It wasn’t David Beckham, Lady Gaga, George Clooney or Gwyneth Paltrow who turned me onto Bikram yoga. It was my dear friend Melinda. She’s an accomplished executive in the energy industry, a mother of two and a devoted yogini. She touted the benefits of hot yoga, and she looked fabulous with her glowing skin and toned body. She also seemed at peace with herself and whatever life sent her way.
I did eventually make my way down to a hot yoga class and my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. It proved to be the antidote to so many of my ailments from my migraines to a sluggish immune system.
For those of you who have never been to a hot yoga class, here’s what you can expect: the room is set to 40 degrees Celsius and it’s humid. Classes last 90 minutes, and during each class you methodically work your way through 26 postures. The classes are über-structured and there’s etiquette about when you can drink, blow your nose and pee (before and after class). Leaving the room is frowned upon.
You may pour sweat. Some people occasionally take the “wind-clearing” posture literally. During almost every class I ask myself, “Why am I doing this to myself?” I asked myself that every single day during a 30-Day Challenge I did a few years ago, but at the end of those 30 days, I felt like a goddess, albeit a sweaty one.
What I put into Bikram yoga is nothing compared to dividends it delivers. My attention span has improved, I feel more relaxed and I sleep better. I can better manage the stress of a demanding full-time job and my part-time freelance gigs. The classes also help mitigate the impact of cycling, running and weight lifting. I believe that practising regularly goes a long way to minimizing injuries and strains.
One of the other perks is the incredible people you’ll encounter. They are the friendliest, most supportive of group of people you’ll ever meet. They come in all shapes and sizes; there’s no body shaming.
I have heard about diehard Bikram yoga lovers just walking out of class one day and never going back. They’re burnt out on the 90-minute time commitment, the sweaty yoga apparel, and the repetition of the same 26 postures over and over and over again. I feared that was happening to me when I recently had a rough class and did the unthinkable: I left the room and didn’t go back for a few months.
At first, I enjoyed the break, but then I noticed my attention span grew shorter as did my patience. I started to experience aches and pains after runs. I also missed my sweaty family. I recently returned to classes and I’m not turning my increasingly flexible back on hot yoga again.
Practising Bikram yoga has given me things I lacked: structure, focus and discipline. I am a rebel and I hate being told what to do. But the rewards have been so immense and have trickled into other areas of my life. For 90 minutes a day, about three days a week, I do what I am told.
There’s a saying that if you can control your breathing, you can control your life. There have been times when it has been difficult to breathe in the heat and humidity, but I listened to my instructors and breathed through my nose and all anxiety dissipated. I have used that technique outside the hot room to control anxiety and anger.
I know that the 90 minutes away from my iPhone, my work email, my personal email, Facebook and Twitter has also changed my life. I shut the world out for 90 minutes in class and I don’t know if I could do this on my own. I have been known to text from the treadmill. You’d be surprised how much a 90-minute break from all the noise and constant communications will reduce your stress level.
I go to Studio 26 Hot Yoga, a well-respected studio in Winnipeg, because the instructors stick to the dialogue and sweat the sweat. Several of the instructors used to be professional dancers and the owner of the studio, Todd Miller, has worked in the fitness industry for 30 years and danced professionally for many years. I have a dance and gymnastics background and I appreciate the corrections I get from people who have similar training.
So I am officially hooked on hot yoga and will be getting my sweat on for years to come.