If you've fallen in love with Bikram yoga and can handle the heat, the next step is to go from beginner to budding yogi by improving your asanas. Since Bikram moves through the same 26 poses in a 105-degrees Fahrenheit and 40 percent humidity studio, you'll have plenty of time to perfect your practice by doing the postures repeatedly. With constant improvement and other techniques, you can get better each time you attend class.
Use props whenever possible in your practice. Props, like a block or a strap, can help extend your reach or fill in the blanks when you're not yet flexible enough for a certain pose. In Bikram, it's better to execute a modified pose properly than to assume a sloppy pose without the proper posture because you're not yet flexible enough.
Swap your usual mat for a sticky mat or bring a yoga towel to class along with your regular mat. Since you'll definitely get sweaty during Bikram yoga, your mat can get slick with the moisture and cause you to slip and slide while transitioning or holding a pose. A sticky mat or a towel can be used when you need a better grip and will therefore help you attain better posture.
Listen to your body instead of the teacher during class. While your instructor is instrumental in guiding you through the 26 asanas and two breathing exercises, only you know what your body is capable of. Don't push yourself to try and execute a pose that pushes your body to the point of injury. If you feel pain, stop and modify regardless of what the instructor says.
Drink water throughout class. Some instructors -- including founding father Bikram Choudhury himself -- tend to downplay or discourage the need for water during class. But becoming dehydrated can throw off your balance, cause muscle cramps and is extremely dangerous. Plan to drink 7 to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes. Fill a bottle with about 50 ounces of water before class -- if it's not gone by the end, you're not drinking enough.
Pace yourself as you move through the different moves. Since you'll go through the entire series twice during class, you can slowly acclimate your body during the first round and then put more effort into perfect posture and better flexibility the second time through. Going full throttle through both sequences could leave you feeling fatigued and sloppy by the end of class.
- Go to at least 10 classes per month, the minimum amount suggested by Bikram Choudhury, to see and feel a difference in your practice.
- If you are pregnant or have any kind of medical condition, consult a physician before participating in Bikram yoga.
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.