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A First-Timer’s Guide to Bikram Yoga

February 1, 2011

In case you missed it yesterday, my new ingredient of the week was yucca. Have any cooking tips or new ingredient suggestions?

Good morning! Since I’m blogging, that must mean that I survived my first Bikram yoga class at Bikram Yoga Takoma Park. Whew, that was close. Not only was this my first Bikram class, it was also my first yoga class period. Since I was a little nervous about attending my first class, I wanted to put together a post with information that all first-timers to Bikram yoga should know.

First: what is Bikram yoga?

Bikram yoga is a 90-minute series of 26 poses aimed at overall wellness and deeper stretching. To achieve this, the class is heated to a toasty 105°F .

How To Prepare: Drink lots and lots of water. Chug water all day before class because the last thing you want to be is dehydrated. Bring two bottles to class with you — the instructor will tell you when to sip — and continue drinking after class is over.

Why? Because you’re going to sweat a lot. I’ve never sweat so much in my life. A pool of sweat will form in front of your mat and your clothes will be as soaked as if you’d jumped into the pool. Don’t wipe the sweat off your skin, though, as it helps naturally regulate your body temperature.

Bring A Friend: Trying something new can be intimidating so grab a friend. Jess and I bought a LivingSocial deal for 5 Bikram classes for $25. Great deal! Because neither of us were familiar with Bikram yoga, it was nice to go in together and feel equally nervous/excited.

What To Pack: Bring a bath or beach towel. You want one big enough to cover your mat and prevent slipping. It soaks up all that lovely sweat and prevents you from wiping out on the mat. If you’re yoga studio has a shower, you might also bring a second towel for that. Bring those two water bottles I mentioned earlier and if you have a yoga mat, grab that. Most places also rent mats for a fee.

What to Wear: The least amount of clothing possible! I did the class in a sports bra and spandex shorts, both of which were literally dripping afterward. Some of the men wore just tiny spandex shorts — think a Speedo with slightly more coverage — but some of the women wore yoga pants and t-shirts. Just wear what makes you comfortable.

Observe: Find a spot near the back of the room where you can watch more experienced students and perform the poses without feeling embarrassed. Everyone has a first time and, in my experience, there was no judgment toward students who were less flexible or slightly unsure.

Give Yourself a Break: Don’t push yourself to keep up with more experienced yogis. If you feel lightheaded or tired, sit down (or even lie down!) but stay in the room. Your body needs to acclimate to the heat.

Overall, I had a really positive first Bikram experience. The instructor was helpful in correcting posture and pointing out both good and bad form. He didn’t push anyone past his or her comfort level and showed modified poses for beginner vs. advanced students.

I was also impressed that despite 50 sweaty bodies crammed into a small room, the studio at Bikram Yoga Takoma Park didn’t stink. I expected a gross locker room odor but instead, encountered a neutral odor. Nice!

I’m looking forward to using up my remaining four visits and seeing whether I notice any changes. If nothing else, stepping into a 105° room when it’s freezing outside feels awesome.

Have you tried Bikram yoga? What did you think? I don’t know if it’s from being dehydrated or if my sleep cycle was just off, but I could not sleep last night. I woke up on the hour, every hour, like clockwork. Has anyone else experienced this?

28 Comments leave one →
  1. February 1, 2011 10:38 am

    This is an awesome post and I had no idea this was your first yoga class ever!!! You did awesome and I had a fun time, despite the car incident afterward.

    Now that you mention it, the lack of stink in the room was really impressive. I was really expecting it to smell too, but it didn’t at all.

    I’m excited for our next class. Hopefully there will be more spots in the parking lot!

    • February 1, 2011 12:53 pm

      Next time, let’s pay more attention to parking (lack of signs or not…).

    • February 4, 2011 5:59 pm

      Just FYI – the yoga mat I use is specially made so it never smells, even if it gets all sweaty. It’s by a company called SilverSport, it has some kind of anti-bacterial stuff in it? Anyway, it’s perfect for hot yoga when you’re basically a huge dripping sweatball.

  2. February 1, 2011 10:52 am

    I’m impressed–I’ve done Bikram several times but have really struggled with the heat and the grossness of the sweaty people so close to me!

    • February 1, 2011 12:53 pm

      There were a few times the heat made me dizzy and I changed my position to be more comfortable.

