I’ve taken up Bikram yoga on a trial basis.  My friend, Julia, tried it and said she’d lost weight and felt more energized, so I figured it was worth a try. 

Bikram Yoga is named after Bikram Choudury, who packaged and copyrighted a sequence of 26 traditional yoga poses and two breathing exercises.  Bikram studios must be licensed franchises; Bikram aggressively and litigiously guards his copyrights.  There are nine studios in the DC area.

Minimum temperature in a Bikram yoga room is 105 degrees and 40% humidity.

The heat of the room is a blessing and a curse.  It really does improve flexibility, get the heart pumping, and flush out the skin.  I’m positive that no toxins are hiding in my pores after dripping sweat for 90 minutes! 

On the negative side, sometimes it feels like working out in Hell’s Kitchen (the horns and pitchfork kind, not the Manhattan kind.)  Sweating profusely makes the body extremely wet and slippery, which makes some holds tricky.  A room full of sweaty people can also lead to a troublesome odor, which I’ll discuss in a moment.

The staff at my local studio is extremely nice and supportive.  They welcomed me warmly and congratulated me after my first class.

I love that the teachers don’t take excuses.  They don’t care that you’ve got three kids, or you can’t touch your toes, or you’re thirsty.  Clear your mind of negative, limiting thoughts, and do your best.

I knew they were hard core when they told me that feeling dizzy or nauseous was normal.  During my first class I slowed down due to a stomach cramp.  It was a full-on cramp in an abdominal muscle, yet the teacher simply praised me for getting a cramp during my first class. 

“Usually it takes weeks to get a good stomach cramp!” she said enthusiastically.  So much for sympathy!

Bikram yoga is definitely a workout. Julia wore her heart rate monitor and hit 160 several times during class.  It’s typical to burn over 600 calories during a 90 minute session.

I like that you practice Bikram yoga in front of a mirror. Not only does the mirror help correct posture, it’s encouraging to see the progress that I’m making.   I’m proud of my body for getting stronger and more flexible.

I’ve been feeling better since I started my Bikram practice (don’t I sound like a yogi?!)  The two main threats to my continuing are the time commitment and the smell. 

A 90 minute class is a major chunk out of my day.  If I hit a 9:30 class I’m barely getting back home before lunch.  I’m going to shoot for two classes a week and see how that goes.

The smell may be the dealbreaker.  Incredibly sweaty people in an incredibly hot room can occasionally create an incredibly bad smell.  It’s not always there, but when it is, look out.  I can’t top another description that I read: when it’s bad the room smells like the devil’s crotch.

I should disclose that I’m pretty sensitive to smells.  I once departed Venice, Italy after only two hours because it smelled musty (seriously, it smelled terrible, which isn’t surprising since it’s built on fishy canals, but it was rather dramatic to ditch a cultural mecca after briefly sniffing around the train station.)  Still, a quick Google search tells me that I’m not the only one to object to Bikram smells.

I thought that maybe the smells were coming from my adjacent neighbors, since frankly the smell of sweaty jockstraps increases when I’m around people wearing sweaty jockstraps, namely: men.  Call me sexist, I thought I was going to pass out last week after sitting behind one particularly aromatic chap. 

After a women-only class today, however, my updated theory is that some of the smell comes from the room itself.  I suspect that it can’t be helped; the studio is new and clean, but 105 degrees + humidity + sweat = funk.

My family may force me to quit because of this issue.  My sister is getting tired of the daily post-class updates about the schtank levels (I’m developing a scale where classes rate from one to ten jockstraps. ) My husband also claims that this “Schweaty Balls” topic is not suitable for polite conversation, but I seem to be bringing it up frequently.  Hey, people ask me what I’ve been up to!

Maybe the smell is part of the Bikram approach.  If you can get past the smell, you’re surely on your way to focused mediatation and enlightenment.

Anyway, I’m exaggerating a bit.  The smell is usually fine, and I’m enjoying the rest of my practice, so I’ll keep it up as long as possible.  I’ll just stick to a remote spot in the front row.