When it comes to yoga, Bikram is probably the most intimidating of all the classes you can take. Peek in and you'll see nearly naked, limber yogis who are sweating up a storm while bending their bodies into impossible positions. If you're dying to give it a try, prepping yourself before class can make you feel a little more comfortable among the yoga elite. Practice some of the beginner poses at home, sans the 105-degree-Fahrenheit temps, and you might feel more comfortable when you go to try a class yourself.
Before you try your hand at Bikram yoga, prep yourself for what to expect in class. While plenty of students strip down to their skivvies to stay cool, you can dress in clothes that are comfortable and that wick sweat away from your body to help you stay cool. Hydrate well before class by downing water 30 to 60 minutes before you head to the studio. You'll need a mat, a towel and a realistic attitude. Not everyone can finish an entire 90-minute class on the first shot. If you need to, stay for the basic postures and lie on your mat when things get a little tougher to acclimate your body to the heat and the poses.
The good news is that every Bikram class cycles through the same 26 poses, so you'll have plenty of time to perfect your craft. Each class starts with Standing Deep Breathing, where you'll bring your hands to prayer pose and focus on your ujjayi breath. You'll also be asked to take standing poses such as Half Moon Pose, where your arms reach over your head and you curve your entire body for an excellent hip and side stretch. Other more advanced standing poses you'll assume during the routine are Eagle and Tree pose, both of which will require good balance and more practice.
When you're dripping sweat, sitting down on your mat can seem like a welcome relief. But don't think you're getting a rest; seated poses are a large part of the class. Blowing in Firm Pose will be the easiest seated pose, where you kneel on your mat and draw in your abdominals, exhaling as if you're blowing through a straw. You'll also bring your right foot to your left hip in a twisted position for Spine-Twisting Pose, which can be perfected before moving on to the more challenging Toe Stand.
While you are lying face-down, your instructor will lead you in a variety of prone poses. One of the simplest is the Full Locust pose, where you allow your belly to be the mat contact point and reach your head and neck and legs and feet as high as possible. Cobra pose may also be familiar if you've done Hatha yoga before, where you lie on your belly and then use your hands to gently press your torso away from the mat. Once you've mastered these basic poses, you'll have the confidence to give something like Awkward Pose a try.
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.