Bikram yoga isn't for the faint of heart. Done in a 105-degree room with the humidity set around 40 percent, a 90-minute Bikram class will test your limits and challenge your level of fitness. If you're attending this form of hot yoga for the first time, you'll want to take a few minutes to prepare yourself for this grueling, yet fulfilling, yoga workout.
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With Bikram yoga, it's not enough to bring a bottle of water to class. You must be hydrated properly before you arrive. If you're taking a class first thing in the morning, this means hydrating the night before. Around an hour before the class begins, slow down on the water intake, so you don't have to practice with a full bladder and be tempted to leave the room.
While you can bring water to the class, be careful that you're not chugging it between each pose. It could make you feel uncomfortable and even get sick. Instead, sip it when necessary. Don't forget to drink plenty once your practice is over.
Plan Your Meals
While you should have eaten enough for energy during the class — and to reduce the risk of getting lightheaded and dizzy due to not enough food — avoid eating for at least two hours before you practice. Too much food in your belly can cause you to feel nauseated.
A couple hours before your class, have a light snack. Some good options include peanut butter and apple slices or a nutritious granola bar.
Be prepared, too, to eat a small meal after your class to replenish the energy you used during practice. Eat plenty of protein, such as a Greek yogurt, turkey jerky or hardboiled eggs. Some simple sugar in the form of whole fruit can help quickly replenish your glucose stores.
Dress for Success
As you expect, Bikram yoga is hot. Therefore, clothing items such as long pants, long-sleeved tops or those made out of fabric that doesn't wick away moisture, such as cotton, should be skipped. While it might make you uncomfortable to don skimpy clothing, form-fitting shorts, a sports bra and a moisture-wicking tank top are the best options. For men, wear shorts or swim trunks and a tank top, or consider going shirtless. The clothing will be soaked by the time you're finished, anyway.
Consider packing an extra outfit for after class, as you'll be very sweaty. If you head out into chilly weather wearing wet clothing, the coldness will be magnified.
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Bring the Right Equipment
You might be able to rent a yoga mat and towel from the studio, but you may feel more comfortable bringing your own, due to the amount of sweat that drips on the mat. Bring two towels, one for your mat and one for your body, to wipe away the sweat. If you think you'll need water, bring your own bottle to sip on.
While you'll be tempted to wipe away every drip of sweat that your skin produces, try to limit your towel's swipes. Sweat is your body's natural way of cooling yourself down, and constantly wiping it away not only is distracting, but it also means your body will have a harder time regulating its temperature.
Get There Early
If you're new to the studio, it's beneficial to arrive early — you might have to fill out some paperwork — and tell the teacher that you're a beginner. The teacher can help set some expectations for the class, call out modifications for beginners and help you set up your mat. Some studios have "cool spots," where a draft or a fan is located, and these places are ideal for beginners — the instructor can point you in the right direction.
Adjust Your Attitude
It's tempting to glance around the room during a class and compare yourself to other people, whether it's their bodies or their flexibility. Stay focused on your own practice and in tune with the posture and how your body feels.
If the heat is getting to you, don't hightail it out of the room. Instead, move out of the pose and into a seated position or even Child's pose. Even if you stay seated for the entire practice, you'll have benefited your body by making it through the entire 90 minutes.