Five years ago my father died of a sudden heart attack. Naturally what followed were a few emotional months. It wasn’t the normal grieving process as you’d expect when someone in your family or a best friend passes away, as my father and I weren’t close. But because of our estrangement I had bottled up a lot of feelings and when I was told of his passing, all these feelings came to the surface, and my mind had become introspective, thinking deeply about the meaning of life. It wasn’t a healthy way to live and I needed something to help me move on. A colleague at work suggested I try Bikram yoga. Yes yoga! He’d been doing it for over a decade and swore by it.
If you don’t know what Bikram yoga is, here is a simple explanation. The Bikram yoga philosophy was founded by a man called Bikram Choudhury. it’s the yoga widely recognized as the hot yoga, as the yoga room is heated to around 39°C. (Although I have heard that in certain places around the world the temperature can reach 50°C. I’m sure when the class is full of students, the temperature is higher particularly in places closer to the equator!) A young man at the time, Bikram formulated 26 postures from the traditional Hatha yoga. The postures are performed twice and are very specific in their sequence. They are not all ‘stretching’ postures, there are a number of ‘compression’ postures helping to cleanse the blood, detoxify, and balance the inner body. The dialogue from the teacher is also very specific. The classes are 90 minutes long. Some call it torture, others claim it’s the purpose of life.
So with all my excess emotional energy and thoughts on life and the need to move on, I took my colleague’s suggestion and visited the closest Bikram yoga studio. Firstly I took up a 30 day introductory offer and attended as many classes as I could to expunge myself. Then, because of the positive response I was getting from doing Bikram yoga, I paid for a year upfront. If you are thinking of having a go and want just a laywoman’s opinion, then here are some of my pros and cons of doing Bikram yoga I tell my friends:
Pros of Bikram Yoga
- If you are going through a difficult period in your life, then I highly recommend Bikram yoga. Most venues have what is known as The Challenge. It’s either a 30 day challenge or a 60 day challenge, where you have to complete 30 sessions in 30 days, or 40/50/60 sessions in 60 days. Do one. This will remove all excess anything!
- A great destresser. There’s no “IT”, no mobile phones, no computers, no LED screens, no talking, no traffic, no children, no barking dog. Just 90 minutes to yourself, which can be a rarity these days.
- The heat. Even though it’s hot, you eventually “acclimatize” and excess toxins are let out while you sweat, sweat, sweat.
- Peaceful mind. Despite the torture of the 90 minutes, after the class your mind is in a peaceful state. You have done what is called 90 minutes of open-eye meditation. If you’ve never done meditation before, you’ll enjoy it.
- Muscle tone. For us women who are concerned about our aging glutes, love handles, and tuckshop arms, Bikram yoga surprisingly helps these areas tone up.
Cons of Bikram Yoga
- Intensity. Most of my friends aren’t like me, while I enjoy the combination of the heat, the 90 minutes, the postures, I always conclude that Bikram yoga is for the hardy.
- Expensive. Electricity prices increase the costs, to keep the rooms hot. This means the cost of Bikram yoga is more than the local gym.
- If you like variety in your exercise, then doing just Bikram yoga may not work for you.
- Time consuming. Unless you live or work very close to a studio, 90 minutes plus shower time can seem like a lot.
Bikram yoga is not for everyone, but it is a whole mind and body experience. I had a specific purpose for going, I needed to match the intensity in my mind with intense physical activity and it was perfect for that. If you are going to try Bikram yoga, be open, leave all expectations you have of finding the meaning of life or conquering the world at the door, and enjoy the journey. Namaste!
Photo by rjremulla