Beginner’s Guide to Hot Yoga

CALLING ALL HOT YOGA BEGINNERS

Hot yoga means sweating
Hot yoga means sweating

You probably wouldn’t be reading this unless you or someone you know is interested in taking your first hot yoga class. Or maybe you’ve already taken a couple of classes and that has peaked your interest to find out more about hot yoga. If you haven’t yet, you should read my post about the different types of hot yoga classes in the yoga market place these days.

If you’re looking to try a hot yoga class the most accessible way for many people is to find a studio nearby that offers hot classes. Location and convenience is an important factor when you’re starting anything new. You’re just more likely to go if it’s easy to get to with convenient class times that suit your schedule.

I started  hot yoga classes at my local studio and that was perfectly fine for me as a beginner. Now, I’m willing to travel a little further to go a studio that is dedicated to hot yoga. You will know when and if you are ready for that. For more information about two styles of dedicated hot yoga series please see my review Bikram vs Moksha.

So, dear hot yoga beginner, let’s arm you with some information to give you the best start possible in your first hot yoga class and beyond.

BEFORE YOU GO

Just kidding, please use tissues!
Just kidding, please use tissues!
  1. Make sure you arrive about 20 min ahead of class time.
  2. Pre-hydrate. No one ever told me this until much later and I wish I had known better. Drink at least a litre of water 30 min-1 hour prior to class.
  3. Eat a light snack about 1 hour before class, a piece of fruit, small sandwich, snack bar, etc.
  4. Make sure you don’t eat a large meal closer than 2 hours before class.
  5. Clean your nostrils. No, I mean it. It really helps your breathing once you’re in the class. Those of us who have been through traditional style of yoga teacher training will fondly recall the lessons on the “Neti-pot”. Beginners, if you don’t know what a neti-pot is, you won’t need to, I digress.
  6. Wash any make up, sunblock or moisturizer off your face and chest as these products can run into your eyes along with your sweat and may cause your eyes to burn.

WHAT TO WEAR & WHAT TO BRING

Ladies Yoga Wear:  Sleeveless, stretchy tank style top or sports bra, stretchy shorts with a deep crotch or yoga pants

Mens Yoga Wear:  Luckily you can go topless. Bike style shorts or Underarmour.

What NOT to wear: Loose gym shorts with or without netting. There are alot of forward folds, you may unknowingly expose people behind you to an “eyeful”. Gym shorts with a netting inside will restrict your movement in the standing series of postures. Loose tops on ladies will have the girls spilling out during forward folds, as said there are a whole lot of those.

Stuff you need: A water bottle, insulated stainless or glass, plastic is not recommended for hot yoga. A good mat, rent one from your studio if you don’t have one. Don’t buy a higher end mat until you’ve practiced for at least 30 days and determined that hot yoga is indeed up your alley. 2 towels, one to lay on your mat and one to shower with afterwards.

ONCE YOU’RE IN THE HOT ROOM

Savasana
Savasana
  1. Before the class begins take Savasana (Corpse Pose), with your feet pointing to the back of the class (lay in the direction everyone else is laying in). Breathe naturally and enjoy the heat. If the class is crowded, pull in your wings!
  2. For at least the first few classes choose a spot nearer to the back of the class so you can see what the other participants are doing.
  3. Place your mat in a position that allows you to have at least a partial view of yourself in the mirror and don’t place your mat directly smack dab in front of someone else’s mat eliminating their view!
  4. Try to do a “single entry”. That means go in and stay in, not in and out to get water, have a chat, go pee, etc. Do everything you need to do before you go in, then stay in. This helps the room retain the heat and courteous for the practitioners who arrive early just to enjoy their pre-class Savasana.
  5. Once in the hot room, silence is usually observed until the teacher enters.

