Bikram for bikers?

On November 27, 2012

I first tried Bikram Yoga (Hot yoga) a year ago. I hadn’t returned. I went in search of relief for damaged tissue and muscles, which I’ve carried since a road traffic accident in 2011. At the time, the heat got the better of me and after a couple of classes, I left.

Last week, encouraged by my wife Jane, I returned. Again seeking relief from continued discomfort from the blunt force trauma to my back and right glute. There was also the not so small matter of quads like stone, and hamstrings tight as a bow, from a season’s mountain bike racing and commuting by bike.

First, a little about Bikram
* It’s done in a 40 C (105F) room with 40% humidity.
* It consists of 26 “asanas” or postures and two breathing exercises that are done twice in a row.
* It’s 90 minutes long.
* The combination of heat and postures are supposed to be good for blood circulation, delivering more oxygen to joints, muscles and organs.
* The session works on the basis on extension and compression.
* Sweating is supposed to be detoxifying.

So, lets get the myths out of the way first. There’s no Enya or whale noises being piped into the studio, where Bikram takes place. Whilst you may find the odd sandal, the crowd’s from all walks of life. From the graceful swans in the front row, who the rest try to follow, to the folks in the back row having to sit out a few postures. I set up camp somewhere in the middle, which was probably a tad ambitious.

The first thing you’ll notice is the heat, which is a sweltering 40 degrees celsius with 40 percent humidity. I’d found out why it’s called ‘Hot Yoga’, but suggest boiling to be more accurate. I was breaking a sweat just lying there, before it started!

Once you get going, the very encouraging instructors talk you through every posture. They make allowances for first timers. Helpfully, they point out when you’re doing a posture wrong. Don’t be surprised if you feel dizzy or even nauseous. Apparently, that’s a good thing! Controlling your breathing will help when this happens, so don’t panic. It you need to, sit a posture out. What I like about Bikram is, if you’re of the mind to, you can really push the limits of your endurance. I have to say, you will get a whole lot more from it, if you do push the envelop a bit.

So, how was the workout? There nothing sedate about Bikram. It’s a proper workout, with sessions lasting 90 mins. During the standing series of postures, your heart rate could get up to 160 or 170, it’s a real effort.

In the end . . .
Bikram may not be for everyone. It may suit more goal-orientated individuals who seek focus and have a desire to push their limits of endurance, which is kind of why I liked it. If you’re a cyclist like me, then there’s good reason to endure the heat, as I found out the next day on my bike. The familiar tightness, I’d become accustomed to, like a bad lodger, had all but gone. I felt loose and more free flowing than I’d felt for months. I was calm and powerful, which is how I’d describe the effects of Bikram on me.

In the end, apart form the physiological and wellbeing benefits, there’s one compelling reason to go to Bikram, and that’s the natural high you’ll feel afterwards. Definitely worth a try, especially during the cold Winter months, when getting on the bike is far less appealing. I know I’ll be going back again.

Pros:
It’s super hot, which means you can really stretch.
It’s well established, so there are some excellent people to follow.
You decide how far you want to push your limits of endurance.
The doors are open to all.
Afterwards you will feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

Cons:
It’s in doors.
It stinks of sweat.
It’s not as time effective as just hopping on your bike.
Some positions won’t suit cyclists, which is the whole point really.
It’s very hot.

Find out more about Bikram Yoga in Bristol

One Response to “Bikram for bikers?”

  • I’d recommend Iyengar yoga to you too. Very demanding. Teachers tailor postures to your needs so you could really work on your injured or stiff areas. Yogawest in Bishopston, Bristol, is your local Iyengar centre. http://www.yogawest.co.uk