Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hot Yoga: The 90 Minute Torture Chamber


Well, I've completed my month of hot yoga. I posted about a month ago that I was going to try different fitness classes for one month to try and figure out what I liked. Bikram yoga was first on my list.

Bikram Yoga Vancouver (Cambie location)

Now that it's over, I really couldn't have picked a more difficult class to try first. Sure, you can practice at your own pace, but as somebody who can't really stand heat, I must have been bat shit crazy.

I was sweating by the time I walked to the studio.

I was sweating even more just sitting on the mat waiting for class to start.

Basically, be prepared to sweat. A lot.

My first class actually went pretty well. I survived without vomiting. I survived without collapsing on my yoga mat in a pool of sweat.

It was a 10pm class and pretty much everyone was an expert. Great, I thought. I'm going to look like a fool for an hour. Yes, I didn't realize that the class was actually 90 minutes, so I was thinking the whole time "when is this fucking class over!!"

For the record, by the end of the month, 90 minutes breezed by. Wait, breeze is the wrong word to use- you will pray for a breeze- position your mat by any exit door, hoping for a little whoosh of fresh cool air. I spent most of the month trying to figure out what the coolest spot in the room was. I can report that I don't think it exists.

After a few minutes into my first class, the feelings of self-consciousness left my mind. "Fuck it," I thought. "Nobody here knows me, and nobody is watching and judging other people in hot yoga." This is true. It is too hot to judge others. Don't feel self conscious about the fit-ness (or lack there of) of your body, or that little bulge somewhere that isn't flattered by your work-out wear. Nobody is looking at you. In hot yoga you need to focus on yourself, your body positions in the mirror. I can't even remember what the girl laying next to me looked like, other than the super cool adidas top she was wearing.

My goal was to attend classes 4 times a week. I met that goal for the first two weeks. Unfortunately for the third week, a last minute business trip messed up that plan, and the last week I had a lot of work to do, and generally felt ill and unmotivated.

My conclusions about Bikram hot yoga are mixed. I don't think I could or would commit to going 4 times a week on an ongoing basis, enough to make the monthly unlimited rate worth the price. I do think it would be something I could see myself doing once or twice a week in conjunction with weight training or another exercise routine.

- my arms and shoulders have slimmed down noticeably
- my waist slimmed down slightly
- I am a bit more flexible than I used to be, though still not so great
- I did not get used to the heat. Just when I though I did, I would walk into class and SWEAR that they turned up the heat higher than last time.
- I noticed little things about my body, like something is messed up in my left foot, making it impossible for me to sit on it during certain poses, and that my back has issues. Back bends are bloody torture.

- a short walk from my house
- late night classes are available. I'm not a fan of working out in the morning (it makes me nauseous) A mid-day workout eats up a lot of time, so I loved that 8:15 and 10pm classes were offered, usually a time frame where I'm just sitting around internetting. Might as well fill that time with something productive, right?!
- equipment rentals (mat and towels) are available, which I took advantage of. I liked not having to worry about washing down a mat and being organized enough to have clean yoga towels ready. This was also a good option seeing that I wasn't sure how long I wanted to continue doing yoga or hot yoga, so I didn't need to invest in equipment that I might not use in the future.
- when you have a good class, you feel like a champion. I felt like the greatest person on earth after the classes I got through without sitting down and resting! Those are great classes, when it's time to take the much coveted "water break" and you don't reflexively choke down half your water bottle.
- you don't have to be "thin" or "athletic" or even "in shape" to do yoga. My classes were full of people of all shapes and sizes. Being skinny doesn't automatically mean you're flexible or strong!
- it can be relaxing and works well to clear your mind and focus on the present... at least the extreme heat gave me that delusion.

- expensive: I thought my local contractually-binding gym chain was expensive at $60-120 a month. Although if I want to continue hot yoga for a few months there are deals that pop up, which could get the price down to around $100/month for an unlimited package.
- it is not "fun". This 'aint no jazzercise.
- long class. Including prep time, commuting, and shower time, I'm committing to around 2 and half hours, give or take.
- household ice cube production will increase.
- excess hair washing is hard on my hair. This kinda goes without saying, but after an hour and a half of heavy sweating, a good thorough shower and hair washing is needed. It felt like it was starting to dry out my hair, but probably nothing that couldn't be fixed by a nice moisturizing hair mask.
- some classes, depending on the time, can be extremely busy.
- when you have a bad class, you will want to die.
- its fucking hot. You might look at some of the yoga positions and think "what a peice of cake!" You are wrong. You are exercising in 40.6°C (105°F) heat, with 40% humidity. One time I had a small panic attack, struggled to breath, practically on the verge of tears, convinced that all the oxygen has been removed from the room. One other time I lost feeling in my arms. Many times I was screaming in my head for the instructor to "turnonthefuckingceilingfans. turn them on. turn. them. onnnnnn!!!!!"

