Bikram / Hot Yoga Part II: My First Class

So, what are the Bikram Yoga postures? Can I do them as a beginner?

What can I expect at my first class?

What do I bring and how do I prepare?

The Bikram Yoga postures are a set sequence of twenty six poses total. Each pose is performed twice during the 90 minute class period, including two Pranayama (breathing) exercises, one done at the beginning and one done at the end of class.

My Experience…

Day 1: I made it to the studio! This is no small feat for me. The web site states “please arrive 20 minutes early if you are new to Bikram”. If you know me you know that this WOULD BE the hardest part of class…arriving EARLY! I did it and I am feeling confident. Eighty percent of success is showing up.

I sign in and realize I have forgotten a towel. They let me borrow one. Yeah! (You are dead in the water without a towel – really.) I sign a release form, the usual blah blah… something about “not liable”, “in good health”, “doctor approved”,  “no heart trouble”, “if you have high blood pressure”, and…”if you pass out”, etc etc. the usual. There was another new student signing in at the same time as me so the instructor took time to school us both on etiquette and expectations for our first class. “Try to stay in the room the entire 90 minutes”, was one of the suggestions she gave us. Another was what to do in case we experience nausea. I’m not sure this talk helped as the other new student looked pale and mumbled something like “What did I get myself into?” I was less confident after our little chat. No chance I’m backing out now though. Who knows when I’ll make it back again and be 20 minutes early.

I fill my water bottle, take off my shoes, and enter the ladies locker room. Very nice. No fowl odor. I was expecting it to smell like mildew and am pleasantly surprised to find it clean and well maintained. I quickly hang my bags and unload my mat. Other students are piling in and getting ready for class. As I looked around I suddenly feel over dressed in my Capri tights and racer back strappy top. Most patrons are wearing short shorts and sports bras. Something I wouldn’t be caught dead in. Oops, another faux pas…I forgot a hair tie! Long hair in 100 degrees sweating profusely will make me look like a hard rocker giving an encore performance to a heated room of fans (not pretty). Note to self: bring a hair tie next time! Luckily a fellow student saw my dilemma and graciously offered me an extra.

I enter the yoga room and look around. Yes, it is warm but the air feels good. Again, I am pleasantly surprised at how clean the room and floor are and odor free. The floor is a linoleum base designed to look like wood. An attractive effect. It has 1/8” dark lines running cross wise from one end of the room to the other in it. You are supposed to line the middle of your mat up with the lines width wise. I find a place up front and personal next to the instructor. She did suggest that new students should find a place near the back of the class but with mirrors why bother? I can see everyone in the room from the front easily. And I’m feeling confident I can make it through class no big deal. Besides, it is the only available space.

The door closes. Once closed there is no late entry. So don’t try to sneak in after class has started…very bad etiquette and I believe the bouncers will throw you out on your skinny little leotarded rear if you try.

I love the heat and life is good when I feel warm. I’m in heaven! The instructor (wish I could remember her name) demonstrates the breathing exercise. Oh, it is hot in here. Is someone going to check the heat? I’m feeling claustrophobic. Breathe. Stay in the room. Stay calm. Focus. Ok, I can do this. Just keep breathing. Imagine you are in Antarctica on an ice cave expedition. The heat feels good.

OK, I make it through the warm up, balancing series, and standing postures. Are we half way yet? I am feeling light headed and have to sit some of the second postures out to keep from passing out. I’m gulping my quart of water like it’s the last slurpy on earth. It’s refreshing for a fraction of a second and then the sauna heat hits me again as I inhale. A WATER BOTTLE IS A MUST – DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT!

The instructor keeps telling the class to open their eyes. I think she does this so she can tell if someone passes out on the floor. Several students look like they are on the verge, including me.

Photo: Ron Sombilon Gallery

When we finally get to the floor postures we start with a 2 minute Savasana! I am more than happy to lie on my back, eyes open and relax. It is still very hot. Sweat is pouring off my skin like the Niagara Falls. I’ve never sweat like this before.  I’m happy to learn that a short Savasana is included in between each floor posture. Sometimes I skip the floor posture and stay in Savasana. I feel nauseous. Water and rest help me regain my strength and I join the class with whatever asana they are in. A TOWEL IS A LIFE SAVER for soaking up sweat and doubles as a skid proof anchor so you don’t slide off your mat – DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT!

At 75 minutes into class I’m still in the room. I’ve thought about sticking my head out the door for a bit of FRESH AIR at least once every minute for the past 15 minutes! “Focus, breathe, stay in the room, stay calm” is my mantra.

We are so near the end and after the final breathing exercise the class cheers for the new students. Yes! We made it! We all get to lie down for final relaxation. The door opens. I feel a gentle rush of cool air fill my lungs and I smile.

The instructor was great. She did remind me of an auctioneer as the memorized lines rolled off her tongue in a monotone voice that was faster than normal speaking rhythm. It was actually somewhat entertaining.

Effects on me – I was very tired the rest of the day.

My assessment: For the beginner yoga student I suggest learning the poses BEFORE taking class. No demonstrations are given during class and you can potentially harm yourself if done improperly. You can learn these poses at ANY reputable yoga studio. Bikram offers a FREE community class on the first Saturday of each month. New students are encouraged to attend. I did NOT attend one of these classes, so I don’t know if  more instruction is given at that class. I would think so. Yoga is a practice, so much of your learning will be on your mat practicing, learning, practicing, learning…

A suggestion: In my early studies of yoga I picked up the book “Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class”, by Bikram Chouldury to learn more about Bikram Yoga. I had no desire to travel the 30+ miles to the nearest Bikram studio and so, satisfied my curiosity through reading the book and practicing the postures. I highly suggest getting the book as a companion to your studio experience with Bikram. The book describes in detail how to do each pose, modifications for each pose, what the benefits are, and has a picture of each pose demonstrated by one of his students. It also gives commentary from Chouldury himself in a live class. It is very amusing and a fun read. Again, I highly recommend it.

In a live class you rarely get a demonstration. The instructor simply gives verbal cues and the class follows a set course. Hence, alignment clarifications can be lacking. The book can provide the clarification you need for your practice.

I’d love to hear about your first time experience with HOT Yoga or Bikram Yoga. Do you have other questions as you contemplate taking a Bikram or HOT yoga class? Post it below and I will do my best to answer.

2 thoughts on “Bikram / Hot Yoga Part II: My First Class

  1. Pingback: Bikram / Hot Yoga: What Not To Wear |

  2. Pingback: Bikram / Hot Yoga Part III: Staying Power |

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