I tried Bikram way once upon a time ago, and really hated it. I bought a Groupon (isn’t that how 90% of people wind up in studio classes?) for 10 classes and never went back after the first one. For a self-admitted cheapskate, that says a lot. The room was chokingly hot and humid with no airflow, and smelled of stale humans before the class even started. Everyone was so serious in their “yoga bikinis”, including the men, which seemed giggle-to-yourself humorous until one of them is doing standing split in front of you. When they tell you to focus on your mat, FOR THE LOVE OF BUDDHA listen and never lift your curious eyes from the floor.
But the thing I hate most about Bikram was how militant it was – from the unsmiling robot yoga patrons to the drill sergeant instructor. Every pose was barked out and executed in bootcamp fashion, and definitely nobody was amused when I let out a “eeeeEEEEP!” as I slowly fell out of Natarajasana (dancer’s pose) ((<— don’t worry, I had to google it)) When I found out that every class was the same structure – 90 minutes of the same exact sequence of 26 poses, I was out of that mess. Shit’s too uncomfortable to be going in without at least the prospectus of a little surprise here and there.
Every time I tell the story of my failed Bikram experience, I get urged to try hot yoga. “It’s just like a regular class, but in a hot room!” “It’s such a good workout – a GOOD sweat!” “Well yeah, they still wear those bikinis…”
Despite the bikinis, I finally headed down to one of the local studios yesterday for a free trial class.
Upon first entering it was like any other yoga studio – a peaceful desk girl checking people in, cubbies for your shoes and stuff, lavender-smelling shit in the bathroom…
I followed a few steps behind a girl that looked like a regular (treading a balance between “creepy” and “I’m new here”) and went through the glass door into the dark room. It was warm but not uncomfortable, with ceiling fans lightly spinning, circulating air that smelled pleasantly unlike human excrement. Great start compared to Bikram. I laid my mat in the back corner by the door, at the tip from Bri who said you might get treated to a breeze during class if someone opens the door.
“They open the door? DURING class??! I watched a guy practically go into a coma at Bikram because they wouldn’t let him leave the room.”
I laid on my mat trying to acclimate my body to the temperature and get used to being in just a sports bra and spandex shorties. Way less than modest me and my beer belly are used to, but after being wrapped in 4lb-drenched capris and a stick-to-you tank in Bikram I succombed to the logic behind the yoga-kinis.
(I’d say the class was split 25-50-25, yoga-kinis : bra/shorties : regular clothes)
A quietly-energetic girl entered the room – announced herself as Carrie and urged us to slowly get into child’s pose, “when we were ready.” She went through a standard announcement of intention – ‘your time on your mat is for YOU and you alone, let go of what your day burdens you with and enjoy this hour you’re spending on YOU’ – I wish I wouldv’e voicenote’d it to set as my morning alarm clock.
We slowly got moving into a few sun salutations and easy vinyasas, Carrie ensuring everyone knew to move at their own pace and listen to their bodies. Despite a low heart rate and not feeling like I was really working, the first sweat droplet crashed off my nose during plank and onto my mat. I checked the clock – 15 minutes in. Considered it a success for Super Sweaty Sarah to make it a 1/4 of the way through before becoming a human leaky faucet.
Except once that first drop broke the seal? “leaky faucet” === “open fire hydrant”
The class was relatively easy, despite not having practiced regularly over the last few months. I never felt a quivering leg in Warrior or the threat of face planting during chatarunga, and we didn’t hold any of the poses long enough to get a good stretch (which my hips desperately needed). But according to the pool of sweat I left behind, it was a good workout.
My towel was 100% soaked, my mat was surely only a few degrees away from melting, and to my sweaty shame horror there somehow was a puddle on the floor underneath all of that. I tried to nonchalantly wipe it with my fully-saturated towel as I picked up my things, but I’m pretty sure whoever cleaned the room between classes needed a shopvac for my corner.
air drying after hot yoga – peroxide spray and a shower after
Is my sweat hog experience normal? Hard to tell. Probably not. The middle-aged woman next to me in long tights and a tank was lightly glistening, but the hardcore chic up front (yes I broke the “focus on your mat” rule again) definitely had an elbow drip or two during Eagle. I did not see anyone else secretly wiping under-mat muddles after class, though.
Conclusion? It WAS a great sweat – my fingertips were pruny and I felt super skinny after (yay, water weight!) But if the goal is simply a detox, like I could imagine would be beneficial after a round of heavy drinking or bad eating, I’d rather just lay in a sauna. For actual workout purposes, I’ll stick to a fast-paced flow or power class. Give me quivering legs and muscle burn to validate my sweat-stache, please.