I've talked to a lot of people lately about my month-long stint in Bikram yoga. Some of them, the traditionalists, smile while shaking their heads as if to say, "Yup, whatever -- you're crazy." Some of them lean in closer as I describe the added sense of strength, balance, and flexibility that the experience of doing 26 spinal-spinning hatha yoga posures in a hot room guarantees Bikram students. Too many of them say, "Cool, but I could never do that. Too hard."
To those of you who fall into the latter category, here's the skinny (pun intended) on hot yoga:
1) You don't have to look like Bikram Choudury in order to do his yoga.
Most of the people in a beginner class will be just that - beginners. It's not a club for really incredibly good-looking people. When you join them for the first time, they will welcome you.
2) You won't get injured in Bikram yoga like you will in other sports.
Yoga is an exercise that, unlike weightlifting or running, will not stunt your growth or compromise your joint health, because it's primarily a meditative art form. Thus, in every pose, you're focused on listening to your body, not punishing it. Of course, this reduces the number of excuses you can use for not getting to the gym....
3) You don't need $80 bamboo-thread Yoga Gear just to walk through the door.
Wear whatever you want to class. Are you, like me, too self-conscious to sport the sport bra in your home gym? Toss your vanity in the garbage on the way in. Every one in a Bikram class will be flushed and sweaty by the end of the 90 minutes. It's a refreshing, if not "comfortable," feeling.
4) Bring: towels, a water bottle, and a mat.
The first and last can usually be rented on your way in for $2 - $4 dollars, depending on the studio. Tap water is free.
5) Don't bring: a full stomach (trust me), your glasses (they will slide off your face), self deprecating attitude (you are more capable than you think)!