Nutritionist & Life Coach
Meeting all requirements to call myself so (i.e. none)
Published July 18th 2012
I get the feeling Bikram Yoga was invented either by someone who suffered from hypothermia at a young age or a free-loving hippy who liked to encourage communal nudity in a cold climate*. For those of you who don't know, Bikram Yoga is a series of poses performed over 90 minutes in a room heated to 38.5 degrees.
Willing to try anything once, I accepted an invitation from a friend to accompany her to a session at Bikram Yoga Fitzroy. Upon entry we were informed that men were allowed to go topless but women were not. I considered that if they relaxed this policy they would certainly sell more tickets! Judging by the multitude of bodies in the heated room where the action would occur, ticket sales were hardly a problem though.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia - you won't be asked to perform this one
Some of the poses were very challenging and the novice would be hard put to achieve them. This is counteracted by beginners being instructed to sit out of them. On these occasions - in a hot and sweaty room with wall-to-wall mirrors and adroit, lycra clad females holding poses that would not look out of place in the Karma Sutra - it was difficult for me to know where to look**. The things I put up with readers!
The class was a very good workout and even though I'm an experienced trainer I was walking around like Frankenstein for days afterwards given my legs were so stiff. From a sports science perspective, once you've become adept at the same 26 poses that are practiced every time, this doesn't give you the gradual progression that required for training to be of benefit. After a while it may also become a bit boring for the experienced campaigners.
There has also been argument about whether the 38.5 degree heat is a help or a hindrance. I'll leave that up to other people to debate; certainly my female companion made the mistake of not bringing a hair-tie and was thus hampered by her impressive bouffant. My opinion is that the only thing completed in that sort of temperature should be a pina colada with an adjacent swimming pool.
For those looking for a gentle relaxation style of yoga Bikram is certainly not the one to go to. This is a considerable physical workout and the spiritual, om chanting side of the science is very much in the background. If nothing else Bikram does provide a warm room on a cold Melbourne winter night.
For information on the actual origins of Bikram Yoga click here.
** There is a female only class on Sundays for those looking to avoid any such awkwardness.
I have spoken with the owners of the Fitzroy studio and they are compassionate and mature people. I'm hoping to try their yoga soon as the local one I went to was an unpleasant experience as a beginner. Although the style is the same, each studio has it's own vibe and inclusiveness (or exclusiveness!). Here is their video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2xrWUw0IjE