Bikram Yoga, also known as HOT Yoga, is an intense experience. For those unfamiliar, hot yoga is a series of 26 poses for 90 minutes in a room that reaches 105 degrees. If you enjoy yoga in general and want a challenge, I recommend trying it at least once!
I now try to go semi-regularly at the Bikram Yoga Chicago studio in the South Loop.
I’m no expert (and definitely in no way a yoga instructor), but here are some tips and tricks to help you through your first hot yoga session:
- Wear something light and breathable and, preferably, water resistant.
- I’ve gone from feeling too self-conscious in my capri yoga pants and tank top to not giving a crap how I look anymore and only wearing boyshort swimsuit bottoms and a sports bra. You just gotta get over the fact that other people can see your body. Get comfortable with yourself because looking at yourself in the mirror is important to keeping good form.
- A big benefit to wearing a bit more, if you can stand it, is that it creates a bit more friction for certain poses. Otherwise, while doing the Tree pose, my leg just slips right down from all the sweat.
- If your hair is long enough, pull it all back into a ponytail. And use as many clips and pins as necessary to keep strands away from the back of your neck/side of your face/forehead. Your hair will be drenched in sweat. Using a headband might be helpful with keeping your hair out of your face, but headbands generally make me feel hotter.
- Before Yoga: Drink a TON of water before you go. Try to refrain from drinking coffee/caffeinated beverages (ugh, I know!) because they will only dehydrate you. I try to drink at least 72 ounces of water throughout the day when I’m planning to go.
- For During Yoga: Put a ton of ice in your water bottle and stick it in the freezer before you go. The room is 105 degrees. Think of how quickly that water will get warm. You might have a puddle next to you while you’re yoga-ing, but the water will stay much cooler longer if it started out as ice. Mine stays cool the whole time! And the outside will be cool, so if you’re desperate, you can wipe your face with something cool.
- If your studio doesn’t have a drinking fountain, you may want to bring an extra full, ice cold bottle of water for after yoga.
- If you don’t have your own mat, you can rent one for $1-$2.
- Bikram Yoga Chicago also offers mat storage for a fee if you don’t want to carry your own with you every time. But a mat is necessary for doing anything. (I own this cute Gaim mat.)
- Almost more necessary than your mat is your towel, so you don’t slip while getting super duper sweaty. You can use a regular bath or beach towel for this, but if you want to get real serious, you should get a special yoga towel. A little pricey, but they have little beads on the bottom that help prevent slipping.
- It’s also helpful to bring a smaller towel with you in the studio in case you need to wipe your hands/legs/face/feet/EVERYTHING. Are you getting that you’re gonna be really sweaty?
- If you don’t want to buy a towel or bring one, you can rent one from the studios for $1-$2.
- I recommended having a light snack; something like nuts/chips/fruit/veggies/small sandwich/smoothie a couple hours before you go. Just something that won’t dehydrate you more with sodium, but will fill you up without making you feel overly full at the same time.
- Breathe: Always remember to breathe. Feeling a little dizzy is actually kind of normal. It’s a little scary, but if you breathe through it, you will overcome it.
- Sit down, don’t lay down, if you feel too dizzy. You want to keep your heart elevated above your legs so you don’t faint. NO ONE will judge you if you take a break. I’ve seen people with the most perfect form and expert everything sit a couple of poses out.
- Try not to leave the studio if you do feel a bit dizzy. The rush from 105 degrees to normal temperatures without the proper cool down can be a shock to the system. And yes, they do lower the temperature periodically throughout the session.
- Try not to drink water until after the Eagle pose. This can be a struggle, but it’s a good mental challenge. Also try not to drink water in the middle of pose sets because it could interrupt your focus.
Soooo, I haven’t scared you off, have I?
For those in Chicago, Bikram Yoga Chicago has a $39 unlimited introductory month, so you can go at least 3 times and get more than your money’s worth; that’s what I did to start. When my month ran out, I was just in time for the holiday specials, so I got another 10 classes for just $105! Wooo! (Normally, they’re $17 a class, so that’s a super good deal!)
I haven’t had experience with any other studios in Chicago, but I really like this one so far. The online scheduling tool is also really helpful. There are also three studios in Chicago: South Loop, Lincoln Park, and Wicker Park.
There’s a lot to keep in mind for hot yoga, but I always leave feeling both relaxed and energized. And if you’re doing the poses correctly, you will have a good sore feeling the next day. It takes time to do any of the poses well, so don’t get discouraged when people are doing crazy things. I am still awful at most of the poses, but I notice a teeny bit of improvement each time I go. The biggest challenge for me is to ignore the rest of the students and focus on myself. It’s an intense workout, but I think it’s fun to try. What have you got to lose? (Except a few pounds in sweat!) Namaste.