DURING THE CLASS

  1. Breathe, make this your #1 focus. In and out THROUGH THE NOSE, unless otherwise instructed by the teacher.
  2. Listen to the teachers instructions and watch the people in the front row, they’re usually the more experienced participants.
  3. As a beginner don’t try too hard to keep up. Rest when you want. Take a kneeling position to rest if you’re just tired or take child’s pose, then Savasana if you really need to.
  4. Resist the urge to leave the room, even if you need to lay down for most of the class, just remaining in the hot room for the whole class is the end goal the first few times.
  5. If you start to feel dizzy, don’t try to leave the room quickly because you could fall over. Stay on your mat, take a kneeling pose first, concentrate on breathing in and out through your nose, if you feel you need to go to child’s pose, then take Savasana if your body tells you that’s what you  need. If, after the dizziness subsides you really do need to leave, then do so for a few minutes, once your heart rate calms down, GO BACK IN.
  6. If you feel nauseous, don’t be shy, let the teacher know and they will assist you.

AFTER THE CLASS

Replenish Electrolytes
Replenish Electrolytes
  1. Re-hydrate and replenish electrolytes. Lemon water (or a small chunk of himylayan salt in your water), unsweetened coconut water or kombucha are all good choices.
  2. Now you can eat a healthy meal, you’ve earned it!
  3. Book your next class right away. In order to feel the full benefits of hot yoga you should try to go to at least 3 classes the first week. Even if the first class is a challenge you may feel quite different after the 3rd class. Like anything else, you should give hot yoga a chance to produce positive effects (although I personally did feel fantastic after my very first hot yoga class).
  4. Wash your mat and use a mat spray, then hang it to dry. If you don’t it’ll get funky on you.

IS HOT YOGA GOOD FOR EVERYONE?

No, it won’t be for everyone. Nothing is good for everyone. You know you, you know your body, you know your health history. So, use your common sense. If you try it out for a couple of weeks and it doesn’t make you feel good or you don’t see the benefits, maybe it’s not for you. Just because everyone and their down dog are into hot yoga doesn’t necessary mean it’s the right thing for you. Only you can decide that. And if you decide hot yoga’s not your fancy then check out NOT HOT YOGA.

IS HOT YOGA OK DURING PREGNANCY?

Hot Yoga During Pregnancy
Hot Yoga During Pregnancy

Please talk to your doctor about this and/or discuss with the manager of the studio you’re going to. I’ve seen over the years at least a dozen different pregnant ladies practicing hot yoga right up to full term, always adjusting their postures accordingly and never seen or heard of any negative effects on those particular pregnancies (gone to a few yoga baby showers!). However, every woman and every pregnancy is unique and what one pregnant woman can do isn’t any indication that it’s ok for every other pregnant woman to follow suit. At bare minimum you will need to have proper instruction about how and when to adjust the postures to suit the various phases of your pregnancy. Some postures are absolutely not suitable for a pre-natal practice regardless of whether it is a hot class or not. Please remember that even though you are the one attending the class (which may feel good to you) your unborn baby may be affected differently and cannot exactly voice their opinion yet!

I will say that I love seeing the beauty of those glistening bellies practicing along side me, it’s a testament to the fact that women can be at their strongest, and triumphantly active during these nine special months. Both my boys were born before my “yoga revolution” but I swam 40 laps every other night during both pregnancies up until the week of delivery and there were people who thought I was crazy doing that. Both my boys today are robust specimens of perfect health, so to say I believe in staying active during pregnancy is an understatement. But just to reiterate, please seek the advice of your health care professional before participating in hot yoga during your pregnancy. If you have specific questions regarding practicing Bikram yoga or Moksha yoga during your pregnancy, I touch on this in my review Bikram vs Moksha.

Also, check out → 21 HOT YOGA Q & A.

In the meantime, if you have other questions that aren’t answered here…your comments are welcome, please leave them in the box below.

Regards, Connie.

