This piece is a guest post by Deirbhile Brogan about her experience during her first 30 days of Bikram Yoga.
History and first class
I’m 21, a student, I’ve tried running a bit, taken aerobic classes, I cycle to work sometimes, but wouldn’t consider myself to be extremely fit or health-conscious. I heard of bikram through my Mam and aunties. One aunt in particular who lives in Portland, Oregon swears by yoga. She often says how she wishes she had started it at a younger age. To be completely honest, I started bikram because I thought it would be a quick fix to help me tone up, sweat off some takeaways and get one of those famed “yoga-bods.” After my thirty days of yoga, I haven’t yet had dramatic aesthetic improvements, but I have definitely not been disappointed. I’ve had results that I didn’t even know I was looking for.
I arrived at the studio not knowing what to expect. As it turned out I think not knowing what I was in for was a good thing. Had I known what my first class would be like, I probably wouldn’t have set foot in the place! My first class was one of the most physically and mentally challenging experiences of my life. I had never been in such prolonged heat and humidity with no cool air. Combine this with a series of bikram postures that work every part of your body, and you have a tough ninety minutes. Had it not been for the sound advice of my instructor to breathe in and out through my nose, keep away from the heaters and stay near the door, I don’t think I would have lasted. Despite spending the majority of my first class hunched in a sweaty, fidgety mess on the floor, I felt great after the class and had an amazing sleep that night.
“It’s never easy and that’s why it works.”
Committing to 30 days of bikram yoga rather than attending a one-off class encouraged me to keep going. The second class was far better than the first. It’s as if the first bikram class breaks you down, and the ones that follow build you back up. I went to thirteen classes over the thirty days and I saw dramatic improvements, but not the improvements I expected. I began to be able to remain standing for the duration of the class, getting into the postures to the best of my ever-increasing ability. However, it’s never a walk in the park. As one of my instructors says, “it’s never easy and that’s why it works.”
Something I have noticed from doing bikram is that it is as much a way of living rather than just an isolated 90 minute session. I found myself becoming more conscious of hydrating throughout the day before yoga and I began eating better. I have a sweet-tooth and I enjoy a bag of chips, but I began to choose an apple over a chocolate bar, and bring packed lunches to work rather than getting a plate of chips at the canteen. I noticed a lot of benefits during my thirty days of bikram. The most immediate benefit I noticed was the improvement in the quality of my sleep and my energy levels. For the last few years my sleep has been broken but since I’ve started yoga I’ve been sleeping through the night. I’ve also noticed an improvement in my balance, flexibility and core strength. The visible benefits of the 30 day period have been muscle toning in my legs and torso and improved skin. My skin is by no means perfect, I still get blemishes, and after just thirty days I definitely do not have an amazing “yoga-body” but many friends and family have commented on my healthy glow and I feel that there have been more significant benefits.
Physical and mental benefits
A huge part of bikram yoga is being in control of your mind and it has definitely helped me to develop my concentration, determination and mindfulness. A great deal of concentration and determination are needed to get into the various postures in class and even to just stay in the hot, humid room. I’ve been able to take that calm, focused mindset into my everyday life, which I have found great. I feel calmer and happier in my mind and body and I think that’s far more important than looking good. I find it interesting that every bikram class follows the same progression of postures and breathing exercises, yet you are never the same person in any class. Nothing can prepare you for class, because everybody experiences bikram in their own way.
I have immensely enjoyed my thirty days of bikram yoga and have arranged to do two more unlimited months. The ninety minute session is an escape from the world and is at the same time profoundly challenging and relaxing. The studio I go to in Fairview has a wonderfully friendly atmosphere. Every instructor is so helpful and I love that there is no pressure or judgements in class. If you feel like you need to take a break, you sit down. You don’t compare yourself to anybody else in the class, you just focus on yourself. However, while there is no pressure, you are always encouraged to gently and gradually push yourself further into the postures.
“Just breathe, you can do this.”
I’ve done other fitness classes before, but nothing has given me the inside-out feeling of working every part of my body, organs and mind that bikram yoga does. I feel rejuvenated after class and energised long after I leave the studio. I would recommend bikram yoga to anybody who wants to challenge themselves. Even though the classes are tough, you are motivated to push through and there is nothing like the feeling of achievement and satisfaction afterwards. Seeing the benefits after one month have made me eager to see what happens after my next two months. “Just breath, you can do this”, anything can happen!Follow @InspirePod
If you want to know a bit more about Bikram, check out my interview with Grainne Martin, owner of the studio Deirbhile attends. Listen here.