Bikram yoga is unique in the sense that classes are held in rooms heated from 95 to 105 degrees, in order to detoxify the body and increase flexibility (the physical and psychological bikram yoga benefits are quite amazing).
While this style of yoga is extremely popular right now for that very reason, some people are nervous to try bikram yoga classes, mainly due to the fear of heat intolerance, as well as insecurity about doing the poses incorrectly.
While these fears are completely valid, there are ways to prevent these issues from happening, and in this article, we’ll discuss eight tips to ensure that you are safely prepared, and have some knowledge of what to expect in your first bikram yoga class, so you can have confidence and assurance going in.
Hydrate Two Hours Before Class
Taking in fluids before class is vital to dodge dehydration, as well as the unpleasant side effects. Try to take in a majority of your fluids 2 hours or more before class, to prevent sloshing in the stomach during your practice.
If you are feeling parched within 2 hours of class, slowly sip on fluids, rather than drinking a whole liter in one sitting. Fluids don’t have to be just plain water though. In addition, you can consume:
- Fruit/green juice
Easy to digest, and full of vitamins and minerals, fruit and green juice is a great way to get nutrition and energy before class. Just be sure not to overdo it, especially with fruit juice, since it is high in sugar, which can be dangerous for your insulin levels.
- Lemon water
Lemons are a strong source of vitamin C, and while acidic to the taste, lemons are known to alkaline your stomach pH, making it an excellent way to prevent acid reflux and other digestive issues during your practice.
- Coconut water
Coconut water is incredibly hydrating and contains electrolytes, making it a great option before class. Electrolytes are minerals in body fluids, such as the blood and are important for proper muscle function and water regulation. Be sure to also replenish electrolytes after class, for you lose electrolytes through the process of sweating.
Be sure to avoid caffeine before your bikram class. Caffeine from drinks such as green tea, black tea, and coffee is a diuretic, so it’ll make you urinate, increasing your need for hydration and chance of dehydration.
Consume Foods Rich with Water
Having meals that are rich with water 2-3 hours before your bikram yoga class is an excellent habit to create, so you’re hydrated enough to comfortably sweat during class and feel lighter during the pose. If you’re used to eating heavier meals, and can’t think of light options, here’s a few suggestions:
Possible Pre-Yoga Meals:
In my opinion, the best pre-yoga meals you can have are the following:
1) Green smoothie
2) Acai bowl
5) Cooked veggies
So let’s go into a little bit of depth of each meal and why it’s so important when it comes to yoga.
- Green Smoothie
Similar to green juice and fruit juice, smoothies are a great meal because they still contain the fiber from the fruit and veggies, making you feel fuller than if you just had the juice.
Add greens such as cilantro, mint, celery, kale, lettuce and fruits such as peeled apples, berries, mango, and pineapple. Another way to make it satisfying is by adding a dollop of nut butter, such as peanut, almond, or cashew butter, so you get some healthy fats.
- Açai bowl
Native to Brazil, açaí is a berry that is often puréed and put into a bowl, with fresh fruit, and toppings such as coconut shavings, chocolate chips, and granola. It’s a very delicious and light meal, ideal for breakfast or dessert.
Keep you salads light and fresh before a yoga class. Use raw veggies, such as carrots, radishes, onions, celery, bell peppers, and fruits, such as avocado, tomatoes, berries, and grapes.
Also, rather than adding thick dressings, it’s wise to use vinaigrettes, such as balsamic or red wine, and forgo less healthy toppings such as croutons, cheese, and sour cream. Try adding olives, walnuts, pickled veggies or dried fruit for a flavorful kick.
If you are living someplace where it is generally colder, or you simply just want something warmer, try having a light soup. Make sure that it is broth based, rather than thick and creamy and add tons of veggies and rice, or pasta. Beans and tofu are also vegetarian protein options for the soups that are easier to digest than meat protein.
- Cooked veggies
Sauté some veggies in some water, and season as you like. If you add oil, be sure not to add a lot, for this can weigh you down during your practice.
