Let Me Tell You About My First Hot Yoga Class

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

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Bikram yoga is the craziest type of yoga around. 90 minutes, 26 postures with two breathing exercises, 105 degrees with 80% humidity. No one in their right mind would purposefully put themselves in those conditions yet we've found ourselves here. Bikram is the most challenging and rewarding physical practice you can put your body though and here is what you can expect from doing so.

It's the summer of 2012. If you're familiar with Las Vegas, you know it’s a scorcher, because it always is. It’s 105+ degrees outside and my mom and I decide to try hot yoga. Why we paid to go inside and have the heat turned on for us when it was blazing outside made no sense to me then. However, after being a dedicated Bikram yoga member for the past couple of years, I can say that this was the most rewarding thing I'd ever done at that point in my life.


Okay, so this was my first ever yoga class. Yeah. Ballsy, right? Coming from someone who has been dancing for the past 15 years of her life, the only version of stretching I knew was how to warm-up and cool-down. I thought this was going to be a piece of cake.

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I’m not sure exactly what got us so interested in this hot yoga phenomenon, but I think it was my mom’s coworker that talked her into it. And me, being an invincible 17-year-old, agreed to go with her. It was only 26 postures and two breathing exercises. What could be so bad?

I walk into the Bikram yoga studio with what could have been a camping mat. It was probably 10 millimeters thick. The first thing the receptionist says, "Let me get you a proper mat. You'll topple over with that much cushion. You really want to have a mat anywhere between 3-5mm." Luckily, we both have a towel and a water bottle with us. We are at least semi-prepared.

We step into the hot room. HOLY HELL. I am instantly smacked in the face with the heat and humidity. There is also a distinct smell. Not bad, but not great. I mean, it's a room where people work out, sweat, and breathe, all while in high moist temperatures. What can you expect? We place our mats down "on the line", like we are told, and got the heck out of the room. We wait outside until the last possible second, then the instructor escorts us all in.

I look around. There are mirrors on all walls except the back wall and the windows. Splash marks are on the mirrors, from what I can only assume is sweat. I've never seen so many men wearing Speedos. What if something falls out? Is this appropriate? Should I even be here right now?

"Any first-timers here today?" the instructor asks, as he's standing on a mini pedestal at the front of the room.

Two timid hands rise up into the air. My mom's and mine. The instructor then explains that we need to watch the people around us as he does not do the stances, only talks us through them. Take a break anytime you need to. If you feel dizzy it's okay, you're supposed to. Awesome.

*pause for dramatic effect*

"Let's get into it. First is the breathing exercise, Pranayama Breathing, deep breathing. Good for your lungs and respiratory system. Feet together nicely, toes and heels touching each other. All ten fingers interlocked under the chin, full grip. Always your hands touching the chin like glue. Nice and relaxed shoulders. Swallow a couple of times. Look in the mirror. Concentrate. Meditate..."


"INHALE…"

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I have never heard such a weird sound come out of a human. The throat vibrates as everyone breathes in and then there is a loud extended HAAA sound as everyone breathes out. (Someone definitely ate onions recently. Ugh.)

They guide us with precise placement of every single limb of our body so we know exactly how the posture is supposed to look and feel.

After the first breathing exercise, my shoulders and neck are burning. I don't think I did that right. My skin is glistening with sweat. I can’t keep my arms up for the length of the pose. I feel so weak. After about the 4th pose, we are able to take a drink of water, AKA Party Time. From that point on we can sneak in sips of water between poses.

Honestly, most of my struggle came from the positions, not the heat. You kind of tune the heat out because you are so focused. The heat is just there to make you more limber.

We did some balancing poses. My balance was good. My posing was not. I couldn't concentrate. There was so much sweat dripping everywhere. When it was really quiet, you could hear the beads of sweat splatting on the mats.


The first half of the class is the standing series. No breaks, only pure concentration on your postures, then finally we are on the floor. Shavasana. That is when it gets really hot. The air feels very stale, but the Bikram gods must be listening because the instructor turns the fans on. There is air circulating and I've never been so happy for a little breeze.


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I must've missed where they said it was a 90-minute session because an hour in I am so excited to be done... but then we aren’t. No! The clock keeps ticking, the instructor keeps talking, and I keep wishing. The class is getting harder. I’m getting dizzy. I’m extremely focused on the heat. My water bottle has only hot water left. I am crashing.

I lay down on my mat for the remainder of the class. I feel nauseous and dizzy. We do an energizing sit-up between postures and I try to do that, but I let myself give up. 

Finally, the lights click off, the fans click on (and remain on), and a voice says, "Namaste." Which apparently means we have concluded the class. I roll my mat up and run out of there. I remember thinking there is a special place in hell for people who go to this class every day.

As soon as I get out of the room, I feel fine. I am 100% okay. All my symptoms subside and I feel fantastic. I've never had a better workout in my entire life. You know that saying, "You'll feel like a million bucks"? Well, now I know what people mean when they say that. I worked every bone, joint, and cell in my body. Even sitting out the last few poses, I felt so great about myself. There is a sense of accomplishment that comes after a Bikram class.

I went back the next day because I wanted to try all of the poses and they tell you to come back within 24 to 48 hours otherwise you never will. I was AMAZED at how much easier my second class was than my first. Now I'm a lifer.


Read why I stuck around the hot yoga community in my blog post here.



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