Monday, 22 August 2011
Feeling Hot Hot HOT
Sarah and I have noted our previous experimentations with the world of yoga here, and I have long struggled to get into the practice due to a complete lack of flexibility, despite knowing that for that exact same reason I really ought to stick it out. Bearing that in mind, I have to admit that I was apprehensive at best about trying out Bikram Yoga. In truth, I was wondering what the blimmin' hell I had signed myself up for.
For those who don't follow celeb fitness regimes in the Daily Mail as avidly as I do (double shame here: yes, I read the gossip section of the Daily Whale, and no, I tend not to follow the regimes myself depsite all my best intentions!), Bikram Yoga has been getting a lot of press recently. It is a 90 minute session of 26 set postures, each repeated twice, and in 40.6 degree heat! The DM assures me that Jen, Gwyneth, GaGa and several more (equally gaga) celebrities are all devotees, and hey, if it works for them it's worth a go, right?
After a quick Google for Bikram in the local area I came across Hot Bikram Yoga, Parsons Green and was delighted to see that they offered a £15 10-day taster pass for the curious (and downright frightened) like myself. Taking along a friend for moral support, I arrived at the Parsons Green studio for my first class at 7pm on a Monday evening. I have to say, this might not have been the best time to have my first Bikram experience. It seemed half of SW6 had decided to start their week right, and the small studio was absolutely packed, and the smell than emanated from the studio from the class that had just finished was fairly overwhelming. The heat was certainly enhanced by performing the routine shoulder to shoulder with about forty others, but to honest, everyone was so sweaty that all inhibitions were lost fairly quickly!
I'll admit, it was sheer bloody mindedness that got me through my first class. As mentioned, the studio was a little overcrowded (although I only experienced this at the Monday 7pm class, so a tip from me - avoid this slot like the plague as the others aren't nearly so popular and the experience is much more relaxed) and I have never sweated so much in my life! I would never normally stay in a sauna this long, let alone exercise in one, yet the heat certainly allows you to stretch into the postures much more easily, and I found myself pushing myself much further than I have managed before, and with surprisingly little resistance from my previously inflexible muscles. However, the first experience is one you certainly just have to push through. Dizziness and nausea (although never extreme) are common, but the teachers always have newcomers identify themselves and never force anyone to push themselves through postures when they are feeling the strain too much. I even saw one teacher fetch a dizzy student a bottle of electrolyte enhanced water - so they do really look out for you!
For all the struggles of the first class, I was determined to come back and follow through. Not only did I feel AMAZING just a short while after the session ended (really relaxed, calm and cleansed - my skin was glowing), there was something incredibly satisfying about making it to the end of the 90 minutes, and having pushed my body into stretching much farther than I had previously managed. Right from the start, you do see a marked increase in your suppleness, even a few days after the class.
From class two and beyond, I found my flexibility noticeably increasing with each session, and I managed to almost enjoy the heat, acclimatising quicker and quicker each time. As the sweat flows, the toxins rush out, and my stomach muscles became markedly more toned after session three. It is bloody hard work, yet also relaxing and satisfying - I'm sure in great part because you can see yourself improving each time. I've always had trouble sleeping, and exercising in the evening can often exacerbate this. However, after each session (I'm afraid I never made the 6:30am ones!) I fell quickly into a deep and happy sleep. Just remember to drink as much water as you can manage before hitting the hay - there were a couple of mornings when I woke up very dehydrated indeed!
The studio is small, and very very busy, so it is important to work out which sessions work for you. As mentioned before, I'd avoid the Monday 7pm class but the others I visited (Monday 8:45, Thursday evening and Saturday 12pm) were not nearly so busy, so you get a little more attention, more space and breathing room! All the teachers have very different characters too, and my favourites were Veronika and Dom for their sense of humour, and attention to all their class mates - they both gently cajoled you into pushing yourself further, and made sure to correct you where you were going wrong. I'm not really into the more philosophical and meditative aspects of yoga (although I know some people are) so preferred classes with a little less emphasis on this, although it has to be said that with such a physical practice none of the classes can ever really end up being too "hippy". There is a lovely atmosphere in the class. Nobody tries to compete (although some of the others were really VERY flexible and I couldn't help feeling a twinge of jealousy) and I'm sure basically sweating all over your neighbour helps break down any barriers. Indeed, there is a real community around the studio - after tweeting about my experiences I found several readers eager to compare notes!
I really enjoyed my sessions at Hot Bikram Yoga. Although tough, it's also incredibly satisfying. And with unlimited yoga for 10 days priced at only £15, you don't have much to lose by trying out.... Just make sure you visit more than once to see all the benefits!
Hot Bikram Yoga
25 Heathmans Road
020 7384 4454
PS Excuse the lack of pictures - it's not really appropriate to take a camera into the studio, and I certainly looked far too much of a state to feature!!