I’ve absolutely positively fallen in love with Bikram Yoga and the many blessings it has brought to my life in the 11 months I’ve been practicing. I thought it might be fun to share some of my thoughts about how to have a happy and successful Bikram experience. These are my thoughts only. I’m sure I’ve left something out, so please feel free to add in the comment section and please feel free to share with others if you feel my thoughts might be of help.
1) TIMELINESS: Show up early. Actually, show up at least fifteen minutes before the start of class. This will give sufficient time to place your belongings away, situate your mat, and use the lavatory. Showing up late (and someone almost always does) disrupts the class.
2) CLOTHING (for the girls): What to wear: less is more. An acceptable amount of less, that is. About five months into my Bikram Yoga practice, I lost my inhibitions and started practicing in my bike shorts and sports bra, making my practice so much more enjoyable and the heat more bearable. I also wear cotton as it allows my skin to breathe more freely.
CLOTHING (for the guys): For the guys: less is more too! Speedo type yoga outfits give you much more coverage than regular shorts. They hold more in when you’re doing poses like standing bow, locust, etc.
3) SCENTS: Avoid wearing perfume and/or lotion. Wearing perfume will make it difficult for others to breathe. If you wear lotion, it’ll be so much more difficult to hold your leg during standing bow or your feet during floor bow. Think of how little grip anyone would have with sweaty, greasy skin!
4) CELL PHONES: Leave them outside the door. They’re distracting to you and to your fellow practitioners. Besides, do you really want stinky smelly sweat flung on your adored electronic device?
5) WATCH WHERE YOU WALK: When walking into the yoga room, do your best not to step on others’ yoga mats. It’s polite AND sanitary!
6) MENTAL ATTITUDE: Leave ALL your “stuff” outside the door. If you’re not in the moment, the moment won’t be in you!
7) HAIR: If you have long hair, you’ll want to put it up. If you forget hair ties/scrunchies, the studio usually has some. I prefer colorful scrunchies, but have discovered they start to stink after a while, so if you’re a fan of scrunchies, then you’ll want to make sure you can wash them! If you choose to leave your long hair down, you run the risk of flinging more sweat than you already do and of having sweat drenched hair fall in places that cause distraction and/or discomfort.
8) HYDRATION: Hydration does not happen during class! Hydrate the day before and the day of! Hydrate with water, with fruit, and with veggies! Always hydrate! Hydrate after class, too! During class, water breaks wet your whistle; they don’t function as your hydration source. A well-hydrated body has more energy in the hot room!
9) HYDRATION PART TWO: Bring water to class. BUT, don’t drink until the instructor calls for the first water break, after eagle! Following eagle, some instructors set water breaks; others allow you to drink as needed. In the latter instance, wait until the class is between poses to dip for that water bottle. Drinking during a pose disrupts the flow of others’ poses.
10) WIPING THAT SWEAT: Don’t wipe. Yes, the room feels hot—it’s 105 degrees! But the very second you wipe, even if it’s just to temporarily keep a drip of sweat off your face, you’ll just end up making yourself hotter. Think of it as the evaporative cooling effect. It might feel better for a second, but you WILL feel hotter. Also, unnecessary wiping of sweat disrupts the meditative stillness of the room.
11) MORE ON SWEAT: You’ll sweat; others will sweat; if you’re a sweat fountain, bring an extra towel and wipe up your sweat between poses and after class.
12) EVEN MORE ON SWEAT: If sweat bothers you in general. If you find yourself obsessing over where the sweat of your fellow practitioners’ falls, you’ll get over it once your practice becomes more regular. In the hot room you just can’t escape sweat.
13) WHERE TO PRACTICE: Practice in the front of the room just once. You never know what you might see! The front row is usually reserved for seasoned practitioners, so make sure you’re having an “on” day when you try this!
14) WHERE TO PRACTICE, PART TWO: Looking to place your mat in a cool spot in the room? Place it near a door or a window with a draft, but, generally, the room’s hot. You can’t escape that. Being near the door might give you teasing, momentary relief.
15) WHERE TO PRACTICE IN THE ROOM, PART THREE: Wherever you put your mat down, someone will put theirs near you, unless it’s a small class. All you need is the space on your mat. Trust me on this one. If you really want to go to a small class, pay for a private or try a middle of the day class in the middle of the week.
16) APPEARANCE IN THE ROOM: Don’t worry about how you look doing poses. If anyone is watching you, they’re not in their moment, in their practice. Be in your practice. That’s all that matters, anyway. I have felt so much happier and peaceful since the day I stopped worrying so much about the way my body looked in the hot room.
17) BATHROOM/KLEENEX BREAKS: Not happening (unless you’re pregnant). Sure, nobody is going to lock the door, but seasoned practitioners know what “bathroom/kleenex breaks” are really about—they’re about getting yourself a few minutes relief from the heat. Fight through the urge to escape. Your body will thank you and so will your fellow practitioners. Besides, the heat allows your body to go more deeply into poses, and leaving the room for cold air counteracts that benefit. Oh, and if you need a Kleenex, there’s usually some in the room or bring a few if you’re prone to sneezing fits.
18) LISTEN TO YOUR BODY: If a pose hurts a portion of your body, before you decide to sit it out see if you can find a way to modify the pose do it doesn’t hurt. If you have a pre-existing injury, tell your instructor before class so s/he can offer suggestion. If a pose bothers/hurts you during class ask the instructor after class to see if they can offer an adjustment that will help.
