With the new year approaching, I imagine a lot of people will be putting their yoga practice at the top of their list of resolutions. Are you a yogi looking to try Bikram for the first time?
Or maybe you've never practiced yoga at all and you're terrified of the heat?
Hey, if a GQ guy can handle yoga, so can you! Photo by GQ via
This advice is for you. Read on to learn why you shouldn't fear the Hot Room and how instead, you should look forward to your daily dose of Bikram. Though it sounds overwhelming to kill yourself for 90 minutes, this type of meditation and workout allows you to live your life to the fullest outside of the studio!
Please feel free to share this guide with any friends, family or colleagues you feel might benefit from a nudge in the right (mat-centered, mirrored-room) direction.
Here's to a yoga-filled 2011!
Your mat awaits you.
Alive in the Fire's Guide for Bikram Beginners
First things first
: thank yourself for taking good care of your body. Yoga is an ancient practice for good reason: it works! As long as you approach your mat with an open heart and mind, you will be fine. In fact, you'll do great!
The first step to becoming a yogi: where the mind and heart and eyes go, the body follows. Photo via
Try having no expectations
As in most things in life, this is extremely hard to do. But if you can do your best to come to class with no thoughts on how deeply you'll enter the postures, how great you'll feel, or how hard things will be, you'll do better. As my mentor and studio owner Stuart likes to say, "Expectations only serve to become your limitations." It's true, and especially in the heat!
Know basic yoga room and studio etiquette.
Please don't talk in the room out of respect for fellow yogis who are preparing for class or relaxing afterward -- this can be quite distracting! Only bring water into the room (no juice, soda, etc). Practice with bare feet and in comfortable clothes (preferably shorts in Bikram so you can see your locked knee). No cell phones, jewelry or watches in the yoga room. Don't wear perfume to class. Only take a three-minute shower afterward, especially if it's crowded.
Practice quiet in the heat.
Arrive 20 minutes before class starts, and come on an empty stomach
Allow ample time for yourself to sign in, get water and a towel, and get set up before class. Rushing will just stress you out. And don't eat for 3-4 hours prior to class or the heat may make you feel nauseous. Some people like to have a granola bar, piece of fruit, or coconut water closer to class so that they have higher blood sugar. Do what makes you feel best, but no pasta or other heavy foods -- by the floor series, you'll be regretting that. Big time. (I speak from experience!)
Meet your new and super-hydrating best friend.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Bikram yoga happens in a room that's 105 degrees at 40% humidity which means you are going to pour sweat. Be sure to drink plenty of water for the 3-4 hours leading up to class. I also highly recommend tryin VitaCoco coconut water and maybe adding a banana to your breakfast routine to amp up your potassium levels. You will feel the difference! You also want to be sure to drink a lot after class. During the 90 minutes, do your best to only take small sips of water; that way your stomach won't be full and you won't feel nauseous.
Remember that yoga's not just about being flexible: strength and balance are equally as important for many of the postures
When I invite them to yoga, I've heard so many friends say, "Don't laugh at me! I can't even touch my toes!" as though that's reason enough never to try yoga in the first place. News flash: it's OK! You will build flexibility by using your strength and balance, or vice versa. And chances are, if you're hesitant, you need it even more. After all, the postures you hate the most are the ones you need most, too.
No matter your gear, you can rock your yoga practice.
Your mat, yogawear and sexy tattoos won't save you
It's easy to get caught up in the status behind expensive gear and cute outfits at your studio, but the bottom line is this: whether you shop at Lululemon or Target, whether you're tall or short, muscular or lithe, you need the yoga. So come to your studio to practice, not boost your own ego
Don't be afraid to sweat it out and let your body detox during class.
Leave your hand towels at home because you need your sweat! It's your body's only cooling mechanism and wiping it away during the postures is only going to distract you and waste your energy. Be sure you have a full-sized bath towel under you during class so you don't slip, but tiny towels can stay home. Remember, the more still you are between postures, the deeper your meditation and the more energy you save.
Forget the fidgeting; it will only make class harder!
Don't set up next to your friends.
As much as it may seem like it, they cannot save you during class. Enjoy your own little mat paradise near the back of the room, where you can see yourself in the front mirrors. Focus forward on yourself (not the teacher) and listen to the words. If you get confused, look around at more experienced yogis for an idea of what to do.
The dialogue says touch your forehead to the floor between your toes.
Listen to the dialogue!
I should probably put this point about 100 times in the list because it's the most important and the hardest for newbies to do. Bikram's dialogue is the genius behind his yoga: it's trademarked, memorized, and taught exactly the same way during every class taught by a certified teacher (we hope). Steps go in a specific order for a reason and there is only one right way into and out of the postures. In Bikram yoga, 99% right is 100% wrong and doing the postures the right way is the only way to get the full medical benefit. Instead of putting your nose to your knee in Standing Head to Knee, put your exactly forehead to your exactly knee so you get all the benefits. In Padahastasana, suck in your belly and lock your knees before you pull with your biceps. This allows you to stretch further, and safely stretch your hamstrings without pulling anything.
Listen to the words throughout class!
With that said, if you get confused, look around and find a yogi with an ass like yours, and do what they're doing!
It sounds hilarious, but this is one of the best pieces of yoga advice I've ever heard. The teacher can't save you. Your neighbor's grip or arm placement or foot alignment can. Pay close attention to the details!
Do the postures right and your body will thank you. Photos via Bikram Yoga NYC
Take breaks and go slow.
This is another big one. You're probably going to get overwhelmed at some point (I still do, and I've been doing the yoga for almost a year now!). Sit down and meditate waaaaay before you feel the need to bolt out of the room. And please don't half-ass your breaks. If you're sitting down, sit on your butt. Cross your legs and concentrate on your breath and slowing down your heart rate. None of this bending over breathing in and out your mouth junk. That's not helping! Commit to your breaks, and treat them as though they were postures too (especially if you're in Savasana during the floor series. Own it!).
Commit to your breaks. Photo via Bikram Yoga NYC.
Breathe through your nose
Pretty self-explanatory, but this can be hard if you're not conscious of your breath or if you're new to the whole coordinating-body-movement-with-breath thing. In Bikram, we breathe through the nose slowly and normally for everything except the two breathing exercises and the sit-ups. If you breathe through your mouth, you tell your body you're freaking out. And guess what?
You're not freaking out! This is just yoga. :)
Beautiful backbends! Photo via
Commit to the experience
tay in the room for 90 minutes. Sit down long before you need to leave. Moving between temperatures will make you feel worse, I promise. And experienced yogis, remember the 5 P's (aka the only reasons you should leave the room): puke, pee, poop, period, pass out. Anything else and you're not listening to Bikram's finest words:
If you can, you must!
You came to class to relax, not to stress, right? So choose not to suffer, choose to enjoy the yoga, choose to see what it can do for your body, mind and soul in and out of the heat.
Relax. That's your yoga.
We've all been there: the first class is hard. Probably the hardest. Generally it takes 5-10 times doing Bikram to get used to the heat, and maybe even up to 15 before you aren't feeling pain in some of the postures (like your elbows in Locust, or in your lower back during Savasana).
If the studio where you practice offers and intro special, consider purchasing it so you have motivation to return
In general, these are the best deals - and more legit than a Groupon! (Although if you bought a Groupon, all the power to you, too. Whatever it takes to get your ass to the studio!)
Advanced yogi readers, what advice can you add to the mix? I'd love to see your comments below for more ideas. Enjoy class and congrats on changing your life through yoga!
Just wait: after class, you'll sleep like a baby!