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An introduction to Bikram yoga: sweating in public since 1972

An introduction like that can sound intimidating, but Bikram yoga is designed for beginners and advanced students alike. If you’ve never set foot on a mat before, don’t fret. This practice is accessible to all ages and fitness types. An amazing cardiovascular workout, Bikram yoga is low impact and doesn’t put stress on your joints. If you’re looking to lose weight or get in to shape, depending on your work rate you can burn 600 to 1000 calories per class. It can also aid people who are recovering from injuries. The heated room helps your muscles warm up, which allows the body to become more flexible. This increases your ability to get a deeper stretch without the risk of injury. Sweating flushes the built-up toxins in your body, so the more you sweat during the class, the better.

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By Melissa Spady (Contributor) – Email

Print Edition: February 27, 2013

What is Bikram Yoga?

Bikram yoga is a sequence of 26 postures (or “asanas”) bookended by two breathing exercises in a room of 40.6 degrees (105 F) and 40 per cent humidity. It lasts 90 minutes and is a 100 per cent body work out, inside and out.

Although “hot yoga” implies any yoga class done in a heated room, Bikram is an intelligently-designed sequence created by Bikram Choudhury in the early 1970s. Bikram Choudhury is the founder of the worldwide Yoga College of India, and has been practicing yoga since the age of four. He has a hefty list of accolades, including championships and invitations from American presidents, but is known most for his own practice.

So why try Bikram?

An introduction like that can sound intimidating, but Bikram yoga is designed for beginners and advanced students alike. If you’ve never set foot on a mat before, don’t fret. This practice is accessible to all ages and fitness types. An amazing cardiovascular workout, Bikram yoga is low impact and doesn’t put stress on your joints. If you’re looking to lose weight or get in to shape, depending on your work rate you can burn 600 to 1000 calories per class. It can also aid people who are recovering from injuries. The heated room helps your muscles warm up, which allows the body to become more flexible. This increases your ability to get a deeper stretch without the risk of injury. Sweating flushes the built-up toxins in your body, so the more you sweat during the class, the better.

I first tried Bikram yoga a few years ago when I was still carrying cheeseburgers around in my purse (I’m not joking), and while I managed to stay for the entire class, I wasn’t interested in pursuing the path of yoga just yet. Working out was a waste of time to me. Again, I was carrying burgers around in my purse. I tried again in January 2013. Although it was definitely challenging and throughout most of that first class I kept thinking “why am I doing this?”, once it was over I felt amazing. I was completely pulled out of my winter slump, and felt like I could take on the world again. I went back and was hooked.

The thing with any new fitness challenge is giving yourself that adjustment time before throwing in the towel. Bikram is no different. If you can push yourself to go back after the first gruelling experience, you won’t be disappointed. I look forward to the days when I have enough free time to go to the studio for a class. I practice yoga on my own, but the feeling of community I get by being in a classroom with like-minded people is irreplaceable.

There are Bikram yoga studios all over the Lower Mainland. The Abbotsford studio is located on 33772 Essendene Ave. Students who bring a valid student card can get reduced prices.

Here are some helpful tips for giving Bikram a go:

1. Leave your ego at the door. This is a no judgement zone.

2. Dress lightly! Sports bra, shorts, etc. Remember you are going to sweat like a champion.

3. Trust the process – be open to pushing yourself a little harder than normal, you will get more out of the postures that way.

4. Commit to staying in the room. If you need to lie down or sit, just rejoin when you can.

5. Hydrate as much as you can before your first class.

6. Bring a water bottle with ice in it.

7.  Show up to your first class 20 minutes early. You will be given the proper run down as well as an introduction to your instructor.

8. Everyone struggles their first time. If you aren’t getting a posture down, that’s okay. If you can’t hold a posture for as long as everyone else, that’s okay, too. I still have to sit down during the standing postures. Everybody has their own limits, respect and have patience for yours.

9. Most importantly, have fun!

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