 

 

 

Bikram VS Moksha

Hot yoga means sweating

Bikram vs Moksha – A Comparison512px-Yogahands

Comparing Bikram vs Moksha yoga is a little like comparing fraternal twins. Both practices are grown from the same root (hatha yoga) and also connected in other ways. After practicing Bikram yoga for 4 years followed by Moksha yoga for the last 7 months I now have enough insight on both sides to do a comparison. I have read other online reviews on this subject and some bloggers are simply regurgitating what they’ve read in other online reviews or they have a strong bias or affiliation with one or the other of these practices. I do not. I am a Hatha Yoga teacher, but not a hot yoga teacher. My viewpoint for this post is strictly as a practitioner and hot yoga enthusiast.

If you haven’t already done so, you can go to the individual reviews of each practice for the facts and ratings of both Moksha (Moda) yoga and Bikram yoga. This post is strictly a comparison post with the view to provide some clarity for people wanting to start practicing hot yoga and trying to choose between these two big players in the hot yoga marketplace.

Are Bikram and Moksha are related?

At the most basic level both practices are based on traditional Hatha yoga postures. On a more interesting note, the founders of Moksha yoga were both trained Bikram yoga instructors prior to their incarnation as founders of their own regime. Does this make Moksha yoga a watered down version or worse yet, an altered plagerization of the Bikram series?

Moksha, Bikram, both include this posture
Moksha, Bikram, both include this posture

I have pondered this carefully and for me the answer is no. Bikram did not invent any of the 26 postures in the Bikram yoga practice. He simply put them in a certain order and added heat and humidity to the mix. It was a serendipitous recipe for Bikram, combined with the age old lucky strike of ‘the right time and place’, the practice was embraced and he now has over 1000 franchises bearing his name. I believe that the Moksha founders did have the Bikram practice in mind when they designed their series. They took what was there and changed it to suit the masses, keeping some aspects of the series and changing others so the entire series would be more accessible to the beginning or average yogi. There would have been nothing to stop Bikram from doing this himself. Yet he did not, so really at some point someone had to. Then along came Moksha.

What is Bikram – What is Moksha

A comparison…

The Practice 

Bikram: This practice is more difficult, the teachers “dialogue” is unforgiving, urging participants to push further, try harder, hold poses longer. All classes are 90 minutes, which is a long time in a room that is hotter and more humid than most other hot yoga rooms. Each posture is repeated so just when you think you can’t do the posture again, you have to. In my opinion the Bikram series is not suitable for an absolute beginner, although they claim it is. It is gladly embraced by more experienced hot yogis the world over.

Moksha (Moda): Definitely the easier yoga series. The teachers are very careful not to push the participants to do anything outside of their comfort zone. Quite the opposite mentality to Bikram, and likely designed to be that way. Most classes are 60 minutes, with some longer class options. Different class types offered, some studios even offer non-heated classes. The average participant is at beginner to intermediate level.

The Instruction

bikram training2Bikram: The teachers have been put through the ringer, so to speak. Nine weeks of grueling training presided over by the man himself (Bikram Choudhury). The training costs an arm and a leg. Of the roughly 30 some odd Bikram instructors I have met and taken classes with, I would say about 50% of them fall in the “edgy” category. To me “edgy” does not have a negative connotation. It means the instructors have interesting personalities and quirks, despite teaching from a scripted “dialogue”. I’ve met the odd warm and fuzzy Bikram teacher, but they are in the minority. There is a cult like quality amongst the teachers who are often quoting or telling stories about Bikram. That they are teaching from a script written by Bikram speaks to the level of dedication and belief they have of the power of the practice. I found certain phrases from the dialogue to be annoying (“now fold together like a japanese ham sandwich” -really?) but as a participant I found it generally worked well. Also, I would often see teachers practicing in the room with me when not teaching which is again a testament to their dedication to practice what they teach. Still, generally, the nature of the scripted practice means you get a consistent work-out, fairly comprehensive safety tips, and it doesn’t matter who the instructor is, you can depend on the same 26 x 2 postures time after time.

