Bikram is known to be one of the toughest styles of yoga.
So, with hindsight, embarking on a 30 day Bikram 'challenge' may have been a tad ambitious for a newbie yogi like me.
For one month last year I gave up the booze (which is a whole other tale of pain), informed Facebook and set my mind on the sweaty challenge ahead: 30 consecutive days of Bikram yoga practise.
Bikram is a 26-posture, fast-paced yoga series performed in a room heated to 40.5 degrees. It is 90 minutes of stretching, bending and twisting your body in intense heat.
It is sweaty. It is humid. It is smelly. BUT it is said to burn over 1,000 calories per class, make you longer, leaner and more supple, and combat depression as well as aches and pains.
I did it. I completed the challenge. I am here to tell the tale.
And my tale, unfortunately, is that it didn't rock my world. I didn't see a massive change in my shape or weight, and even after 30 days I didn't feel as though I had reached a stage where I enjoyed the practise.
On the plus side, my skin cleared up, I got that yoga 'glow', my appetite disappeared and I was (apparently) a lot bendier. I know that my muscles got a lot of benefit, and I am terribly proud that I managed to complete the challenge (I don't think I have ever done anything for 30 days consecutively, except maybe Christmas parties in 2011).
For me, the sheer endurance of the classes weren't a fair trade off for the results, and so I'm not continuing it long term. But the routine did stop me drinking so much, helped me form an exercise habit that I'm managing to keep up and it kickstarted a different way of looking at my health and life and how I choose to spend my spare time, so it was definitely worth 30 days of my year.
If you are thinking about taking up your own challenge, here are some things I learned during that looooooong, moist month...
DETOX|RETOX DO'S AND DON'TS OF BIKRAM YOGA
1. Don't wear grey jersey. Never. Ever. This is the quickest way to look like a newbie and also the sweatiest person alive.
2. Don't wear very many clothes at all. It doesn't matter how conscious you are about your body, 45 minutes into the class you'll be desperate to be naked. If you're uncomfortable touching your toes in swimwear (you'll be amazed at how many people wear bikinis to class) then choose small, sweat-wicking pieces to beat the heat.
3. Do choose the most convenient, not the sexiest, studio. A 90 minute class plus cooling down time and travel each way is going to take minimum 2 1/2 hours out of your day, so make it as easy as possible to get there.
4. Do prepare to be your own cheerleader. Friends and family are very supportive at the beginning, and kind of interested at the end, but get bored in between. You can't blame them for not wanting to talk about your sweat glands for 30 days straight. You'll be boring yourself by day 14 (the hardest for me, incidentally). Of course they care, but most days you are going to have to be your own biggest fan.
5. Don't be hungover. Or if you are, know that you will want to kill yourself ten minutes into the class.
6. Don't be surprised if you are constantly tired. Trying to fit classes in between work and a social life will mean late night sessions, early starts and sometimes two 90 minute classes in 24 hours, which is hard on the fittest of bodies.
7. Do expect Bikram yogis to be a bit clique-y. It is recommended that you practise three-to-four times a week to get real benefits from Bikram, and if you don't have that time to devote to a humid studio and strangers in Speedos you won't be one of the gang.
8. Don't sit near the man in the loose shorts.
9. Do go early when you can. This will get it out of the way and the studio tends to smell less ripe at the beginning of the day.
10. Don't be surprised if you hear/make sex noises in class.
11. Do prepare yourself for the boredom. Repeating the same poses over and over again each day gets pretty tiresome. At least the random sex noises help to keep it interesting.