I’m going to preface this post by saying that I was not in peak physical condition when I took this class. Saturday night consisted of too much tequila, and I’m sure that affected my experience. So take this with a grain of salt, much like I took my margaritas the night before.
I’ve wanted to try out hot yoga for ages. When my friends went on a day I had a 20 mile run on the docket, I was incredibly jealous. One of the first things I wanted to do after completing the Phoenix Marathon was give it a try. We finally settled on this past Sunday and I was looking forward to it all week.
Saturday night I met up with my friend and her sister-in-law, who was in town visiting. We met for some drinks and dinner. Around 9, I left to meet up with J and some other friends. Lo and behold, tequila was introduced and I didn’t get to bed until around 3 am.
I woke up the next morning, looking forward to having an hour to lay in bed before getting up to engage in, what I imagined at this point, would be a downright awful hour of hot yoga. I had a raging hangover and seriously considered bailing on the class.
I feel like I remembered reading somewhere that it helped you sweat out all the toxins of the night before, so I was optimistic with enough water and advil beforehand, I’d feel better by the end of the workout. I just happened to go onto the website and was looking around, when I saw the schedule for Sunday’s classes. The only class that day was at 9am–not 10 am as we were all planning on. It was currently 8:20.
I texted my friend and let her know, she responded that there was no way she was going to make it, but I should still go! I waffled a bit, and finally decided on doing it. I had built it up all week and wanted to give it a shot. So, I jumped out of bed, got changed, grabbed my mat, towel and water and headed out the door.
About 5 min from the house, I realized I hadn’t grabbed anything to eat. I was feeling pretty rough at this point and considered turning around, but figured I run on an empty stomach enough, that one hour of yoga shouldn’t kill me.
I went to Bikram Yoga. Not only was this my first hot yoga class, but this was also my first time in an actual yoga studio. I usually do yoga at home, but when I have taken classes, it’s always been at a gym–never an actual studio. So, it was kind of exciting! Even though I had no idea what to expect, or what I was doing really, I put my stuff in the changing room, left my shoes in the shoe area and headed inside.
I found a nice spot not too close to the front (I always feel so weird being right by the instructor) but not way in the back. I was sitting on my mat, taking sips of water and thinking to myself, “This isn’t so bad. It’s not horribly hot in here. I can tolerate this for an hour”.
The instructor came in, flipped the lights on and everyone around me stood up. I followed suit and immediately felt overwhelmed by how HOT it was! I don’t know how it was so much hotter so quickly, but I thought “Oh shit.” and knew this was not going to be easy.
The only yoga classes I’ve ever taken have been vinyasa, so I assumed that’s how the class was going to be. Sure, it was going to be hot, but if I was just doing some light stretching and routines, I would be fine. And there’s always the safety of child pose if I was not feeling it.
Bikram is not like that. It’s not a series of poses in a routine, but one pose after the other. You do one pose on each side of your body, take a short rest, and then repeat it, rest, and move onto the next pose. I was surprised by how structured and abrupt it felt. The first few poses were okay. I was sweating like a mad man within minutes and I remember thinking I couldn’t believe my legs could sweat that much. Then the heat started to get to me and my stomach did not feel awesome.
The class begins with a series of standing poses. After each of those poses, we would do some kind of stretchy pose to get our heart rate down. The standing poses were tough and made me feel like I was going to vomit. But then, anytime I had to bend over and stretch, I would immediately feel dizzy and like I was going to pass out. Group classes are tough for me, because I can be very competitive. Usually, this isn’t a terrible thing, since I just push myself and get a better workout for it. On Sunday though, I became aware of the fact that I was probably pushing myself too hard. So, after a bit, I would do one round of the poses, and depending on the intensity of it, would either try the second round, or crouch into child pose to “relax”.
Eventually, the instructor told everyone to get into Savasana and I almost cried with joy. I figured we had to be nearing the end of the class! Turns out, Bikram classes are 90 min of heat-filled joy, not 60. My mental mantra went from “It’s only an hour. You can do this” to “Holy shit I have 30 more minutes of this”. I figured since we were down on our mat, it would be a bit easier to push through it, since the rest was pure rest, laying on our backs. The instructor was really great in motivating us though, and was frequently telling us we could do it. Which, I was really relying on.
Turns out, I was wrong. I still felt sick to my stomach and now I was becoming very aware that I hadn’t eaten anything, which I couldn’t definitively tell was a mistake or not. I felt so sick from the heat, I found myself wondering if it was better my stomach was empty, because if I had eaten something, I probably would be vomiting.
I pushed through as much as I could through the end of the class. Around 70 minutes into the class, I finally located a clock on the wall, which probably made things worse for me, since I started staring at it like a mad man, hoping my magical mind powers could speed up time.
Finally, the clock got to 10:30 and the instructor told us to roll over into Savasana. I felt so relieved, but then I heard the dreaded “Now roll up…” and started to panic. “This class is TWO hours?!” I turned to a girl next to me and asked her if the class was two hours long, she looked at me with the same fear in her eyes that were no doubt in mine and said “I don’t know. I thought it was an hour”. Turns out she was new too, and experiencing the same feelings of panic as I was.
Luckily, in the next few minutes, the class ended and we WERE allowed to relax in Savasana. I was feeling so utterly sick to my stomach and lightheaded, that all I wanted to do was get out of the heat. Once the instructor told us to spend as much time as we wanted in Savasana, I sat up, grabbed my stuff and booked it from the room.
I ended up running into our landlord in the locker room after. She asked if it was my first time and when I said yes, she asked how I liked it and all I could do was smile and say,
This class was not easy. Even though I was hindered by a hangover, I can’t imagine I would have felt a whole lot better the first time. Everyone I’ve talked to says the first class is the absolute worse, but it gets better.
I definitely want to try hot yoga again when I’m in better shape and not drinking the night before, but I think I want to try a hot vinyasa class. I didn’t enjoy the Bikram class, not only because I felt like I was slowly dying, but I didn’t like the structure of it. I found it too abrupt and disconnected for me. I like the relaxation I find when I perform yoga and I didn’t get that out of the Bikram classes. I will say, however, I did feel a lot less tight when I got home. I had been needing some serious QT with my foam roller and hadn’t, but after the class I felt my legs were a lot less tight.
I don’t want to give up on hot yoga just yet. I just don’t think Bikram was the right choice for me.