My Advice for Beginners
What I always tell people when they wonder about Pure Hot Bikram Yoga is:
1) it’s mind over matter – all the way
2) hydrate, hydrate, hydrate before class – makes all the difference
3) even if you literally just lay on your back the whole class you’re still getting the benefit.
If you don’t feel well, just lie down on your back and breathe. Lay there the whole class if you need to. No one judges you or makes you feel bad for it. And then when you come back the next time try to sit out a little bit less than you did the class before. It took me a few weeks, maybe even the whole first month, before I could go an entire class without sitting out any posture. And even now, after a year, I still sit out some postures from time to time when I feel like I’m getting overheated or woozy. It took a lot of practice to stop my mind from running away when I felt that way, but now if I start to feel wonky (which is usually when I haven’t had enough water before class) I just remind myself that there’s nothing magical or mystical about Bikram yoga. It’s just a hot room. And if I just sit down or lie down and relax my breathing there’s no reason my body can’t handle a hot room. It’s when you go into Fight or Flight mode that it turns into a miserable experience. I’d check with your doctor and if he/she says it’s fine, you should definitely come check it out! Aside from the physical benefits, it’s also helped with my stress and anxiety a lot too!
I actually looked at the poses ahead of time on the Pure Hot Yoga St. Louis website just to know what I was getting into and I think that helped. And learning that you never hold any pose longer than 45-seconds or 1-minute or something! You can fake anything for 45 seconds! Plus the instructors will guide you during class and you’re encouraged to look around at the other folks in the room to see how they are doing it and mimic them.
The great thing about it is it’s a very individualized practice. There are people of all shapes and sizes and people who have been coming 10+ years and new people every day. So you have a mix of all skill levels and you just do what you can. There are certain poses that come really easy for me and others that don’t come at all and I think that’s true for everyone. So for every posture you can look around the room and see people doing it at all different levels. Someone might be nailing it, someone might be half-nailing it, someone might be falling out of it, and someone else might be laying down on their back. And the person nailing it might be in his/her second class and the person falling out might be in his/her 700th class. I never feel like I am somehow not keeping up like I should or not doing good enough because there really are people of all skill levels and fitness levels there. You will never be the only person not doing a posture perfectly. Or even near perfectly. But that’s where I like the challenge.
The postures are hard but it gives you something to work on. And man, once you start to see improvement it gets really fun! Then you realize that you’re actually getting better and it motivates you to keep coming and trying. I always have little “projects” in my brain. Like, for a long time I really struggled to stay in Tree Pose the whole time. So I would look forward to that each class and being able to try and hold the pose just a little bit longer. And then I was able to hold it the whole time and it felt like I ruled the world! So I find having those little personal challenges motivates me and it helps me compare my progress to myself and not others.
AND another great thing about Bikram is you do the same 26 postures in the same order every class so you aren’t constantly learning new poses or anything. You start to go on autopilot after a while because you know exactly what posture is coming and exactly how to do it. All you have to do is try to do it! And that repetition is part of what makes it very stress-relieving for me. It’s 90 minutes where I can’t be on my phone or checking my email, there’s no talking during class, and it’s not over-stimulating (because I know the routine of poses) but it’s fast-paced enough that it keeps me engaged in the class and my mind is thinking about doing the postures, maintaining my breath, and staying calm and not about anything going on in the outside world. Just having those 90 minutes of brain peace 3-4x a week has been very, very nice!