- drink plenty of water throughout the day prior to your class
- I suggest investing in an insulated water bottle. Thermos makes one that is supposed to be good. I never bought one, but I wish I did. I would just fill my regular water bottle completely full with ice cubes, and then with cold water. By the middle of class all the ice would have melted, and by the end, the water is luke warm.
- Don't eat a huge meal before, but don't go on an empty stomach either. I can't go to class with only cereal in my stomach. I tried that once, and I got light headed and wanted to vomit. That said, I can't chow down dinner and head off to yoga either. I like to have a proper meal (in my case dinner) and then go to class a few hours later.
- electrolytes are good: coconut water, Gatorade, etc. before, during class, or after.
- try taking classes with different instructors. I found this really helpful. Not every instructor will talk through the poses using the exact same dialogue. I learned different tips from multiple instructors on the same position, which really helped me out with some of those difficult poses I just couldn't "get" before.
- bring a plastic bag for your wet clothes after yoga. Trust me.
- I like to cleanse my skin after I change and before I head into class. There's nothing grosser than sweating through a face of makeup. See my "hot yoga bag essentials" post soon.

The next thing I want to try is boxing, and I am super excited.


lauren said...

This is such a cool idea and am super happy that you're doing fitness posts. That, and I get to see some awesome work out clothes being posted. said...

I did bikram yoga for a short while and not sure why I gave it up. Oh, right - now I remember. It's, as you say, 90 minutes of torture.
I live in a hot climate. I don't think I could stay with a regular Bikram practice, mainly because of this. I did Bikram outside in the mornings last summer at home - yes, it is that hot in the a.m. The conditions here are perfect for it but...ugh.
I do "regular" yoga and, while it doesn't provide the same results as quickly, it's nowhere near as torturous!
Well done. Hopefully you'll tell us how the boxing workouts go.. :)

Veronicahhh said...

OMG finally someone HONEST about (hot) yoga.

Where are you going to try boxing? I've been toying with the idea of doing it forever and have the whole.. "they're judging me" fear.

Loved this!

Stephanie said...

verinocahhh- I'm going to try boxing once I have money for classes! Soon I hope. I found Contenders that has a free 2 week trial, so might try that :)

Unknown said...

So cool to stumble upon a fellow Vancouverite while browsing through the entire Internet of blogs. To my understanding, Bikram classes are *the most* brutal because of the carpeted floors and duration. I'm certainly not one of those *yoga girls* but when I feel fat, I go to YYOGA mainly because they have shorter 60 min classes and hardwood floor and a very open and almost sterile environment. Can't wait to read up on your other months of fitness! You are a brave one.

Alexandra said...

A great and honest post! I've been intrigued by hot yoga for a long time - it sounds so intense! Think i'd need to brush up on my regular yoga first! Looking forward to hear how you get on with boxing.

Stephanie said...

unknown- I go to a newly renovated studio that doesn't have carpet. The first time I tried Bikram was at a carpeted studio and it smelled like old socks! This one was much nicer.

Pennerad said...

The hot yoga killed me. I bought a groupon for a month of unlimited yoga and went a total of twice. I sweat like an adolescent boy and so on my way to the studio i was usually covered in a light sheen already. Once inside, the sheen became outright pools of sweat.
I can't do the heat at all; it makes me feel like I'm going to pass out/throw up/die and 90 minutes in a room full of similarly sweaty people plus my naturally competitive nature just made for an ugly situation.
The hair thing is also a sticking point. I usually try to wash my hair as infrequently as possible. Hot yoga demands a daily rinse, which is hard for me because of my hair type and a pain in the ass because of my general impatience with my hair.
I'm happy someone out there shares my like/hate relationship with yoga.
i've always wanted to do boxing. Please update us!