I tried Bikram yoga

by Kim on April 30, 2013

As you know, I went to my first Bikram yoga class last week. 105 degrees, 90 minutes, 26 poses, and whole lot of suffering.

I guess I didn’t realize what a huge factor the intense heat would be. I thought: “I love being hot! This will be so relaxing and restorative! Yay yoga!”

Reality: As I was unrolling my mat, I was already thinking about quitting.

From the second I walked in, the heat was absolutely dizzying. The room was also packed, which didn’t help—pile some mild claustrophobia onto the mad Saharan temps. I actually looked at the ceiling above my spot, positive I was positioned right under the heat vent (there had to be a reason there were several open spots in that one area and nowhere else).

When I posted this pic last week, I thought I was joking.

Hot Yoga

Oh, no. This is reality.

Within ten or so minutes, I could feel sweat dripping off my face, suctioning my leggings to my legs, trickling down my back, and turning my mat (which I’d later be instructed to “kiss” during a pose) into a sweaty, stinky cesspool. And this is coming from a typically light sweater (I just get the beat red face—pick your poison).

By the middle of class, several girls were down to their bras. My 64 oz Nalgene of water was down to about an inch. The girl in front of me was wearing these light-colored wind capris that were officially 100% transparent with sweat.

Oh, and I finally understood why a ponytail wasn’t good enough. (In the beginning, I’d noticed most of the girls had a high buns and thought, “Does it really make that much difference?” Answer: YES. Imagine a wet little rattail flapping around your face and sticking to your neck and back. No thanks.)

sock bunI longed for my sock bun and totally regretted that I got over that phase in about 3 days.

Horrifying observation #424: There was NO. MUSIC. It hadn’t occurred to me that it might be a silent class. All I had to listen to was the teacher’s uber-detailed instructions, my own breathing, and the girl next to me, who was making a sound reminiscent of snoring the whole time.

So, obviously, I’d had no idea what I was getting into with this class. I was anticipating an intense mind/body experience, but I’d thought that would come from focusing your mind on holding poses, not focusing your mind on not throwing up.

The poses themselves were pretty easy. Traditional Bikram classes consist of the same 26 poses and 2 breathing exercises, which are done in the same order every time. I could tell that everyone around me knew what was coming. At one point, a girl even corrected the instructor when she almost accidentally skipped a set. (You know her—she’s the same girl who would pipe up in school with crap like, “Didn’t you say we’d have a quiz today?”)

But, to be honest, I can barely remember much about the poses now. I was too busy thinking about my body temperature and willing myself to not pass out. My mental dialogue was something like this: “So nauseous…so dizzy…so sweaty…why do people do this?!?…so nauseous…”

Favorite Quotes

The instructor was cracking me up, mostly because of how much she was acknowledging our misery. I’d assumed that, as a newbie, I was suffering in a different way than everyone else (I mean, why would you keep doing it otherwise??), but apparently, with experience does not come relief.

“I wish I could tell you it gets easier the more you do it. But it doesn’t. It just gets different.”

“These next poses are a little easier…well, no they’re not.”

“Let go of whatever you’re feeling right now. Whether it’s anger…nausea…dizziness…er, well, I guess you could be feeling happiness.”

Aftermath

Even though the class was tough, I’d thought it would all be worth it when I stepped outside into the bliss of cool air at the end. I thought I’d feel cleansed and fresh in a whole new way—that it would suddenly click, and I’d finally understand the draw behind this hot yoga thing.

yoga aftermath

Instead, I got a headache.

The first thing I did when I got home was grab a bottle of Febreeze and douse the driver’s seat of the car. The second thing I did was find my husband so I could unload the story of the trauma I’d just endured.

Then, I chugged water and spent the rest of the night going to the bathroom.

I may never understand hot yoga. I know that it has a devoted following, and I’d love to learn more about why. Regardless of how open I try to keep my mind, I just don’t think there’s a place for hot yoga in my life.

Have you tried Bikram yoga?

Bikram devotees: what am I missing??

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

hta May 1, 2015 at 9:05 pm

I found your blog after I googled headache after bikram yoga.