Moksha (Moda): Moksha trainingThe teachers all have a Moksha yoga basic training, 1 month long, then they are assigned to one of the franchise locations to complete the next 11 months of training, somewhat like a practicum or a stage. Moksha teachers are actually warm and fuzzy. They all talk in a very mindful manner and since they do not use an actual script, there is the opportunity for them to interject their philosophies of life, yoga, and other subjects once in awhile. Bikram teachers do this too but sooner or later have to get back to the script so it’s not as prevalent. For me the yoga, the breath, and the heat is what brings me to a spiritual place. I tend to tune out when the philosophizing starts. One thing I’ve noticed about some Moksha teachers is their tendency to speak very very slowly, enunciating each syllable of each word. This drives me a little batty because it sounds somewhat inauthentic. I have a post touching on the subject of “the authentic voice” in the teacher’s corner page.

The Operations

Bikram LA
Bikram

Bikram: I have been inside 5 different Bikram locations. One word: Spartan. Just like the many of their teachers, these places are not warm and fuzzy. Comparing the 3 main studios I attended, the classes at first location still had carpets in the hot room (which frankly is pretty gross) which is the main reason I went to the 2nd location, which was ok, but it had open showers which brought back memories of grade 7 (not a good year for me). None of these locations were places I liked to hang out in after I was done class, ever. The facilities range from adequate to in need of maintenance. If you’re looking to get comfy Bikram yoga isn’t too conducive to that. The staff at every location I’ve been are rather perfunctory which for me is not an issue. I go, I do my yoga, I shower, I leave. If you’re a member some (but not all) Bikram locations offer a free first class if you bring friends or family (sometimes they provide a mat and towel also), which is a very nice offer, that I’ve taken advantage of several times. For more details about the Bikram practice, the studios, the negatives and positives please see my specific review of Bikram Yoga.

Moksha (Moda):

Moksha "Inviting"
Moksha

Each franchise is individually owned so the vibe of each location can be very different. However, I’ve visited 3 Moksha different locations so far and they were all very inviting. They all have a common area where people can and do gather, sip tea, have a chat both before and after their classes. Teachers, studio owners, and students all mix and mingle. In my studio there is always tea and sometimes people bring treats to share. I never expected to, but I’ve made some pleasant acquaintances in a few short months. The staff are very engaged and do a great job remembering everyone’s names, which is part of what creates the “community” feeling of Moksha yoga. They have an “ambassadors” program allowing select individuals help out in exchange for free class and merchandise benefits. The changing facilities are excellent, spotless, and very well maintained. Operations wise Moksha definitely wins hands down over Bikram. For more details about the Moksha practice, the studios, the negatives and positives please see my specific review of Moksha Yoga also known as Moda Yoga

Which is better Bikram or Moksha?

Full disclosure, I actively practice both Moksha and Bikram yoga. I go to Moksha for my everyday practice and I top up at Bikram when I’m needing the extra “jolt”. Lately that’s been once or twice a month. But If I had to choose one or the other, it would be …. drum roll please …. Moksha, pretty much hands down.

That’s all folks for the comparison of Moksha vs Bikram. For more information about the basics of hot yoga please see click on → Types of Hot Yoga ←.

Comments are welcome, please leave them in the box below. Regards, Connie

 

 

About Moksha Yoga

REVIEW OF MOKSHA (MODA) YOGA

Hot Yoga for Everyone

This is an everyman series of yoga. Moksha Yoga was founded by Jessica Robertson and Ted Grand, yoga professionals from Toronto Canada in 2004. There are now franchised studios in many major centres in Canada and the US bearing the Moksha (Modo in the US) emblem, as well as Sydney Australia. Likely there are Moksha trained instructors teaching in studios around the world in hot yoga studios not officially bearing the Moksha emblem. Yoga teachers tend to get around that way. This is a very accessible series of postures designed to appeal to the general median of yoga practitioners seeking an unintimidating, nurturing kind of practice. Although each studio is independently owned and operated they are all guided by the company core values known as “the 7 pillars”. More about that later. It is difficult to review Moksha without referencing Bikram yoga. Because there is a connection. For an more in-depth comparision of the 2 practices please see our review Bikram vs Moksha.