19) FEELING LIGHTHEADED AND/DIZZY: if you feel light-headed and/or dizzy and need to stop, just stand and breathe (or stay on the floor and breathe if you’re doing the floor series). If, while breathing, you start to reach for water or a towel, take that energy and put it into your pose. If you have the energy to reach for that water/towel, you have the energy to do your yoga. Your breath gives you all you need.
20) LOCKER ROOM ETIQUETTE, PART ONE : Lose your inhibitions in the dressing room. You’ll be happier just throwing off your sweaty clothes after class and not worrying about what others may think of your body. All of us have the same body parts—they just don’t look the same! I learned fairly quickly that my body felt better the sooner I removed the sweat-drenched clothes from my skin. Most studios have too many students to have individual dressing rooms. Some people, I’ve noticed, like to use the bathrooms as changing rooms, but this results in unnecessary and sometimes painful delays for those who really need a lavatory!
21) LOCKER ROOM ETIQUETTE, PART TWO: Take short showers, three minutes or less. This isn’t your home. Don’t shave your legs, your pits; don’t exfoliate your entire body; don’t give yourself that homemade facial that takes fifteen minutes! Get in the shower; wash the sweat off; give your hair a quick wash and get out! People are waiting!!!! FYI: not all studios have showers, so call ahead to make sure if you’re a person who needs a shower.
22) BLOW DRYERS: If you really need to dry your hair, bring your own or call ahead, but, generally, a yoga studio changing room doesn’t have tons of space for primping (some do though!).
23) HEAT: The room will be hot. You will survive. Just remember to breathe and do your best to stay in the room. Just staying in the room the first couple of times will give you a yoga high unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.
24) MAT: If you like hot/Bikram Yoga, really like it, invest in a good mat, or, at the very least, a good yoga mat towel, such as Yogitoes or eQua. A solid mat/towel will provide you with so much more stability and will be more effective at soaking up sweat. A few weeks ago, after practicing 6-7 times a week for ten months, I decided to invest in a Manduka Pro-lite. Not cheap by any means ($78), but worth the money. I feel more stability in my poses, and it doesn’t absorb odor. Prior to the Manduka, I’d been using regular mats, which felt squishy, and they would retain the odor, requiring frequent washings.
25) MORE ON MATS: If you use an inexpensive mat, buy a new one every year. No amount of washing will completely remove the stench of a year’s worth of sweat.
26) MAT TOWELS: See above. Buy new ones after a year. Your nose and everyone else’s will thank you.
27) GYM/YOGA BAG: Buy one that breathes and/or clean out the one you have with vinegar or some other cleaning solution. Otherwise your car and your house will find themselves housing sweaty odors, and you’ll notice people not wanting to hang around you in your environment.
28) WATER BOTTLE: Invest in a good water bottle. It will pay for itself in time. I have a water bottle that keeps water cool, with the extra added benefit of unleashing a cool back draft onto my face after I take a sip. http://www.hydroflask.com/
29) EATING: Consume lighter foods. Heavier foods make it more difficult to practice effectively, bogging down your body, mind, and spirit. Also, if you’ve ever found yourself having a difficult time in class, ask yourself what foods/drinks you ate the day before or the day of. Heavier foods/processed foods/sugary foods can be the cause of nausea and/or dizziness during class. Try not to eat two hours before class. You and your stomach will be happier. But show up no matter what!! That counts more than anything!
30) DRINKING (as in alcohol): alcohol dehydrates, so if you drink booze, don’t be a bozo, drink more water before and after class!
31) GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY: When Bikram says “kill yourself” he means diminish all the little and not so little doubts that tell you can’t do a pose, you can’t be all you want, you can’t, you can’t, you can’t, you can’t……….YOU CAN!!!! Just show up and do IT!
32) SMILE: Smiling makes every moment easier, happier, lighter, etc. Besides, have you noticed how unhappy people look when they don’t smile? I’m not advocating hiding pain, but smiling through pain can make it more bearable!
33) LAUNDRY: You’ll be doing a lot of laundry. When you see your favorite detergent on sale, buy it in bulk. If you waited too long to wash your sweat-drenched clothes, add a drop of vinegar to your washing machine—it’ll take care of the added bacteria and odor. If you really wait too long you’ll want to buy new clothes.
34) WAXING: For the ladies and gents who wax. Don’t Don’t Don’t wax before you got to a Bikram class unless you are a glutton for punishment. I had my eyebrows waxed once before I went to a class and the pain felt excruciating, and that’s putting it mildly.
35) SHARE GRATITUDE: Marcel Proust once said, “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” When you leave the studio, smile and say thank you to your instructor. If they said something particularly helpful during class, tell them. If they adjusted you during class, thank them. Being a Bikram instructor takes a great deal of time and effort, more than you will ever see in the class. It’s a true labor of love that consumes more of their lives than the 90 minutes they just spent making you sweat more than you ever thought you would. Fill your karma bank account and theirs by showing them your appreciation and love.
FINAL THOUGHTS: A regular Bikram yoga practice will change your life from the inside out. Much has been said about the sweating away of toxins. In the short time (11 months) that I’ve practiced, I can attest that I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I may not know exactly where I’m going, but I’m so much stronger for the time I spend in the hot room. It’s become my safe place, a place that allows me to dig deep within and pull from the reservoir of strength hiding within my soul. If you haven’t tried Bikram Yoga, give it a shot. You never know what you’ll find. And what you find might just be your Self. Namaste.
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