I just want to point some things out that I came across in my research after I did hot yoga today.

First off, if you feel nausea that is Heat Stroke! If you feel dizziness and nausea that means you are having a heat stroke, and you should stop and get the hell out of that room asap!! I did not know this at the time and thought it was due to hunger.

Also, after 40.6 degrees Celsius that heat will do permanent brain damage, and since most places are jacked up to around 40-50 Celsius your body goes over the 40.6 marks right away. So you are basically getting brain damage every time you go to hot yoga.

There is NO science behind hot yoga, in fact there is a lot of science that shows it is actually very bad for you!

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John February 2, 2015 at 8:55 am

I had to quit hot yoga for a couple of years because it would give me migraines about 40% of the time. I tried everything! Finally, my doctor diagnosed me with “exercise-induced migraines.” After a quick rule-out MRI of something more serious, he prescribed me 50 mg of Indomethacin which I take 20 minutes before I start. Coupled with a vitamin-water that I drink during practice instead of regular water, I can tell you that I’m headache free 100% of the time. It has been a god-send to me. I now do hot yoga 3x per week again and am back to my goal weight. Feel free to repost this recommendation anywhere because it has literally changed my life.

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Kim February 5, 2015 at 9:52 pm

Very interesting!! I had no idea exercise-induced migraines existed. I always blame mine on lack of sleep and/or stress. I just got prescribed a new migraine med that I take with naproxen, and it’s already saved me a few times. Glad you found your answer!!

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Esther April 1, 2016 at 12:54 pm

I also suffer from chronic migraines. I have taken to hot yoga classes and have gotten to migraines following each one. Not quite sure I’ll be returning to those classes…

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Kelly @ Leafy Not Beefy May 2, 2013 at 10:48 am

Bahahaha!! You’re so funny! I’ve never tried it, and me and heat and dizziness/nausea do not mix – I’d be the very first one to pass out for sure! :)

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Lindsay @ Health Foragers May 1, 2013 at 6:36 am

This is hilarious. I have always thought it sounded crazy. I wanted to tell you that I nominated you for The Versatile Blogger award. I love your honesty and humor – right up my alley. If you want to do it and if you don’t know the rules you can check out my post http://healthforagers.com/the-versatile-blogger-award/

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Kim May 1, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Cool, thanks Lindsay!

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emma April 30, 2013 at 8:50 pm

I am a fan of hot yoga but the hot yoga I do isn’t Bikram so it’s not AS scorching. Great workout, I always told people to start hydrating for a hot yoga class the day before, skip the morning coffee and drink as much water as possible afterwards.
I hope the headache is gone!
:)
Are you ever going to go back for more…?
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Kim May 1, 2013 at 10:29 pm

That’s great advice–I definitely could have gone in MUCH more hydrated. (And probably would have if I’d had any idea what I was getting into, haha!)

I’d consider trying a hot class again, but probably not bikram. Maybe a flow class at 95 degrees or less–with music!! :)

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Laura@ Fit Running Mama April 30, 2013 at 8:20 pm

Your post made me laugh out loud! I do Bikram on Sunday’s and each week I think it will get easier and it never does. As a running I struggle with having to concentrate “meditate” for 90 minutes– I find myself practicing “locking my knee” in the middle of the day. It’s so hard and so challenging– good for you for trying it :) I will tell you that the heat thing gets easier… My yoga teacher encourages us NOT to wipe the sweat away because we will only sweat more– sweating is the body’s way to cool you down so if you get rid of it it will just get worse.
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Kim May 1, 2013 at 10:26 pm

I think I could get used to the challenge of it if I actually liked it in some way. But I think it’s just too strict, serious, and monotonous for me. The fact that it’s the same poses every time is a pretty big turn-off for me–and I need music! :)

Good point about the sweat! I hate when I can feel it tingling on my face, though. :) I’m sensitive about that when I’m running too–I almost always wear bandanas on my forehead for races.

