Bikram Yoga: the newby experience

Had I been told what to expect during my first Bikram yoga class, I might not have gone but the purpose of this blog is to let you know the good and the ugly so you can make a more informed decision as a newby.

My first Bikram class (2004) felt horrible.  I was dizzy and nauseous.  The smell of sweat, body odour and melting rubber had me lying down doing NOTHING, just trying to breathe and not panic!  The yoga mats stunk from previous sweaty bodies, the carpet was damp with wet patches everywhere and the room was so hot that I could swear the mats were melting!  The smell was so off putting that every time I tried to get up I felt like I was going to black out so I’d have to lie down again!

I was living in Sydney at the time and it was summer and I’d practised Ashtanga yoga for a while before going to this Bikram class but none of that helped.  I couldn’t stand the heat in this room, it was overwhelming and I felt like all I was doing was breathing in everybody else’s carbon dioxide!  If you’re really particular about germs like I was back then, you’d be really grossed out!  Everyone else was so sweaty – how disgusting!  I didn’t sweat at all!

Even with that experience, I went back.  I actually didn’t want to but the teacher told me that I was dehydrated (hence not sweating) and that I wouldn’t feel that way in the room if I’d drunk enough water before coming to class – at least 2L she said.  So, I thought I’d give it another go before completely writing it off and went to my second class.  I felt better, not as nauseous but the room still smelt and I still had to take a lot of breaks.

The progress was encouraging however so I attended my third Bikram yoga class and made sure I drank even more water, in fact I drank more than 2L… I was peeing a lot but I made it through the entire class without any breaks and without needing to go to the toilet because I sweated it all out instead… Awesome!  I found the secret to not feeling so sick in class!  Just drink more water beforehand (not in one go.. you have to spread out the intake over the 24 hour period prior to class).

It’s not so gross when you’re sweating like everyone else, nobody is more disgusting than the other… you’re all as gross as each other!  Well, except for the time I found myself next to this really hairy guy (hairy like, thick curly hair on his back and his shoulders as well as his arms and legs) and he was DRIPPING in sweat from top to toe.  I don’t think anyone can beat that in grossness.  Just standing he’d have sweat dripping from his fingers to the floor and you could hear the *drip, drip, drip* in the silence between poses.  I would have ignored his grossness if he hadn’t splashed me every time he moved to a different pose… OMG.  I flinched and cringed the entire time.. It’s about as gross as when someone spits while they talk and their spit lands on your lips… or when you’re stuck in front of a heavy breather on a crowded tube and you can feel every breath of hot air from their nostrils weaving through your newly washed hair onto your scalp or neck… EWWWWW!

Amazingly, I kept going and by the end of a few weeks I was enjoying these classes.  I stopped caring if other people’s sweat landed on me or whether or not I could stretch like the contortionist next to me.  Even the smell didn’t bother me any more because the benefits I was achieving far outweighed those discomforts and I was learning to let go of my preconceived notions and I was learning to accept me, my body, my practice, my discipline, my progress.  It was very rewarding!

I guess like with anything, the benefits will come after you get through the initial hurdles but now that I’ve made you aware of my experience you may just try it more than once….


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