6 Tips for Bikram Yoga Beginners

Written by Nicole Bailey

For a while I’ve wanted to dive into this ongoing conversation about Bikram Yoga, both wanting to defend the practice that I love, and sometimes agreeing, “Can yoga really be trademarked?” But for many of the reasons people complain about Bikram, regular students aren’t really supposed to speak about the practice. Not until they have spent close to $12,000 and nine weeks at sleep-away camp getting teacher trained, can they speak and then public dialogue is still censored.

That being said, “I really think he (Bikram) might be on to something kid!”

Bikram attracts a large following of “rugged-individualists,” triathletes, extreme skiers and snow boarders, rock climbers; I even know an extreme frisbee player who became a teacher. These hard core athletes are drawn to the healing properties of yoga, but become addicted to the precision and demand put on their bodies during the practice.The fact that often even dedicated daily practitioners have light-years to go in their standing head to knee or bow poses, keeps the challenge fresh. A teacher of mine, Katherine would say, “The strength and determination it takes to do this pose will carry forth into every part of your life.” I love that! Every day is a new day on the mat.

Unlike some other forms of yoga, there is a “right way” to perform the poses and an end in mind. As it is in ballet, there is a correct standing bow pose and a way for beginning practitioners to attempt the pose the right way in order to receive the full benefits.

In other yoga styles, with no mirror and often, no clear direction on where the hands should be and whether the foot is flexed, myriad styles appear and beginners can be confused about who to follow.

I love the precision of Bikram Yoga. I love letting my mind go and being held by the postures, trusting that these 26 poses will come back to me again and again to rinse the clouds from my mind and wring my muscles dry of their complaints. The feeling I get after finishing class is that every muscle in my body has been shined up and ready for the day. I like the 6:00 am practice, but any time your body is energetically at a high point is the right time for you to practice. Many people feel more flexible in the afternoon, and enjoy that time right after work.

There do seem to be a lot of “Do’s and Don’ts at the beginning, but that is only to help you succeed and come back for your next class.

Here are my tips.

1. The most important water you drink is up to an hour before class. It takes about 20 minutes to receive the hydration from the water you drink during class and mostly just fills your belly, making you feel full, not hydrated. It’s no fun to lie on your full tummy for the spine-strengthening series.

2. Any food with a high fat content could come back to haunt you. I don’t eat any dairy, animal products or nut butter later than three hours before class. A green juice with lots of green leafy veggies and a couple of fruits blended is best. (Get your recipe from Kris Carr, Crazy Sexy Diet) Save the protein powder for after class.

3. Listen to the dialogue. It is there to serve you and is complete. Moving into your own variations and resisting trying it the right way prolongs your learning curve. Ignore the smug 20-something teacher and just remember this has proven out over thirty years. Some very famous yogis have come before you and found the practice to be extremely healing and beneficial to their lives.

4. The heat is your friend. The practice becomes much easier in the heated room. Little aches and pains ease their way from tired joints and you find fluidity and freedom. If the heat becomes too much, just sit down with your head above your heart and your eyes open. Closing your eyes in the heat can cause dizziness. Breath calmly in and out through your nose and you will find your heart returning to its normal rate, at which point you can rejoin the class or continue to rest. If you find yourself resting every class at the same point, (like Triangle) you might examine your resistance to a particular pose, but for the most part, I am a firm believer that it is your class, not your teacher’s and not Bikram Choudhury’s, you are there doing your own work.

5. Finish with a nice long savasana and let your body cool down gradually, rather than jumping into a cold shower or pool.

6. Take care of yourself today so that, so you can come back tomorrow. Try to come back as soon as possible to prevent soreness in your muscles and show your mind how strong your body is.

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