The Facts:

Moksha Yoga Postures

NOTE: Below is the description of Moksha (Moda) Yoga as presented by their website literature, studio owners, and instructors.

Temperature: 100° Fahrenheit, 35% Humidity

Duration: 60-90 Minutes

Postures: Approximately 40 Hatha Postures, 2 Pranayama (breathing exercises).

Level: Beginner, and all levels

Instructors: All certified specifically to teach Moksha/Moda Yoga. If you’re interested in teacher training please → click here ←

Variations: Moksha, Moksha Flow, Hatha, Yin, and others dependent on the studio

Good to know: Karma classes once at week by donation

MY RATING: ♦♦♦♦♦

The Positives:

Variety is the spice of life.  Moksha yoga is based a set sequence of Hatha postures, but they change it up just enough to keep it interesting, yet still keep it consistent for the most part. My very first Moksha class was live music class. They tucked 2 live guitarists/singers into the side the class on a mat and the teacher lead the class at the front with a very minimal verbal cues. I wasn’t sure how this was going to affect my practice, but I went in with an open mind. Well, it turns out that out of all the classes I’ve ever attended at any studio (that would be over 2000 classes) the Moksha Live Music classes may well be my all time favourite. I was not expecting it to happen, but I reached my yoga nirvana that day and now I attend those classes whenever they I can. As well as the music classes there are also Moksha flow, Hatha with reduced heat, Yin, and a number of other classes. Although this is a franchise, the individual studios make their own decisions as to what varieties of Moksha classes to offer so check your Moksha or Moda location to see what different classes are on the roster.

Butt of Course. I am in currently in my 7th month of regular Moksha practice which is usually 5 classes per week. Since starting Moksha I have noticed a remarkable improvement in the tautness of my butt. I say remarkable because my significant other has remarked on it several times starting about 3 months ago. It seems a little unladylike to talk about my own butt, but I think we’re past that, so here I go into detailed butt talk. Examining the Moksha standing series tells me that this is due to cueing method used by all the teachers for the Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior 1), Anjaneyasana (Crescent / Low Lunge) poses. Specifically they cue you to “try to drag your feet toward one another”. Your feel won’t actually move but if you follow this cue it completes the activation of the adductor, abductor and all your gluteus muscles. I won’t get into too much more of the technicalities except suffice to say I am a big fan of anything that can sculpt my glutes without using a sharp instrument or putting me under general anesthetic. Butt of course, the fifth star in this review can be attributed directly to this fact.

Community Minded. This is all about Moksha’s 7 pillars. They are 1. Be Healthy, 2. Be Accessible, 3. Live Green, 4. Community Support, 5. Reach Out, 6. Live to Learn, 7. Be Peace. I’m not really sure I’ve got them in the right order but you get the general drift. According to the Moksha website information they were the originators of the “karma” class which is a class open to all by donation. Proceeds are donated to various charitable organizations, such at the David Suzuki Foundation, to name just one. Since it’s inception in 2005, Moksha has raised over 3 million dollars from their karma class participants. At our studio the once a week Friday night karma class is always full and that’s when I’ll bring friends or visitors who want to try a class with me. I think this is a commendable way for any organization to give back to the community and the founders of Moksha and their studios deserve kudos for initiating this.

Studio. Technically, Moksha has the most consistent heating system I’ve encountered. All studios are built with infra-red panels which delivers a gentle heat that doesn’t scorch your nostrils when you breath. They also build their locations using salvaged recyclable materials whenever possible. I commend their commitment to the environment and will add that company such as Starbucks should have a look at the way Moksha sets out parameters for their franchise and hang their heads in shame. I have only seen 3 Moksha studios so far but they all had the same vibe. If I could only choose one word to describe that vibe, it would be “inviting”. People working and running these studios are genuine, open, and very approachable. Where I have my membership, everyone seemed to know my name after just a couple of weeks. Surprisingly, not many yoga studios are like this. The first place I ever practiced was a very quiet atmosphere. People tip toed around and there wasn’t much chatting in the foyer or much of a community feel. Not that it wasn’t a nice place to practice but in comparison to the vibe at Moksha, it was just completely different.

