9 Things You Need to Know About Bikram Yoga
Maximize all the sweaty benefits of hot yoga with these expert tips
Bikram is to yoga what Tae-Bo is to kickboxing. Like Billy Blanks, Bikram Choudhury took a long-existing practice and modified it to create a uniquely-packaged fitness franchise. According to the 66-year-old Indian-born yoga guru, the precise sequence of 26 postures and two breathing exercises must be performed within 90 minutes in a heated (100-degrees-plus) room to allow the body to stretch, detoxify, relieve stress, tone, and heal chronic pain such as arthritis, joint aches, knee injuries, back problems, and more.
If you decide to try a class, don't expect your instructor to demonstrate the moves. In Bikram, they're trained to talk you through the flow as part of a moving meditation (listening to these directions forces practitioners to stop thinking and be in the moment). No matter where you practice in the world, the dialogue between the teacher and the student stays pretty much the same (seriously, they're following a script).
Another constant: the sweaty smell! Every studio has a soft carpet, which is more forgiving to joints than hardwood floors. "These days many studios have an anti-bacterial carpet that gets cleaned regularly,” assures Maria McBride, owner and founder of Bikram Yoga Natick in Massachusetts and Lululemon Athletica ambassador. “So if it stinks when you walk in that's good! It's not dirt, but just sweat, which is what we want,” she says.
Here's what else you need to know before you bring it Bikram-style.
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If you come to Bikram well-hydrated, you won't need to drink much during the session, McBride says. Aim to drink up to two liters (8 to 9 cups) of water throughout the day, but if you can't hit those numbers, don't try to make up for it by chugging right outside the studio. Too much water too quickly might upset your stomach and leave you feeling nauseous in class. Same holds true for during practice, so sip when you need to, but don't overdo it. “Water sloshing around in your stomach doesn't feel so good,” McBride says. “If you find yourself dehydrated at the start of class, take it easy on the posture.” The goal isn't to master every pose but rather to listen to your body and take care of yourself.