Good morning! 3 days ago I activated a Groupon for 30 days of unlimited yoga at Bikram Yoga Green Valley. My sister and I have decided to go every day for all 30 days, and I’ve been excited to write about the benefits of Bikram yoga since last year. Thinking about trying Bikram? Here’s my two cents about what to expect:
Bikram yoga will basically reset your body. It will beat you into submission. It will teach you to find comfort in the discomfort. When you walk in on your first day, it feels WAY too hot and humid and it smells like feet. Expect that. Come prepared with ice cold water, a yoga mat, a big beach towel, and an extra towel to sit on in the car on the drive home. You will come out of there completely soaked. To combat that disgusting smell of old sweat, I’ve turned to the advice of paramedics who deal with the smell of rotting flesh and open wounds on a regular basis: Vick’s Vapor Rub under the nose. Slather it all around your nostrils and above your upper lip. The menthol is suffocating, but TRUST ME, it’s much better than the smell of a carpet that has been soaking up sweat from the bodies of hundreds of people every day. You’ll look like you have snot all over your face, but you’ll thank me.
What should you wear? As close to nothing as possible. The class is similar to spending 90 minutes in a sauna, but you have to move around. Baggy t-shirts and long yoga pants will feel like they’re choking you within 15 minutes. So, my choice of attire consists of a compression sports bra (a brightly colored one will lift your spirits when you feel like you’re gonna die in there):
and some tight, short, hot yoga shorts:
Ok, I know you’re probably thinking you’ll feel really naked in so little clothing, but there’s more benefit to it than comfort. When you walk into the room, you’ll have to pick a spot to set up your mat and towel. It seems that a lot of folks like to stay close to the back and the doors for an easy escape. Unfortunately, most bikram yoga instructors won’t let you leave the room during class. So, tell your insecurities to shut up for a minute and march yourself to the front of the room (1st or 2nd row). Be sure to pick a spot where you can see yourself in the mirror and don’t get directly in front of anyone behind you. The next 90 minutes are a therapy session for your body insecurities.
So there you are, barely clothed and face-to-face with your reflection for an hour and a half. This probably seems like a really unpleasant prospect if you don’t love your body. You probably cringe at any extra pounds hanging around your belly and thighs and are aware of every perceived imperfection in your skin. Fortunately, Bikram yoga will help change that. I find that it’s very therapeutic to be forced to spend yoga time learning to appreciate the hard work your body is capable of and seeing what you ACTUALLY look like. During the next 30 days, as you push yourself to go deeper into each of the 26 postures, you will be amazed at what your body is capable of. Chances are good that by day 3 you will have found new appreciation for the body you’ve been blessed with. As you face your reflection more, you’ll also start to realize that the mental image you have of yourself is probably a lot worse than what you actually look like. You look good!
In addition to the self-esteem benefit of Bikram yoga, you will reap other mental benefits as well. Dragging yourself to a class that ends up being a minimum 2 hour long ordeal (including shower, getting there and back, etc.) will strengthen your willpower. I could talk on this point for hours, but let me just explain a little bit. Taking 2 hours out of your day for yoga is probably a BIG sacrifice of time and effort for you. You get there and it’s miserably hot, humid, and uncomfortable. It’s probably crowded too. Some days you feel like you’re going to pass out or throw up. Some days emotions get released and you just want to lay on the floor and cry. Other days you have so many thoughts going through your mind that your heart starts racing and you begin to feel sick. With time, as you keep coming back, you will overcome all of this. You will learn to control your mind a bit better. You will be able to quiet your noisy thoughts, steady your breathing, push your muscles deeper, and let yourself take a break. In class, as you begin to appreciate how strong you are becoming, you will be able to smile and pray silent prayers of gratitude. I believe that self-control is a gift- one of the fruits of the Spirit- and you can find you have it through Bikam.
Learning to use self control is like strengthening a muscle. By coming to class every day and getting through it with a spirit of joy and gratitude, your improved willpower will come through in other areas in your life. Personally, I have found that it is a lot easier to eat a healthy diet when I know I have to go to Bikram. I don’t want to go to class feeling full, bloated, or gassy. I especially don’t want to eat foods that will make me feel sick when I know I will be in that hot room wearing nearly nothing. Class holds me accountable. Aside from making healthier food choices, other areas of my life have improved as well. I have a bad habit of picking at my cuticles until they bleed (gross, I know). When I practice Bikram yoga, though, I take better care of my hands because I know that sweating all over my cracked fingers will make them sting. I think the humidity in there helps to moisturize my hands so they heal faster, too. Bikram teaches patience. Being patient with my body as I’m working to get better at the postures helps me to be patient outside of class, too. I bet you’ll experience similar benefits!
As a Christian, I find that Bikram yoga makes me stronger spiritually. Going to class heals my body, and by making healthy choices, I am honoring God. I am showing Him that the body He has graced me with is good, and I want to be good to it. Choosing to exercise my body daily is an act of obedience. At the end of the day I know I can offer up this choice, along with the healthy food choices I’ve made, to the Lord as a acts of worship and indicators of gratitude. Does that make sense? Through prayer in class and healing choices outside of class, I am thanking God for building in me a Spirit of self-control. I am thanking Him for the body and the strength that allow me to get through each day with vitality to do His will.