Main image for How I came to love Bikram Yoga Time to Read: ~7 min

My experiences with yoga have been varied and inconsistent until this year. When my kids were younger I organized a yoga class for a bunch of stay at home moms, finding a teacher and time that worked for us all at a local yoga studio. My reason for taking yoga? To have a reason to wear cute yoga clothes!! I never bought any cute yoga clothes and didn't particularly enjoy the class.

But, sometime after that class session ended I decided to try the yoga at the gym Scott and I had joined. My physical therapist that I saw for runner's knee and IT band issues recommended more cross training and core work for me. At my first visit he was visibly shocked by my lack of flexibility. Yoga fit nicely into his recommendations. I picked the easiest yoga class (from the descriptions), coming home to tell Scott that I was AMAZING at yoga (not amazing, just chose a very gentle class).  In the years that followed I tried a few other instructors, types and times at my gym. While I never fell in love, I did like how it made me feel afterwards. Last year when we left our gym I turned to yoga apps at home and the Les Mills BodyFlow class for about a year.

Kelly's class

My friend Kelly teaches a class locally that I've always wanted to try, but it never quite fit my schedule until the fall of 2017. Her class is Monday nights and this fall my kids have piano on Monday nights. Elizabeth is driving now so she drives herself and her brother up to Ithaca College, hitting Wegmans to do our weekly shopping for us. That leaves Scott and me with a free evening for yoga. I decided to check it out first and report back in to Scott. I found that I really enjoyed the class! I realized after a year of yoga at home that an in person class really IS different even from an online class. I purchased a punch pass and decided to make yoga a regular part of my life. Monday nights quickly became something to look forward to. Our family gathered for a late dinner to catch up after a long day.  I enjoyed the family time, even if it was a later than ideal dinner. If you live in Tburg or near, definitely check out Kelly's classes! She's an awesome teacher!

As I write this, I've been going pretty regularly for almost a year now, but the Monday night plan has changed because Scott joined a local chorus, so now it is just my thing. At first that stopped me from going for a bit. It wasn't the same without him and I found myself choosing the bike in our home gym or using the time to work for several weeks until I realized that these choices were making it so I was not getting yoga into my week. I kicked my butt back out the door to class after a few weeks of slacking. It is different, and Monday nights are no longer a special family time, but I am still getting my yoga in.

Kathleen does Bikram

My friend Kathleen mentions her Bikram Yoga class at Pure Sweat Yoga to me from time to time. Last summer we were hiking and talking about fitness things and she invited me to join her for a 6:30 am class. "Sure, why not?" I really like hanging out with Kathleen and I honestly thought it would be fun to see her despite the yoga. The date we picked was still a few weeks away so I had time to get my head wrapped around it.  She told me what to expect and we made a plan.

In those few weeks, the last of summer, I got a job as a long term sub teaching grade 7 math. The first teacher day was the day of our scheduled yoga class.  I waffled about whether to go for an insanely long time, finally canceling on her the night before the class. The class was in Ithaca, I had to be at school looking presentable and I would never be able to go at this particular time again. I felt really sad about it, but it made sense.

On that same hike I had been telling Kathleen about my amazing swim class with Master Total Immersion instructor, Shane Eversfield. Many many months later we were chatting and she told me she was in the middle of Shane's level 2 class. "Wow! You are taking it! That's SO awesome!!" I replied. "We should swim sometime." Our kids are friends and occasionally when we talk about kid things we connect as well - we're both super busy and don't fall into each other's orbits too often so it was nice to connect. One day I was saying something about how we should get together sometime and she brought up hot yoga again. "Do you want to join me on Saturday morning?" she asked.

This was mid-week and I put it in the back of my head. I had a lot of baking to do and Scott was in the middle of rehearsing for a show that had him out late most nights. Xander was in the middle of his tech week for his show so Saturday morning was a time we'd actually all be home. I wasn't sure if I should disrupt the morning to go do something for me. Still, sometime on Friday I realized I could get my baking done and go to the class. The world would in fact keep on spinning if I did something fun just for me. "Yes I'll go!" I told Kathleen. Then I told Scott, "by the way I'm going to a yoga class tomorrow morning."

