Leave your ego at the door, and other tips on surviving Bikram
So it’s been officially a year since I’ve done Bikram yoga now and every time a friend / colleague / neighbor finds out I’m doing yoga, they throw a bunch of questions at me. And of late, I find that these questions get asked more frequently. My suspicion is that like golf, yoga is one of those things that people start to consider as they get older.
Let me know if you have any other tips to share!
WHAT TO WEAR
At the expense of sounding like an exhibitionist, I’d say the lesser the better.
I’d started off wearing Nike running crop tops which are really breathable for regular yoga classes. But over time, I’ve gone to detest the way they collect sweat and weigh me down during Bikram. You need to be comfortable in order to focus on the postures; don’t create one more distraction by wearing clothes that stick to your body and makes you feel icky.
Show your ribcage
For my tops, I alternate between a yoga cross-back top or a cross-back swim top. I’ve once tried going to class in a regular bikini top because it felt like I could get away with the same level of comfort but they don’t have the same sweat-wicking properties and I’ve since stuck to regular tiny yoga tops.
Whatever you wear, be sure to be able to see your ribcage so that you know you’re doing breathing exercises correctly.
Some women might feel a little shy and conscious of their body but I think the truth is everyone in class is busy worrying about their own insecurities to judge yours!
Show your kneecaps
For bottoms, I always insist on Bellissima’s itty bitty shorts. They’re the most comfortable and flattering shorts I’ve ever worn; I can wear them to bed and still feel like a million dollars.
WHAT TO DO BEFORE CLASS
I’ve done regular yoga for four years before switching to Bikram and I’d be honest and say that every class is still a challenge because the heat and postures work together to give me a hard time, every single time. Below are some tried-and-tested tips I rely on to have an easier time during class.
Get sufficient sleep
I find that going to class lethargic just adds on the challenges that already exist so I try to get enough sleep the night before. On days when I don’t have that luxury, I cheat by taking a power nap in the studio before class. Some people think I’m meditating, I don’t correct them.
Drink enough water
This is common sense really. You’re going to be sweating a lot in class so it’d be suicidal not to hydrate before class. Pace yourself throughout the day because chugging half a bottle right before class starts is going to make your belly full and uncomfortable.
Eat something light
If I’m attending a 7pm class, I try and have a snack around 4pm especially if I’ve had a light lunch. A slice of fruit or some crackers to make sure I have sugar in my body. I tend to feel giddy during class and I think this helps a little.
Be on time
Bikram classes are known to be sticky when it comes to punctuality, I know because I’ve been turned away from classes twice. Make sure you leave office on time and buffer for conditions like bad traffic and an overcrowded changing room. Arriving early also means you don’t start class with frazzled nerves.
WHAT TO DO DURING CLASS
Choose a good spot
If this is your first class, don’t choose the front row because it’s easier to have someone in front of you whom you can copy when unsure. If you feel like you can’t take the heat, get a spot nearer to the doors because they’re usually cooler.
Bring what you need
This depends on what your studio provides really. My studio provides a towel over the mat so all I bring to class is a 500ml bottled water, and hair clips to keep my hair away. Some instructors are particular about folks bringing in small towels to wipe off sweat as they feel that it distracts them from postures so try not to bring those unless you absolutely need to. Also, leave your ego and cell phones at the door.
Breathe through your nose
Taking deep breaths through your nose (instead of your mouth) makes it easier for your body to get oxygen. Giddiness happens when you’re not breathing properly or enough. This is probably the most important piece of advice that turned my classes around.
Leave your ego at the door
Your first class is going to make you feel miserable and at times, defeated. I’ve seen many people walk in with Stanchart 42km marathon finisher tees but collapse on their mats halfway during class because they just can’t continue anymore. I’ve climbed Mt. Kinabalu, swam in a triathlon but still felt giddy during my first few classes. It will get better in the next few classes I promise, but until then just do your best and take a break when you need to.
WHAT TO DO AFTER CLASS
Get a good shower
One of life’s little pleasures is scrubbing yourself clean after 90 minutes of sweating out of every single pore in your body and walking out feeling energized.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
I always look forward to having a tall glass of cold OJ / milk / coconut juice after class. Coconut juice is reported to do a wonderful job in replenishing lost electrolytes.