Also try not to eat many fibrous veggies, such as broccoli and cabbage because they won’t feel very comfortable either. Peeled carrots and potatoes with some chopped celery is a good option, however, and very tasty when mixed together.
Listen to the Teacher’s Instructions
Another unique trait about bikram yoga is the fact that it is taught in an entirely verbal manner. No demonstrations. No teacher practicing along with you. The reason for this is to help the student focus entirely on the present moment discovering the pose, and listening to the teacher, while preventing mental chatter.
While this may sound overwhelming, the 26 pose sequence is practiced in the same order each class, and teachers are given scripted verbal instructions so that over time, classes do become easier to follow
Strength Train to Complement Yoga
While some people practice bikram yoga as their only form of exercise, many bikram yoga practitioners have found it to be beneficial to add strength training a couple times a week to increase their ability to add stability to the bikram yoga poses.
If you decide to use strength training to improve your practice, focus on exercises that strengthen the abdominal muscles for core stability, and quad muscles of the legs to withstand poses such as awkward pose, and toe stand. It is also beneficial to strengthen the triceps and biceps of the arm to still the body poses such as triangle pose and balancing stick.
Practice Bikram on a Daily Basis
According to founder, Bikram Choudhury, it important to practice each day for two months, or until all poses are performed 80 percent correctly, aside from the very challenging poses. After that, it’s still highly recommended to have a 90-minute, daily practice to regularly experience the benefits of bikram yoga.
If you cannot attend a class every day, invest in a dvd or audio recording that you can follow at home as an alternative, and heat your house to create a replicated environment of a bikram yoga class. It is also advised to practice bikram yoga during various illnesses, and not to skip yoga classes during these times.
Don’t Forget to Use Your Breath
In bikram yoga, there are two poses that focus on the breath, or pranayama: Standing Deep Breathing Pose, at the beginning of the practice, and Blowing in Firm Pose, at the end of the practice. And yet, it is a daily occurrence for yoga teachers to see students forget to use their breath.
This is because it is easy to get so wrapped up in the ego and trying to deepen your pose, you start to hold your breath when the pose becomes challenging. However, breathing through the pose will help increase flexibility and tolerance to hold difficult poses, so make sure that you take controlled, deep breaths during each pose.
This way, you can improve your practice, clearing your mind, increasing your flexibility and building strength without pushing yourself to a painful experience where there is a lack of oxygen flowing throughout your body. If at any point of the practice you notice you’re holding your breath, recognize this without judgement to prevent anxiety, for everyone goes through this from time to time.
Be Comfortable with Undressing
Body positivity is a general rule for bikram yoga, meaning the it is not acceptable for anyone to body shame another yogi. This is especially important because most people are not physically comfortable wearing a lot of clothing in a 105 degree room.
Therefore, it is advised that you wear as little clothing as is comfortable to you personally, without worrying about what others think. Try aiming to be shirtless with shorts if male or wearing a crop top and shorts if female, at a minimum, because if you go into a bikram yoga class in long, yoga leggings and a t-shirt, you will noticed that you’re very overdressed.
If dressing down is uncomfortable to you, this is an opportunity to embrace body positivity and be in a welcoming environment where you will not be judged.
Never Leave Before Savasana
Often times, beginners are apt to leave class early, due to not understanding the point of savasana. Savasana, the Sanskrit word for “corpse pose,” is when you lay on your back, with your body relaxed and take deep, slow breaths for at least five minutes after doing a pose sequence. Savasana helps to to relax the body by slowing the heart rate and emptying the mind, while also helping the yoga practitioner increase their ability to focus and stay present.
Try focusing on rolling the shoulders back to open up the chest and letting the feet fall out to the sides. You may also notice that your eyes are squeezed shut and your jaw is tense, so if that is the case, be sure to release those muscles. While you may start off being tense and restless during savasana, with practice, you will start to love it and be able to relax into the pose, fully feeling all its benefits.
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