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Tips for Bikram Yoga Beginners

Bikram Yoga is 90-minute yoga practice done in a room set at 105 degrees and 40% humidity. Each class consists of 26 poses, the same 26 every time, held for a specific amount of time and repeated two times. By practicing in the heat, your muscles warm quickly and allow you to stretch further than you could at room temperature. The heat also helps you sweat out toxins in your body and gets your heart rate up so you get some cardiovascular work.

(This is a picture from the studio where I attend.)

I’ve been doing Bikram yoga (on and off) for about 2 years and have learned a number of lessons throughout the many hot sessions. (The off times tend to correspond with times I feel a pinch in my budget.) I know many people are intimidated by Bikram Yoga – the heat, the unknown, the misconception that only the superfit can do it. But trust me – I’ve seen all types of people – male and female; college athletes and those just starting a fitness journey; flexible dancers and people who can barely reach to their toes.

Here are some things I wish I’d know as a beginner. [And are always good things for me to try to remember!]

1. Try not to wipe your sweat. You’re body will have to work harder to produce more sweat to cool you down and you’ll be hotter. Just dab around your face if it’s dripping into your eyes.

2. Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! Drink extra water the day before class and the day of. It’s too late to hydrate 15 minutes before class.

3. Don’t eat 2 hours before class. It takes a while for food to digest and if you’re full, you’re going to feel like you want to vomit. Go on an empty stomach.

4. Be quiet. Once you walk in the yoga room, do not talk until you exit it at the end of class. And especially do not talk at the end, even after the instructor has ended class. Don’t talk, even whisper, until you’ve exited the room. Many people stay in savasana for extra time at the end of class, and your gushing over how hot/how hard/how wonderful class was is very distracting to those trying to medidate.

5. Take two towels: a large one and a small one. The large towel will cover your yoga mat and prevent you from slipping. The small one will be used to dab at sweat around your eyes. (See #1)

6. Be gentle with your body and your ego. Every class will be different because you are a different person every day. You will see progress over time, but not necessarily in subsequent classes. Some days, your balance will be off. Other days, you’ll compare yourself to everyone in the room. Go at your own pace, don’t push too far, and don’t judge or compare yourself. Just do what you can.

7. The most important pose in the entire class is savasana. After the standing series, you’ll move to the floor series and in between each posture, you’ll have a savasana. Try to relax completely, not move, clear your mind and catch your breath. Yes, your heart rate will rise in this yoga class and savasana is your chance to bring it down.

8. Wear as little as possible. I wear a sports bra and itty bitty shorts. My body isn’t perfect. No one in the room has a perfect body. And everyone will be too focused on themselves to stare at what you perceive as imperfections on your body. If you aren’t comfortable in shorts and a bra, wear shorts and a tank top. Never cotton. Always wicking material. Never pants.

9. Don’t put your mat by friends. You’ll be self conscious the entire class.

10. Make sure you can see yourself in the mirror and don’t block others’ view of themselves in the mirror. Even if you’re in the back row, it’s very important to be able to see yourself in the mirror, both to help with balance and to get the mental/spiritual/emotional element of class.

There are other types of hot yoga, but Bikram is defined by specific poses, in a specific order. And a franchising/licensing agreement with Bikram Choudhury…but I’m not going to get into my thoughts on copyrighting yoga in this post. We’ll save that for another day. 🙂

Also, when you’re ready to give Bikram Yoga a try – and you should! – be sure to check with your local studio (search here to find the closest one) about introductory rates. Usually you can get a GREAT deal on your first week or month, and students almost always get a discount.

Ready, set, SWEAT! Let me know if I can answer any questions!

If you have tried Bikram Yoga, leave any tips you have in the comments! If you haven’t attended, have you ever been interested?

Note: Although I am a certified group fitness instructor and Les Mills RPM instructor, I am not certified in Bikram Yoga. The content in this post is solely my own opinion, learned from my own experience by attending class.

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  • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey
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    I actually went to a class today that was bikram’esque (uh huh it’s a word). I’m usually a vinyasa girl, but I really enjoyed holding the poses!

  • Nicole @ simply Nicole
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    I’ve been so eager to try out Bikram! Thanks for all the tips.

  • Clare @ Fitting It All In
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    Great tips! I LOVE bikram but haven’t gone in a few months due to starting the Live Fit trainer. I can’t wait to get back though…one of my 2012 goals is 10 days in a row!

  • Julie
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    Sounds great, and something I have been wanting to try for a while now! Thanks for the tips 🙂 Overall yoga has such a calming effect on me, i look forward to it more than most workouts.

  • Jane {In the Pink and Green}
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    These are great tips! I love going to Bikram Yoga and have also gone on and off for a few years, but unfortunately there’s not a studio where my husband and I just moved (South Lake Tahoe)…boo! I loved the heat and everything ab0ut the classes! xoxo

    • Sara
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      There is a great Bikram place in Truckee called Juice Box Yoga, and they also host classes in Reno. A little drive, but SO worth it.

  • Heather (Heather's Dish)
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    i did bikram for the first time a few months ago (before i was preggo obviously) and LOVED it…it’s super pricey though! but i absolutely loved the entire experience and would totally say that it’s worth it to spend the money. LOVE!

  • Megan
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    Im slightly yoga obsessed :-). I love everything about it. I go 3 days a week 1 hatha class, a power class and a vinyasa vision class all heated. I find it’s an amazing compliment to my running. My stride is smoother and longer and it’s increased my lung capacity. :-). I love the restorative poses of hatha. I always leave class rejuvenated and feeling positive :).

  • Deb
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    I am in medical school and practice yoga, what you are saying about “pushing toxins back in” is absolutely false. You really should not state things as a fact when they clearly are not.