Moksha for Weight loss. I will preface this by saying that what my experience has been with Moksha in regards to weight loss may not be typical and/or the same as what may or may not happen with anyone else. Since starting my Moksha practice 7 months ago, I believe I have lost 8-10 lbs. I say I believe because I don’t actually own a scale. I don’t believe in scales (and sometimes I just plain don’t believe them). After the first month at Moksha my pants started to slide down my hips and my love handles (oh yeah, I had’em alright) are now gone. I can actually see my abs in the mirror and yes, there are more than 2 of them. I want to be clear that if you think you can just go to Moksha yoga and the pounds will melt off, you’re probably wrong. So, why did I lose weight? Well, first off, I wasn’t trying to, or focused on, losing weight. If I had been, maybe I would’ve actually bought a scale. What I was focused on was building my practice to a consistent 5-6 times a week and working hard in every class. I believe both factors to be a key if you’re looking to lose weight with any yoga practice. If you are practicing 2-3 times a week, I don’t believe you can expect any weight loss. If you’re only practicing at half mast when you’re in the hot room, ditto, no results. Sure, I have my low days but in most classes I am giving it all I’ve got, using every muscle in every posture, my limbs shaking trying to build strength, sweat pouring off me. I’m not there to look pretty but when I’ve finished the class, I feel beautiful. To read more about hot yoga and weight loss → click here ←.

The Negatives:

A little too easy. As described, Moksha is yoga for “everyman”. It’s right there in their 7 pillars, be accessible. However, I feel that there is room for improvement for those that are looking for a more challenging practice. My location currently does not offer advanced classes. With only 1 or 2 exceptions the teachers tend to cue the postures to be held for very short periods of time. It is not completely consistent in that regard. Verbally, the emphasis seems to be purposefully geared towards not pushing the participants to put in more effort than they want to. To temper my critique I undertand that while I sometimes do not find this practice challenging enough maybe the same reason beginners are drawn to it. Still, those beginners will progress as well and there could be a happier medium struck by some positive “pushing” for those that need it like myself.

A tad expensive. I have an all inclusive membership and it costs me $147.00 CAD a month. In comparison to other places I’ve practiced that is about $20-$30 more per month. Being a fairly astute consumer I wouldn’t pay it if I wasn’t getting my money’s worth. Still a fair note that Moksha is positioned on the higher end of yoga pricing.

Inconsistent teachers narration. Again, it’s difficult to review Moksha yoga without mentioning Bikram yoga. While the “dialogue” of a Bikram class provides complete consistency right down to how long the poses are held, Moksha teachers do not have such a tool. There are earmarks of some element of speech coaching when listening to a Moksha teachers speak but they do not have a solid framework to rule out cueing errors and ensure safety cues are not left out. Of particular concern to me are missing safety cues, one example is advising people not to let their front knee ride past their ankle in Warrior 2. This cue is part of the Bikram dialogue but I have only heard this safety cue mentioned a few times in approximately 140 classes I’ve attended at Moksha. To read more about yoga teacher safety cues please click to the → teacher’s corner ←.

Wrapping up

That’s all folks, my on review on the practice of Moksha (Moda) Yoga. Click here to see my review of Bikram vs Moksha (Moda) yoga.

Your comments are welcome, please leave them in the comment box below. Thank you, Connie.

About Bikram Yoga

REVIEW OF BIKRAM YOGA

Why do they call it the torture chamber?

No, I did not make that up, they really call it that. This is straight from the lips of almost every Bikram yoga instructor I have had which is roughly 30 different instructors. The phrase is supposedly coined by Bikram Choudhury himself, the man who developed the practice and put together the sequence of postures that now has devotees and franchises all over the world. First, I will provide the details and description of what exactly Bikram Yoga is and then I will review Bikram Yoga with full disclosure that I have practiced this series for over 4 years and continue to practice it whenever I get the opportunity.

