I just discovered the most amazing workout. It elevates my heart rate, pushes me past my limits, makes me sweat, and relaxes and centers me – all at the same time. Crazy, right?
I hesitate to tell you what this workout is because as soon as I say it, you are going to roll your eyes thinking: that’s not for me. And that’s what I thought too. Until I gave it a chance.
I’m talking about Bikram Yoga. 105 degree, deep-breathing, hot, sweaty, Bikram Yoga.
Now that I’ve fallen in love with it and done my research, I’ve found that this hot mess of a workout has a ridiculous list of benefits that include:
- Weight loss
- Enhanced strength
- Increased flexibility
- Improved posture
- Mental clarity
- A balanced blood pressure
- Proper metabolism
- Improved ability to concentrate
- Flushing of toxins and impurities from the body through hard work and sweat
- Specific poses can help clean out the veins and arteries
But before I fell in love, I knew very little about it, and didn’t care to learn. I had done my fair share of yoga classes through my gym or in my living room with Fitness DVDs (yeah Denise Austin!). And I found it enjoyable, but really considered it more of a stretching and relaxation exercise. When I workout, I want to feel like I’ve worked out. I had heard of hot yoga, but the idea of mixing a hot room with yoga poses just seemed silly to me.
I unintentionally found Bikram Yoga. On an impulse, I bought a Gilt City when I saw that it was in the West Loop. Eager to switch up my workout and find something close by, I thought yoga would be a good idea. I went dressed in full-length yoga pants and a long-sleeved zip up, confident my always-cold body would be comfortable in the layers. But when the instructor told me he highly recommended a towel to wipe away all of the sweat, my ears perked up.
“You do know what Bikram Yoga is, don’t you?”
Embarrassed to say that I thought it just involved a new set of poses that some guy named Bikram needed to put his name on, I said,
“Yeah, I’ve heard of it.”
When I walked into the room, it was confirmed. “Bikram Yoga” is synonymous with “Hot Yoga”. The dark room was filled with thick, humid air and I noticed the people who already were inside were dressed in next to nothing. It was going to be an interesting class.
One hour, thirty minutes and two buckets of sweat later, I was finished. And I knew as I lie there on my rented towel in Shavasana – I had just found something special.
I left that class feeling lighter, leaner and more relaxed than I’d ever felt walking out of a workout. My stomach, squeezed out from all of the twists and turns, felt flat and strong. My spine, curved from 27 years of bad posture to overcompensate for being too tall, suddenly felt erect. My sinuses, constantly agitated from allergies, felt clear. My muscles, achy from moving them in ways they never knew possible, felt challenged to get stronger. My mind, usually racing after a workout to carry on with my day, felt calm, clear and relaxed. I slowly strolled back to my apartment, literally wearing a stupid grin the whole way there.
I realized, the next day, that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And I actually couldn’t wait to go back again. Couldn’t wait. As strict as I am with my workouts, I would never say that I happily anticipate them. I see working out as a necessary evil to keep my body healthy and fit.
But Bikram felt different. I felt challenged to do it again. And do it better. There were so many poses I could barely manage; I needed to know that I could. Could I get physically and mentally strong enough to handle the deep bending and balancing poses?
Through this class and a few recent experiences, I’ve finally realized that these two things together are essential to my workout.
ENJOYMENT + CHALLENGE
If I don’t enjoy it, I won’t do it. If I am bored, I will hate it, resent it, and then, I won’t do it.
So I’m going to give Bikram a chance. And I really think you should to. But I won’t blame you if you don’t, because I’ve been there. You’ll just have to find it in your own way.