The first class

Kathleen warned me not to eat too close to class - like don't eat closer than 3 hours. I usually get up at 5 so it was perfectly reasonable to have breakfast at 6 and then be fine for a 9:30 am class. Scott and I normally wait until 7 or 8 on a weekend to eat if we aren't doing a long run.  I baked and had breakfast and then baked again before heading to class. We had been out really late the night before when his rehearsal wrapped and Elizabeth had a friend sleeping over so it was an odd morning for us anyway. I struggled with what to wear, embarrassing Elizabeth in front of her friend as I tried poses in different outfits. "You aren't usually this weird mom," she said as I came out in thing after thing. "I don't usually go to hot yoga," I replied.

As I got into the car to go I realized I was really scared. I met Kathleen at a parking lot near her house and hopped in her car so we could catch up on the drive into class.

Kathleen explained the structure of the class; 26 poses done in the same order each time. She let me borrow a cool towel for my mat and she told my my first priority was to just try to stay in the room. I could do this I thought.

Labor is the thing that comes to mind

I know, not exactly a great sell, but even after 4 classes this analogy sticks for me. Labor was one of the few times in my life that I have only been able to think about what I'm doing right at that moment. Maybe the final miles of a marathon would also be an apt analogy to have something that all runners can relate to.

This experience is one of the hardest yet at the same time most energizing things I've done. My mind never wandered away from the meditation, the focus on the poses, or the class during the 90 minutes. I wasn't even capable of counting the poses to know how many we'd done. When Kathleen leaned over after the standing poses were complete to say, "we're past halfway," I thought "yay. I'm going to make it."

What Bikram does for your body

I can't speak for all bodies, but I struggle with shoulder mobility. I only became aware of it after taking swimming for a year. My teacher was really out of ideas for how to improve my swimming because he felt it came down to a lack of ability to move my shoulders. He suggested I see a PT and was even willing to attend sessions with me so he could learn. I did and I added regular stretches to my life. Then, I decided to try acupuncture along with the exercises. This twice monthly treatment is really helping. However, after visit #1 to Bikram I felt like I was just leaving a session of acupuncture. Hmmm. What if I do this weekly?

The Monday after my first class Scott and I were doing our regular Monday Les Mills BodyPump at home. We hit the back track and I felt more muscle engagement than I've ever felt. Wow! I asked Scott about the muscle use I was feeling and he said, "yup, always feel that." I think Bikram helped me engage muscles that I have never used before. After just one class I felt totally hooked.

Have you ever tried drugs Amy?

As someone who owns my own business, I know the importance of the connectors in the world. Those people who like your product and will tell all of their friends. By nature I'm a connector. I like to share my positive experiences with as many people as I can.  At my team meeting the Monday after the class I told my fellow teachers about this experience. One of my colleagues said, "wow the brain can really be altered in the heat." I continued on and on about how amazing this class was and then she said, "Amy have you ever used drugs?" No. She joked that I'd probably be a good candidate. No one on the team was sold on coming with me .. yet. However, two of my friends were willing to give it a go. They both tried it and liked it, but due to injury and some other factors it didn't end up being a fit.

With Scott after my 3rd class and his first!

With Scott after my 3rd class and his first!

I took Scott the following week and he ADORED it. We went out for coffee at Gimme after and there were 4 of us from class there! One guy from class drove down from Syracuse just for this class!!  I thought as we stood in line, "only in Ithaca could we walk out of class totally sopping wet and stand in line at the coffee shop and not be a bit embarrassed."

This week I took my friend Kathey. She wasn't sure she'd manage the heat but I knew she would. Kathey is crazy competitive and very driven. She did the Rachel Carson Challenge with me years ago and despite great worry about finishing before the cut off she rocked the challenge!

Time for a punch pass

Pure Sweat does this nice thing where they let you try yoga for 10 days for $20. A drop in class is $20 but they also offer various membership levels. After my 10 day trial and one drop in class I decided it was time for a punch pass. I am now committed to regular attendance!!

The poses

I found this really awesome page about the poses. I don't look anything like this when I do the poses!! I think it is cool because it says what each pose does for you. I think I'll visit the page every now and then to remind myself about the goals of this.

Benefits of Bikram

A quick internet search will give you so many of the benefits but here are a few from the page that Pure Sweat Yoga has on their sheet.

  • Maintain health and wellness.
  • Glowing skin.
  • Improved weight regulation.
  • Improved muscle definition.
  • Better mood and outlook on life.

The studio encourages you to practice regularly and point out that the more you practice the more you will see these changes in your body. For me, for now I'm going to plan on at least once weekly and hopefully twice on some weeks. I want to commit to something I can maintain so my starting level is once a week.