The Facts:

Bikram Yoga Postures
Bikram Yoga Postures

NOTE: Below is the description of Bikram Yoga as presented by their website literature, studio owners, and instructors.

Temperature: 105° Fahrenheit, 40% Humidity

Duration: 90 Minutes

Postures: 26 Hatha Postures, each posture done twice, 2 Pranayama (breathing exercises).

Level: Beginner, and all levels (please read the above note, then my review below)

Instructors: All certified specifically to teach Bikram Yoga.

Variations: There are no variations on the original series. Some studios may offer advanced level class (usually by invitation only).

Good to know: Instructors teach from a memorized “dialogue” (their word). There are no variations to the order of the postures unless the instructor makes a mistake.

 

MY RATING: ♦♦♦♦◊

The Positives:

Consistency. I started Bikram yoga after attending my neighbourhood yoga studio hot classes where every teacher had a different take on what they wanted to teach in their hot yoga class. Some teachers would launch right into dancer’s pose at the get go (which is not an appropriate way to start ANY yoga class), yet others would put a camel pose in the first 4 or 5 postures (that, folks, is not safe to do at the beginning of any class). In Bikram, that never happens. Every posture comes in the pre-ordained order, every instruction has been scripted, every detail of the poses spoken to by the instructor. You would think hearing the same “dialogue” every class would be boring, but actually knowing what is coming up next allows you (after a few classes) to take the attention off the instructor and onto yourself and you really notice how you are performing each posture. I do admit that I don’t understand why the teaching script is called a “dialogue” because it’s obviously a monologue (no one else is talking!)

Noticeable Improvement. Because you perform the same postures every class you will notice incremental improvements in your ability to do each pose. One day in the wide legged forward fold you will realize your head just touched your mat with ease where it was 5 inches off the mat a few weeks ago. Same goes for almost every posture. This, I would say is the most satisfying and rewarding part of practicing the same series over and over again on a regular basis.

Challenging. First off, I disagree with the Bikram notion that this series is for beginners. Case in point, I took a friend to Bikram with me who had done a few Hatha yoga classes but never hot yoga. After their first Bikram class, they said they never wanted to go back. Actually what they said is, “I’d rather lay in the middle of the Highway on a scorching hot summer day than go back to Bikram ever again.” This made me consider the fact that I had participated in at least 50 hot yoga classes as well as non-heated classes at my local studio for over a year before going to Bikram for the very first time. I have also seen numerous first time Bikram students in class, only to never see any sign of them ever again. So, how does this become a positive? Well, for those of us up to the challenge, it is an exhilarating feeling to go into the “torture chamber” and make it out of there feeling more alive than ever before. There is challenge in every class, sometimes every minute of every class. This for me, is a huge positive. For others it may not be.

Somewhat Militant. Yes, this to me is a positive. I have heard tales of Bikram teachers yelling at or berating participants for not trying hard enough or not doing postures correctly. This never happened in

Militant yoga
Militant yoga

any of the classes I attended but many Bikram instructors do take notice when you are “flaking out” and not keeping up. They tend only to call you out if they know you are a regular participant. They do expect you to try hard and do your best. It isn’t exactly a warm and fuzzy atmosphere in the torture chamber, if you know what I mean. Perhaps that is why the gender ratio in these classes is often close to 50/50. I once had a teacher come over because I was in Savasana when I should have been doing the triangle pose. He asked me if I was feeling ok, I said yes, but that I was tired. He said as long as you’re not feeling sick please get up and do the work because if you came all the way here then you might as well do the work. He was 100% right. Bikram instructors tend to be edgy, they drop the “f” bomb once in awhile and they will catch you out if you are lazy. If you’re a very sensitive soul, Bikram might not be your cuppa tea. Me, I can be a little lazy in a hot class (cuz it’s darned hot) and can use the extra push so yes, somewhat militant is fine by me.

