Why I don’t like Bikram but will continue doing it
There are very few posts on my Facebook wall that divide people, but my post on Bikram after attending my first class was definitely one of them. This is what I wrote:
“After 2 years of putting it off, I tried Bikram today. I feel exhausted and slightly traumatised. It wasn’t relaxing and the constant talking got to me. Will give it another go but I’m wondering, how do people get addicted to this?”
It appears Bikram is a topic that triggers lots of people. So many people are for it but there are also so many people that are against it. But before I share my experience, there are a few things I need to explain.
Firstly, I hate exercising. Like, hate it to the point I’ve cried on 2 personal trainers. Nope I’m not kidding. One ‘made me cry’ cos he made me run up a freaking massive hill somewhere up in North London. And the other ‘made me cry’ in a gym. Yea – I’m pretty lame. I have no threshold for pain!
So me doing any form of exercise requires a real stretch.
But I sat down with my friend Avni one Saturday morning over brunch and asked for her help. I asked her can she help me exercise cos I’ve accepted, I can’t do any form of exercise on my own. I told her I wanted to try Bikram and asked would she go with me. She said yes and we committed to going twice a week.
And then after my first session, I thought, shit, there is no way I’m going back.
In some ways, Bikram made me angry. It didn’t feel holistic or like a ‘well-being’ practise. It felt noisy and aggressive and I was pissed off with my first teacher cos I felt she was so in her head and not in her body at all (hear all my judgments?!).
And then three things happened…
1. I accepted I will probably never accept Bikram as Yoga
I read all the comments on my Facebook post and felt comfort in knowing I’m not alone when it comes to my judgements about Bikram. But the comment that stood out the most for me was the comment by my yoga instructor friend, Paula Vidakovic… She said:
“I told you Bikram is not yoga, it’s 26 postures in a hot room. It is exercise.”
That one comment reframed my perception of Bikram. There is so much honesty in that sentence. And then I thought, do i prefer Bikram over the gym? over running? over swimming? … and the answer was yes. I haven’t cried at Bikram (yet!) so maybe it’s worth giving it a shot from an exercise (not yoga) perspective.
2. My body shape started changing after my 4th session
This really surprised me. By week two I noticed a lengthening in my body (when you’re short that means a lot!). I had a lot more awareness of my body and noticed the tightest part of my body was actually my shoulder blades and the space behind the back of my heart. I’ve really enjoyed opening that part of my body and activating my muscles through Bikram.
3. The side-effects have been A-MAZE-ING!!
The main reason why I’ve chosen to stick with Bikram is not because I like it (I still ‘hate’ it and feel like I’m almost going to die in every session) but I’m sticking to it cos I’ve watched the impact it’s had on my life.
There have been some habits I’ve been trying to change for YEARS, and haven’t been able to … but as a result of doing Bikram, these habits have changed organically! Here are some of the side-effects:
(i) Changing my sleeping habits
I’m an extreme night person (think – productivity spurts at 2am) and have been trying to change my sleeping pattern for years and haven’t been able to. But the only way I can schedule Bikram into my diary is by doing the 6:30am class, which means I need to get up at 5:30am – yikes!!!
To get up early, I need to sleep early so this ‘twice a week Bikram commitment’ has completely changed my lifestyle. I’ve become really selective about what I do in my evenings and who I spend my time with and I’ve naturally allocated more time at home. Which means more me time, more bath time and more sleep time!
(ii) Changing my eating habits
Despite my weekend brunch photos on Instagram, I’ve never been a breakfast person. I usually skip it cos I wake up late and hence, usually running late. But after Bikram I am absolutely starving. So in the morning before I leave the house, I prepare a green smoothie with Vital-Greens powder.
As a result, I find myself incorporating breakfast and breakfast smoothies into my daily routine! I’m also a lot more conscious about what I eat during the day and I tend to eat a lot better at lunch and in the evenings.
My metabolism has completely changed!
(iii) Changing my spending habits
Being more conscious about what I’m eating means I’ve started to cook more (this will come as a shock to people that know me). To put things into perspective, in 2013 I think I may have cooked about 6 meals at home. I’m not a great cook so I usually avoid the kitchen – it’s too daunting for me. But, one night after work, I found myself in the kitchen cooking to ‘de-stress’ myself – how bizarre!!!
The total upside to this is that I’ve become more conscious of my spending. Now that I’m actually going grocery shopping, I’m aware of what things cost rather than constantly eating out. A total unexpected win!
(iv) Changing by my working habits
Whether it’s working in my day job, on this blog, or ‘a love collection’ (a new concept / project I’ve been playing with), I’ve noticed I’ve started to set some real boundaries around my time. I burnt out in 2012 and spent most of 2013 getting myself back into balance. When I first started thaoski, I would work in my day job until 8pm and then work on my blog until 2am … then wake up the next day and do it all over again. And I would spend all my weekends working!
I really want to bring ‘a love collection’ to life this year but definitely not at the expense of my health. To maintain my health I’ve had to say no to more people than ever before. But the double catch is, I’ve also had to say ‘no’ to myself when I put pressure on myself to achieve more. I’m a lot more chilled out about achieving my goals, which is making the journey so much more enjoyable!
(v) Changing my friendships habits
Being more selective about how I spend my times, makes me acutely aware, how important my friendships are to me. I’ve made a lot more effort since starting Bikram to make time for the people that are important to me. Rather than working almost 24/7 – I schedule time with people who rejuvenate my soul.
So despite not liking Bikram very much, the benefits of me doing Bikram far exceed my judgements of Bikram.
It’s only been 6 weeks and 12 classes but it has organically changed so many hard wired aspects of my life. I can’t deny it. My commitment will continue to be twice a week. I know everyone says you should go 3-4 times a week. But it’s baby steps for me. If I can make a third class, it will be a bonus but not a necessity (I’m definitely not a competitive person!)
So … I’m not suggesting you should start doing Bikram (I’m still getting use to it myself) but it’s worth asking:
What ‘thing’ have you been putting off starting (if any) and who can you ask for help so you can get started?
There is no way I would have started without Avni and she keeps me accountable and we still see each other twice a week.
Who knows what will happen when you start, maybe the side effects of beginning, might become the main cause for continuing.
Enjoy the week ahead!
This is Tiffany from thehotyogagirl.com – You will never, ever see a photo of me doing any form of yoga and especially not Bikram : ) – never ever! 🙂
ps. Huge thanks to Avni for being my Bikram buddy, without her, I wouldn’t haven’t made all these changes! (God knows when it’s cold and wet, I don’t want to wake up at 5:30am!). Thanks to Paula for her honest insights on Bikram and to all the other ladies who commented on my Facebook post. Thanks Kristin for inspiring this post and to Joy who was the one who originally inspired my to give Bikram a try.