Since discovering the original form of hot yoga six years ago, Bikram has been the one constant in my life. Cities, jobs, and boyfriends have all come and gone—but Bikram has been my rock. There are few things in life that make me happier.
With such an intense love for my practice, you can probably imagine that the 30-day Bikram yoga challenge had been on my bucket list for years. I’d attempted the challenge (unofficially) a few times—10 days here, 14 there—but never for an entire month. After dipping my toes in, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. So, before I could talk myself out of it, I signed up and embarked upon a 30-day journey of Bikram.
The rules were simple: Practice 30 times in 30 days. If you miss a day, no worries—you can simply make it up the next day with a double session. Piece of cake, right?
Wrong. Bikram is a roller coaster, and half the battle is staying in the room: 90 minutes, 26 fixed postures, each done twice. Two breathing exercises to rid any toxins, a warm-up sequence, and a lot of sweat. It’s not for the faint of heart, but there’s an energy that comes from it that you just won’t get from any other form of yoga.
Here’s what went down in 30 consecutive days of Bikram.
I became physically and mentally sharper.
Yes, sometimes class was exhausting. Bikram is not your average workout! The class itself is an hour and a half, and when I combined that with getting to and from the studio and showering, I had taken a whopping 2 to 3 hours out of my day.
On two occasions I missed class, which meant two days of doubles. On these days, it took all my willpower to muster up the energy to head back to the studio after already having given it my all. But no matter how much I wanted to slack off during class, the stamina and grit I’d developed by going every day got the better of me, and I kept going back for more.
The further along I got in the challenge, the more productive I became. My creativity increased, and I became one of the growing statistics backing up all that the research on the mental health benefits of yoga.
My emotions ran wild.
Yoga can bring up a lot of emotions, especially during heart- or chest-opening poses, and the intense heat in a Bikram class can intensify this even more. I had my good days and my bad days, but Week 2 was the most intense.
I cried during class about a fight I’d had with my mom years earlier. I cried even more after another class when I lost my credit card (and sent my boyfriend out to find it in the middle of a chilly Chicago evening). And when the pigeon living beside our apartment hatched two little baby pigeons, I cried tears of joy—hysterically, of course. I realized how great it is to let go of your feelings, though, or succumb to them.
Yes, I lost weight.
I didn't do the challenge to lose weight, but I inadvertently did. Ninety minutes of sweating and a series of cardio-based asanas will do that. I was regular as clockwork and my normally prominent sweet tooth vanished.
Upping my water intake was a challenge, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t dehydrate my body. I took one to two electrolyte drink tabs every day, replenishing any lost sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium levels in the process.
My flexibility took me to new places, which made me more confident overall. I even began taking the advanced class, which I never thought I’d get to do. I was stretching muscles I had no idea even existed!
I took my meditation to the next level.
Bikram involves active meditation. You are fixated on yourself for 90 minutes, looking straight into a mirror. It was often quite overwhelming, and getting through it required a deeply reflective meditative state, which is achieved by focusing on your breath and your alignment. The room could be full, but when I got into that state, it was as if no one else was around.
The concentration on my breath and form was so deep that I would walk out of class feeling relaxed and elated. Time flew, and with it so did any problems that were floating around in my head.
I learned a lot about my practice.
We all have our favorite postures, and we all have postures that we dread. But practicing for 30 days meant no escaping them, and you know what? Some of those dreaded postures became bearable. I even looked forward to some of them because I was making progress.
I quickly learned that I was so much better at practicing in the afternoon than the early morning, so that’s when I practiced. I also learned that practicing late in the evening keeps me up with post-workout adrenaline, so I stopped practicing then.
I learned that I'd subconsciously stopped listening to my teacher and needed to connect with the dialogue again. And when I did, my practice improved even more because I picked up on the little nuances and took it further.
On day 31, I was a little sad. I felt I’d connected with my practice in a new way, and I worried that not going every day would make me lose that connection. But two weeks have passed, and my yoga journey is in an entirely new place. I feel stronger than ever and go to class with vigor each and every time. The connection remains strong, and I can’t wait to keep taking my practice further.