little harder and breathe a little deeper, and feel pretty proud of myself when I make it to the end.

What happened after my first Bikram hot room yoga class?

Getting moving in the minutes following the class proves difficult, so I just sit down and contemplate and breathe. This allows my internal body systems to normalize a little. 

After a quick shower, I step out into the cool fresh air, and then it hits me.  I feel totally alive and amazing.  My body feels light and full of energy – quite a contrast to how I felt 30 minutes earlier!

I fully understand and appreciate the benefits of what I’ve just done, so I decide to return a few weeks later.  In fact, I set myself the goal of coming every week.

After two or three sessions the tingling and feelings of nausea wear off, and I feel stronger, less shaky, and more flexible.  I always arrive a good ten minutes early so I manage to find a spot that suits me.  There are postures that I see myself moving further into each week.  I can now wrap one leg all the way around the other, and I don’t have to stop for rest.  I still enjoy the amazing burst of energy I receive when I hit the fresh air.

The challenge that the class provides is amazing because I can push myself to a new level each time.  Most of all I love the huge release of tension and stress from the week where I feel I can go back to the real world and tackle everything afresh.

Other types of hot room yoga

This experience I have shared with you about Bikram hot room yoga was from several years ago.  I wrote it, saved it…and didn’t publish it until now.  Bikram is only one type of hot room yoga so please don’t be put off by attempting any form of hot room yoga if you think that this type is too extreme for you.

After trying Bikram, and practicing for a while I moved on to a different hot yoga studio.  This was purely because I didn’t enjoy the attitude of the main instructor at the Bikram studio.

The hot room yoga studio I went on to practice at for the next few years was very different and much less extreme than my Bikram experience.  They offered several types of hot room yoga, from yin yoga, to flow yoga, to power vinyasa.  The class temperatures ranged from 30-to 40 and the 40-degree ones never felt as hot as the Bikram studio ones.  There really were classes on offer for all levels and best of all, the instructors were all amazing, helpful, lovely, and kind.

So if you try hot room yoga and decide it’s too difficult or you don’t like the instructor, explore what other options are available for you.  Remember also that the class will become easier with practice.

Hot room yoga - child's pose

How have you challenged yourself lately?

When was the last time you tried something that put you outside your comfort zone and made you feel alive (and not like you’re just going through the paces of life)?  Something where you felt so proud of what you’d achieved?  An experience where you had a great story and memory to take away?  Something that inspired you to do more and achieve more every day?  Do that thing today.  Your body and mind will love you for it and you won’t look back.

If you enjoyed this blog, you might want to check out my article about how I learned to meditate in ten days.  The extreme nature of that experience was not dissimilar to my first hot room yoga experience! For online fitness advice, try my exercise-specific blog category.

For some much less extreme yoga, check out these recommended yoga postures for back pain and these great yoga poses for digestion and bloating.

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these recommended service provider links, like an insurance broker, or a travel agent, I may earn a commission – at no extra cost to you. [For my full disclosure, please see my DISCLAIMERpage].

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Elly McGuinness

7 Comments

  1. Yoga Classes

    it is a great way to get exercise which reduces stress. You explained very well in this blog.

    Reply
    • Elly McGuinness

      Thanks for your comment, and glad the post was useful for you!

      Reply
  2. Alison

    I absolutely adore hot yoga. My hometown has a couple Core Power studios. Starting my day with a 6 am – 60 minute long hot yoga session is amazing. Core Power uses a Vinayasa flow method and it is as I said AMAZING. I really miss it here in France and now I usually do yoga on Youtube, because all the classes in France are offered during the day. Really who stops at 9:30 or 11 to go to a yoga class? or 3 PM? So weird to me. One of the most amazing benefits of hot yoga is that it really does improve flexibility. I have actually been doing yoga on and off since I was a kid. My grandmother was an early adopter, so to say, in the West. In my hot yoga classes, I saw a greater difference in flexibility and strength. And, even though it’s been 4 years since I could go to my beloved hot yoga classes, I’ve yet to completely lose the flexibility I gained.

    Reply
    • Elly McGuinness

      Hi Alison, thanks so much for your comment! That’s amazing that you have retained flexibility from your yoga practice years ago. Flexibility is often one of the first fitness variables to decrease so that is fab. I’m with you…I do you tube yoga now, although I would love to get out to classes! Life is a bit different with a 3 year old though (compared to what it was pre kids)! I think the 9:30am classes often target mums who have just dropped the kids at school. As for 11am classes…well that time worked for me when my daughter was a baby and I couldn’t get moving by 9:30am! But perhaps it’s designed for people of leisure:)

      Reply
  3. Anne

    I am interested in adding yoga as part of my weekly fitness routine. Probably not hot room yoga as I’m an absolute beginner and have never tried any form of yoga before. Where/how do you recommend a beginner like myself get started?

    Reply
    • Elly McGuinness

      Hi Anne

      Wonderful to hear you want to make yoga part of your routine. You could try searching ‘beginners yoga classes near me’ in Google and see what comes up. Most studios will have beginners specific classes.

      You could also try something on You Tube if you’d like to do it at home. All you need is a mat to get started. Cushions are also useful to use in place of yoga blocks, if you don’t have any. Just type ‘beginners yoga’ into the search box. You might want to try a gentle one like this to start with.

      The great thing about You Tube is that there are lots of videos available in different lengths to suit the time you have available. The one above is only 20 minutes. If the intensity of the class or the movements don’t feel right for you, then move on and try a different one. Ask a professional if need be and this should certainly be the case if you have any injury concerns.

      This is the instructor I personally follow. She has about 120 videos available. I find many of them to be quite challenging but she does have some beginner focused classes. Here is one of them. Just recognise that what is a beginner version for one person won’t necessarily be so for the next person. Again, move on if it’s not right for you.

      Reply
      • Anne

        Thank you Elly. Your reply has been very helpful. Exactly the information I was looking for.

        Reply

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