Bikram Yoga for the modern 40+ mum

Feeling Hot Hot Hot!

It seems that everywhere you go nowadays there is a hot yoga studio popping up. Sure, the discipline of yoga is centuries old but Bikram yoga seems to have grown in popularity in recent years. So what exactly is it? Bikram Yoga was founded by Bikram Choudhury and is a system of yoga that he synthesized from traditional hatha yoga techniques. All Bikram yoga classes run for 90 minutes and consist of the same series of 26 postures, including two breathing exercises. Classes are conducted in a room heated to 40 °C with a humidity of 40%.

Devotees of hot yoga extol the virtues of its health benefits, including detoxification (flushing toxins from the skin), improving breathing, focusing the mind and improving mental concentration, and developing body strength, tone, and flexibility all whilst engaging in a cardiovascular workout.

So what impelled me to join a hot yoga studio?

Well, I must confess I have always liked to engage in some form of exercise, and running had started to take its toll on my back and knees. I am also someone who ticks the ‘40-49 years’ age bracket and whose body bears the tale of three childbirths (and the over consumption of chocolate), so I decided to give it a go. After all, my body could do with some toning and my mind could do with some relaxing.

Upon entering the studio I immediately felt stifled by the overwhelming heat and humidity. It didn’t help that the outside temperature was 30 °C and rising and it was only 9 am. Yep, I decided to make my first foray into the world of hot yoga in the middle of March. Clearly the chocolate overload had affected my senses.

“Just breathe”, I said to myself. That was my mantra. As I attempted to find a spot to lay down my mat I had to navigate my way through a room that appeared to be holding tryouts for Australia’s Next Top Model; youthful well-toned men and women in Lululemon outfits as far as the eye could see…

Imagine my chagrin when I walked in wearing my Aldi active wear.

“Just breathe”.

The instructor walked in and welcomed us to the class. What ensued was 90 minutes of pulling, stretching, bending, and contorting all the while breathing in and out of through your nose. Sounds difficult doesn’t it? Surprisingly, it was not so bad. In fact, it was wonderful. My feelings of insecurity and distress at not making the finals of the modelling competition did not matter to me or to anyone else. And herein lays the beauty of this numinous yoga.

Everyone was focused on breathing and mastering the poses which created a synergy that flowed through the room and bound us all in what was almost a spiritual fervor. No one cared what you looked like, how much you sweated, or how terrible you were when performing (and failing at) poses. There were no judgments. And it felt liberating!

The instructor spoke in such dulcet tones that we seemed to be transformed into a place without worry, suspended in time and place and free from life’s constraints, for a blissful hour and a half.

At the end of class I feel relaxed and rejuvenated, ready to forge on with my busy week and willing to let go of the stressors of the past one. I felt like I had grown ten feet tall and was completely invigorated. I really was surprised at how amazing I felt leaving that first class and had not yet left the car park when I was busily planning my next attendance.

I strode confidently into my home ready to face the demands of my life as a wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, colleague, teacher, lawyer, counsellor, nurse, and hostage negotiator. I could do anything, be anyone, achieve any goals I set – such was the power of Bikram yoga. That’s when Ms 8 walked past and remarked “Ew, you’re all sweaty. You stink!”

Thanks, third and unplanned child-o-mine.

But I was not to be easily discouraged. Who cares that I smell? Not me. Who cares that I sweated in places I did not know had sweat producing glands? Not I. On the contrary, all I cared about in that moment was scheduling in regular classes. Besides, you get used to that hot yoga smell.

Six months on and I am still attending classes on a weekly basis. I have tried both the core + hot pilates classes as well as a the sculpt classes that are on offer at my local studio. These are challenging but equally enjoyable. And yes, they are also performed in a heated room, albeit only to 30 °C. Trust me, it makes a difference.

If you think you can stand the heat then do yourself a favour and take the time to see what all the fuss is about. I have never felt better and my back and knees are silently thanking me as I have been able to resurrect my running life without the associated aches and pains.

Take a large towel, a yoga mat and water and make sure you stay well-hydrated throughout the day. Try to avoid eating at least two hours prior to attending a class. You should also wear light-fitting breathable clothes that are suitable for a hot environment. And don’t be afraid to show some skin even if you have yet to achieve a sculpted yoga body. The rewards of Bikram yoga are many and varied. But don’t take my word for it. Try it out for yourself.

And remember, “Just breathe”.

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