International. There are Bikram studios in most major cities around the world so when I’m travelling I can practice anywhere. Language isn’t an issue because I know the whole series of postures, it’s the same everywhere so I don’t need understand what is being said and still participate.

Bikram for Weight loss. There was a recent study done by the American Council of Exercise (ACE) that disputed the correlation between Bikram yoga and weight loss. The same study also maintained that it could be considered a health hazard to practice hot yoga that could potentially raise your core temperature above safe levels. I am a member of ACE and I read their report very carefully, noting their concerns with interest.

However, I have also watched a man in his 40’s named Donald who started Bikram yoga after his doctor told him that if he didn’t change his diet and start exercising he would be dead in a couple of years. Donald weighed well over 250 lbs when he started. He went to Bikram 5 times a week, sometimes more. At the end of a year Donald was unrecognizable. I mean, literally, I didn’t know who he was because I had been practicing at another studio in between. I didn’t ask him how much weight he had lost after a year but it looked to be at least 50 lbs. He was also beaming from ear to ear. As for my personal experience, I started Bikram and during my initial 30 days of practice in July of 2008 I lost the proverbial last 10 lbs. But if anyone tries to tell you 30 consecutive days of Bikram yoga is a cinch, don’t buy it. It was a gruelling 30 days and I am still patting myself on the back for ever pulling that off.

The Negatives:

Inconsistent Heat. This has been the case at each Bikram location I have practiced at (6 so far). Keeping the room at 105° with 40% humidity is apparently a difficult task. I have been to studios that were overheated to the point that more than 6 people were left the class. Sometimes you may get 1 person leaving the hot room if they aren’t feeling well, but if there’s half a dozen leaving there’s something wrong. I use this as an example because I was the 7th person out the door. I went back in as did the others but we all agreed the room was much hotter than usual. The opposite can also be true when the room isn’t hot enough. The humidity level is sometimes also an issue. One studio had numerous portable humidifiers lined up in the back of the hot room. This caused the humidity in the room to be uneven and if you were the last one in and got the spot right in front of the humidifier you were in for a double roasting. Still, this was not a new issue for me having come from another studio that offered mainly non-heated classes peppered with maybe 1 hot class a day. The temperature was sometimes 90°, sometimes 95° and so on, depending on how long beforehand they remembered to turn on the heat. In many studios that aren’t focused on hot yoga, just offering hot classes as an “add on” there may not be a humidity component.

Intimidating. This isn’t the case in all Bikram locations but in several that I’ve been to the front row is filled with die-hard practitioners, instructors practicing on their off time, and others who I am affectionately labelling the “human rubber band gang”. Even after practicing Bikram for over 4 years, I dare not breach the front row. I am not worthy or rubbery enough (or both). So, yes, I find the aficionados of this practice to be intimidating. They know they can bend in ways I never will be able to (or really want to).

Bikram Choudhury. This is the founder of the series based in Los Angeles, California and unless you’ve been under a rock somewhere for the last 10 years you will have heard some negative press about him. This is a review of the Bikram practice and not of Bikram Choudhury. In light of recent events and certain legal allegations in the last few years various owners of Bikram studios around the world have felt it necessary to distance themselves from the mother ship by clarifying in writing that they are independently owned and operated and are not funded or give funds to their namesake. Some Bikram studios around the world have chosen to change the name of their studios completely. I personally, will keep practicing this series of postures sequenced by Bikram Choudhury in the torture chamber because they work for me. Despite many in the Bikram fold who revere him as some kind of mega-guru, to me he is a person who may have done some reprehensible things, but just because I practise the yoga bearing his name does not mean I condone his actions or that I am obliged to worship at his altar. Enough said.

Wrapping up

That’s all folks, my on review on the practice of Bikram Yoga. Click here to see my review of Bikram vs Moksha (Moda) yoga.

Your comments are welcome, please leave them in the comment box below. Thank you, Connie.