    • Teri
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      That’s good perspective! Every class I’ve ever attended and all the readings I’ve done has said that you can push toxins back into your body. haha! I guess when I think about it, it doesn’t really make sense! It at least helps me from a mental aspect to imagine toxins coming out. I DO know that when I wipe my sweat, I feel much hotter. Do you know why that would be, from a medical standpoint?

  • Izabela (yoginiselfportrayal.wordpress.com)
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    Hi Megan, I just found your blog and need to say I love your dog already;)
    I am a yoga instructor and all of my classes right now are in a hot room ( I don’t teach Bikram yoga.). If anyone is interested in starting hot yoga first of all don’t get discouraged if you didn’t like it at the first time. Heat might be overwhelming (and distracting) at the beginning but it gets easier. Your body needs to get used to it. If you need a break, lay down. It’s better than just leave the room. Other thing is that a hot temperature makes your stretches easier so please be careful to know your limits. Sometimes we think we can go really deep into the pose even when our body is not ready for it yet. And yes-hydrate- during the day (before the class) and after the class. A hot room makes Savasana so sweet;) after releasing all the toxins from your body. Hope it helps. Enjoy!!!

  • Crystal
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    Love Bikram! (and miss that studio!)

    One more tip- always keep your eyes open! Even if you’re super hot and need a break, closing your eyes will just make you dizzier. The only time you should close your eyes is the final savasana

  • Katie
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    I’ve only been to one Bikram class in college and I LOVED it. I would love to find a place close by me now where I could do it.

  • Miriam @ Bellas
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    I spy Trudy!! I’ve been practicing Bikram since 2004 and can especially relate to #6!! Yoga is a lifetime practice to even the most regular yogi. Can’t wait to go to class with you, even if we have to pull a #9 ;)!

  • Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed
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    Perfect timing, I just bought a package for some hot yoga classes on Groupon! I’ve only been to one yoga class before and I’m not sure what style it was, but definitely not hot.

    Question – will most studios provide mats there? Or do I need to bring my own?

  • janetha
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    Great list! Bikram is the only type of yoga I have ever tried. I wonder if I would like others?

  • Rachel Wilkerson
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    I haven’t taken an official Bikram (TM, copyright, etc. etc.) class yet but I took my first 105 degree class last week and I’m so pumped to go back! Whether or not it pushes the toxins back in, good tip about not wiping sweat, as it’s there to keep you cool…I’ll try that next time!

  • Carly Thurman
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    Thanks for the tips! I have always wanted to try Bikram yoga and am now even more motivated to do so!

  • Jasper Naomi
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    you should teach Bikram Teri! All of my instructors sort of freak me out – you’re so down to earth! 😀

  • Kimberly
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    I have been wanting to try Bikram! I do all sorts of other yoga styles (mostly power vinyasa) but heard this one is awesome. Do you know if it is OK for preggies? I am guessing not because of the heat and some of the poses.

  • Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife
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    Bikram is NO joke, that is for sure. I liked it-but didn’t feel THAT hard to me (I am a lifter and dancer)…but I did sweat buckets and felt good the next day. Right after the class, though, I wanted to puke. Hah

  • Jenna Marie Christian
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    I have just recently gotten into bikram yoga and this post was very helpful. I have only been attending class a couple of times a weeks since the end of january. I just signed up to do the 60 day challange at the yoga studio i go to here in chicago. I am only on day 8. It is definitely tough, but i do love it.

  • Laura
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    Yay I love Bikram! I think you covered just about all of my tips as well. I have been doing it for the last 2 years and it is certainly a learning process and a wonderful process in developing self discipline, perseverance and to remind yourself that when we put our mind to something and stay strong you really can make it through. Because sometimes that’s the last thing you think is possible after an hour of Bikram!

  • [email protected]
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    I recently began hot yoga here in Korea. I’ve been enjoying it so much and I’m surprised because I used to be unaffected by yoga in past experiences. The room is hot, but from what I read on the internet from other people… I feel like the room in Korea (or at least this studio) isn’t actually 105 degrees. I cant wait to go home and try a class there to find out. Or bring a thermometer to class. haha.

  • Holly
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    If you haven’t tried hot yoga, I don’t know why. It’s by far the best workout I’ve ever commited to.

  • Alison
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    My tip is if you’re doing an earlier AM class (like 6 AM), DO eat a little something before class (like a banana). Otherwise you might become very dizzy and nauseous.

    I learned this one the hard way.

  • yoga courses NJ
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    Physical activity is good for relieving stress, and this is particularly true of yoga. Because of the concentration required, your daily troubles, both large and small, seem to melt away during the time you are doing yoga. This provides a much-needed break from your stressors, as well as helping put things into perspective.

  • alexdesouza
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    Decide if it’s right for you. Hot yoga is unsafe for anyone who is pregnant, a child, over the age of 60 (without a regular yoga practice), or suffering from medical

    conditions that would make it unsafe to exercise. If you have diabetes, any issues with high or low blood pressure, or are prone to dizzy spells, choose another type

    of yoga class.

  • Hot yoga long island
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    For beginners in the yoga’s activity just take time to enjoy the experience it bring and never think of the negative things that can ruin your mind at peace.

  • rojer
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    such an accurate and inspiring list…and at the same time, I am glad i was gradually taught and discovered some of the newbie stuff on my own by just practicing. http://healthxwellness.com/spiritual-life/yoga/bikram-yoga-poses-health-wellness/

  • Regina Peterson
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    I am trying out yoga for the first time this weekend. I have always been very inflexible, so I’m nervous. I am glad I found these tips and I hope I can make it safely through my first session. Thanks for the tips, I’m exited!