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Helpful Tips for your First Time at Bikram Yoga

My wife is an every day Bikram Yoga junkie. I prefer other forms of exercise and sweat, but after attending a half-dozen or so Bikram classes over the past 5 years, I feel qualified to pass along a beginner's perspective of what to expect, what to do, and what not to do at your first Bikram Yoga class: (*Click HERE to view all the cities Athletic-Minded Traveler covers.)

1) What to Bring and What Not? NoteMost studios sell/rent beverages, towels and mats. But the cost adds up FAST! BYO.

Water and Energy Drink
Beyond the obvious -- yoga mat and towel -- you should also bring a good amount of water and your "go to" energy drink. I prefer Gatorade. (Other team members like Bai or Core Organic.)  The sodium and sugar in Gatorade are helpful in maintaining your salt and blood sugar levels, but pure water will be easier to consume in the 105-110F+ room. So, bring at least 32oz. of both in separate bottles or combine 50/50 into a 64oz bottle and plan on drinking most of it through the 90 minute session. (60 minute classes are now ubiquitous at many studios. It's a good option. But we think newbies will benefit most by establishing their practice via the 90 minute sessions.)

Towels (2 large, 1-2 "hand")
Before class begins, one large towel will be placed on top of your yoga mat. Therefore, you will do the poses while standing/sitting on top of your towel (which is on top of your yoga mat). This will keep you from slipping once the sweat begins to flow. Two hand towels (kept at your side) can  be helpful to wipe sweat off your brow and body. Also, while tempting, do NOT use the hand towels to make grabbing your ankles easier during a few of the poses. Most teachers will scold you. Bikram is meant to be practiced without any props. The other large towel is for your post class shower, assuming you don't take off! 

Wet Clothes Bag
This can be as simple as a plastic trash bag or as fancy as something like river rafters use to keep their clothes dry. In this case, you want a bag that you can keep your wet, sweaty and stinky clothes separate from your dry and clean garments. Either will suffice.

Nothing Green (No longer really applies).
Apparently, Bikram has some philosophy (superstition?) against the color green. Maybe the Incredible Hulk frightened him as a child--I don't get it--but if you want to play by the rules, don't wear green to school. (Editor update 2018: No one cares about this anymore!)

2) Class Hints

Mat on the Line
If the studio you're attending has lines on the floor, position your mat so that half of it lays in front of the line and half behind. This helps organize and keep separation in the crowd so that you don't smell your neighbor. (Many studios do not have lines on the floor, however.) Also, know that you are to be able to see yourself in the front of room mirrors.

Sitting Halfway
While the entire class is 90 minutes long, understand that the hour-and-a-half is broken up into 45-50 minutes of standing poses and 40-45 minutes of sitting poses. Knowing that I was going to sit down at the halfway point helped me endure the standing poses.

No Feet Forward

I'm sure the regulars can explain why, but I just know that there is a rule about not moving your feet toward the front of the classroom. When you spin around or change positions, move your feet backward. When you lay down, feet toward the back. It's an Indian tradition and demonstrates respect. I mean hey, no one wants feet in their face!

"Don't Drop the Money"
Bikram postures are fairly simple--mostly beginner poses from what I understand. The one posture that seems to give rookies a little trouble is "Standing Bow". It requires standing on one leg while grabbing the opposite ankle and leaning forward. Grasping the ankle in the right way is the issue. You may hear the instructor say, "Don't drop the money." This expression is meant to reinforce proper technique by holding your palm up (like holding money) while reaching back to grab the inside of your leg/ankle.

Stay in the Room
Above all else, your first class will be deemed a success (and you will impress the regulars) if you simply stay in the hot classroom the entire time--even if in Savasana (i.e., on your back on the floor). So, pace yourself, drink plenty of fluids and go with the goal of remaining in the hot-box for 90 minutes.

One reason Athletic-Minded Traveler identifies Bikram studios in many of our covered cities, is because it is the same sequence EVERY time. You can count on the workout!

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It's not so much "can't" as a

It's not so much "can't" as a preference. The reasoning is that the teacher wants to be able to see your knees to ensure they are locked for several of the standing poses. At many studios, students wear capris and longer tights that cover knees. Nothing is said. However, baggy pants/sweats are certainly a Bikram Yoga no-no.

A few notes: 1. Many

A few notes:

1. Many studios don't allow hand towels for ANY poses. So bring one for the sweat, but don't plan on using it otherwise.

2. The heat varies. Some studios are really hot while others, not so much.

3. There are Bikram studios all over the U.S. and world, so practicing when you travel is easy. The Bikram site lists "sanctioned" studios, and Athletic-Minded Traveler also recommends studios in the cities they cover. Athletic-Minded Traveler's information tends to be more helpful, because they give pics, directions, and info about locker rooms etc.

Otherwise, above is pretty accurate.

Excellent advice. You forgot

Excellent advice. You forgot to mention that you will feel light and airy and mentally clear and awake after class. It's addictive! And, oh yes, don't wear anything that covers your knees, unless you want to get scolded.

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