  3. February 1, 2011 11:40 am

    I loooooooove Bikram. I usually go to the Tenleytown one but sometimes Dupont. I’ll have to try out the Takoma park one.

    My best piece of advice is to not wipe your sweat or fidget. Do you ever notice when you’re running and trying to adjust your ipod, fix your ponytail, etc. that you do in fact exert more energy? The same is true during Bikram. When you’re overheated you will feel the need to move around but there is truth to the ‘stillness’ those yogi’s speak of 😉 Also during my last class the instructor reminded us that the way our bodies cool us is not through the cooling of sweating (because sweat is the same temp as our bodies) but it’s the *evaporation* of the sweat (thereby carrying away the heat) that cools us down. So if you constantly wipe away the sweat, your body produces more sweat (further dehydrating you) with no heat reduction. Anyways, I thought it was a good reminder 🙂

    • February 1, 2011 12:52 pm

      Thanks for the info. I just knew that you should let the sweat stay on your skin, not try to wipe it off.

    • February 1, 2011 3:03 pm

      Ooh I didn’t know there was bikram yoga in Tenleytown!

      I always trekked over to Adams Morgan to Serenity Yoga for a flow class (which is now one of two studios operated by DC Yoga) and I absolutely loved it!

      Man I miss D.C.

  4. February 1, 2011 11:42 am

    Bikram is so intriguing but totally scares me too. I feel like I will be the only one in the room who can’t handle it! But I definitely feel more prepared after reading this post Erin…thank you!

    • February 1, 2011 12:52 pm

      Plenty of people of all ages/fitness levels had to sit down in the middle or modify for comfort. There’s definitely no judgment in the room!

  5. Erin H. permalink
    February 1, 2011 1:51 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! I recently bought a Groupon deal for a month’s worth of unlimited Bikram yoga in my town, but haven’t used it yet because I’ve been terrified! I’ve done plenty of regular yoga, but was nervous about several aspects of the Bikram experience. You covered several of them for me.

    • February 1, 2011 2:47 pm

      Don’t be nervous! No one is paying attention to you during class — our instructor repeatedly said to stare at yourself in the mirror to keep concentration — so if you do a pose incorrectly or aren’t as flexible, it really doesn’t matter. I was nervous and quickly realized I had no need to be. 🙂

  6. February 1, 2011 2:08 pm

    I love this guide – now you have me wanting to try Bikram!

    • February 1, 2011 2:47 pm

      Do it! Only drawback is that it’s SO expensive but I’ve seen a bunch of Groupon/LivingSocial deals so check that out.

  7. February 1, 2011 2:54 pm

    I didn’t like yoga the first time I tried it, but it quickly grew on me. Now I LOVE all types, but Bikram is my favorite!

  8. February 1, 2011 3:15 pm

    Congrats on your first class!! What a great post too – you really captured what it is like to take a class. I still worry about what others think when I sit down (I’m the worst critic of myself) but it’s so true that you concentrate so much on yourself you can’t worry about what someone else is doing.

  9. February 1, 2011 6:27 pm

    Cool! Thanks for the beginner’s guide! I have not tried Bikram yet but want to someday! 🙂

  10. February 1, 2011 7:12 pm

    I’m glad you enjoyed it. I have a hard time sleeping afterward too. I’m not sure why.

  11. Marie permalink
    February 1, 2011 7:45 pm

    This is such a great post Erin! I wouldn’t be able to afford it normally, but we just had a new Bikram studio open and they have a $20 unlimited first week trial, which I’ve been wanting to do. I just might go do it now! Thank you for this 🙂 I’m glad it went so well for you!

  12. February 2, 2011 6:10 pm

    I love yoga, but I’ve never built up the nerve to try Bikram. Maybe someday… or maybe in the summer I’ll just go do it in my backyard in the desert heat. 😉

  13. November 30, 2011 4:40 am

    Very interesting site and articles. Really thankful for sharing.Will surely recommend this site to some friends! Regards,

  14. December 5, 2011 9:50 pm

    Start first class tomorrow morning at 6am. No friends would go because of ungodly hour so I was pretty nervous going alone (but that never stops me =) Reading your post strengthens my resolve and I don’t feel like I’m going in blind anymore! Thank you SO much!!!

    • December 5, 2011 10:40 pm

      Good luck and have fun — you’ll enjoy! At least it will be warm. 🙂 Don’t be nervous — there will be plenty of other first-timers, too.


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