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Giselle@myhealthyhappyhome April 30, 2013 at 7:14 pm

I’ve thought about taking a hot yoga class before but don’t think I could handle the heat! I swell and puff up so bad during the warmer months that I would probably be a puff ball! Not to mention I sweat like a pig as it is! Love you’re take on it!
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Kim May 1, 2013 at 10:22 pm

I thought I was pretty good with heat until this experience! Ha! :)

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lindsey April 30, 2013 at 4:55 pm

oh my goodness! If that had been my first hot yoga experience, I would feel the same as you. My class is only ever 60 minutes, there’s usually great music, the class size is tight, but small. I definitely sweat a lot there and wondered after the first time if I should keep going back. But I did, and I like it. I am not sure regular yoga is going to do it for me anymore. I LOVE that you are so open to trying things though! Good for you!

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Kim May 1, 2013 at 10:21 pm

I think I might be able to handle 60 minutes with music. The no music thing was so tough–it all felt so SERIOUS! :)

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Erin April 30, 2013 at 4:31 pm

I’ve never done a bikrim class, but regularly do a hot vinyassa (95 degrees). I love it. Love the sweat. Each class is a little different, but it’s my favorite. I don’t know if I could handle a bikrim class, I already get light-headed from low blood pressure in hot vinyassa.

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Kim May 1, 2013 at 10:20 pm

In retrospect, I should have started with a 95 degree class…I was clearly not ready for the hardcoreness of bikram. :)

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Miranda April 30, 2013 at 3:25 pm

I love this! I totally agree with you! People are correct it does get a little better. How much you sweat though never will. I could never get over leaving class drenched and feeling disgusting, then going out to where it was cold and realizing you were freezing in your own sweat now…
My instructor actually frowned upon drinking water during class (only small sips if absolutely needed), and breathing through your mouth was a big no no. I finally stopped going when he decided he was being too easy on us and cranked up the temp a bit more for us one day… I was sure I was going to pass out and puke and fall in my own sweat at the same time :)
I have been meaning to ask you what gym do you go to? It sounds like they have some of the best classes!

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Kim May 1, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Oh my gosh, I would have died without water! Is that really a good idea?? I remember the instructor saying to keep our eyes open the entire time, and I definitely broke that rule too. :)

I go to Gold’s Gym, but this was at a yoga studio. I got a special pass for 2 weeks through lululemon. It was awesome!

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Nanci @ This Crazy Life of Mine April 30, 2013 at 2:54 pm

I love your recount of this and it’s funny how everyone is different. I *LOVE* hot yoga. I’ve done the 60 minute class many times and the 90 minute class once. It’s no joke. I love the sweating and the stretching and the overall amazing feeling I have afterwards. I haven’t been in several weeks as my pass ran out but I’m hoping to go back very soon!

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Kim May 1, 2013 at 10:17 pm

I’d like to experiment with a little LESS heat–like 95 degrees–and maybe 60 min instead of 90. I think this was a little aggressive for my first time. :)

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Becky @ TheBexFactor April 30, 2013 at 1:38 pm

I felt exactly the same after my first Bikram class. Headache for hours, nausea, just plain gross. But I went back because I bought a week intro pass. The next time I didn’t feel as crappy. The time after that even better. Then I was hooked. It never got easier, or less hot, it i started feeling less crappy and more detoxed with every class. I encourage you to try again.

Also, find a hot yoga class with dry heat instead of steam, it’s a much different experience. Not so intense.

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Kim April 30, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Interesting! Maybe I didn’t give it much of a shot, but I’ll be honest, I have zero motivation to go back right now! Besides the heat, the no music thing is kind of tough for me.

To each her own, I guess! :)

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Sarah @ PickyRunner April 30, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Reading your perspective of it is so funny because when I first started, I had the same problems! I still do have moments where all I think about is the sweat dripping off me or the fact that I can’t do every pose and that it hurts, but I’ve really found that after a few weeks or going 1-2 times, I got the hang of it and it started to become relaxing and almost enjoyable in a weird way. It’s definitely an acquired taste though!
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Kim April 30, 2013 at 2:17 pm

It’s that “in a weird way” part that I’m struggling with. Like, no one really–REALLY–likes this do they? haha. Maybe I didn’t give it enough of a chance. But at this point, it’s going to take a lot to get me back there. :)

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