What to Expect at Your First Bikram Yoga Class

(Long post.)

I recently started taking Bikram Yoga classes. I began my yoga journey in 1999 with Anusara Yoga. I’ve taught yoga since 2000 and I’m trained in Anusara, Kundalini, Children’s, and Pregnancy Yoga. I practice Kundalini, Ashtanga, Iyengar, and Prana Flow Vinyasa (Shiva Rea’s style of yoga). And I love Cole Chance of YogaTX and her own channel on YouTube. We’ve never met, yet her style is very similar to the way I teach. Feminine Vinyasa style is what I call it.

Bikram Yoga is tough as s&^%, challenging, sweaty, difficult…the opposite of my own teaching style, and I LOVE IT!!

Preparation is necessary for your first Bikram Yoga class. My first experience in 2010 was terrible. I simply was not prepared…at all. This post is to educate you before you walk into a Bikram Yoga class. My wish is after that first class you want to continue studying in this tradition.

One to two weeks before your first class

  • Register for your class ahead of time. Most yoga studios offer a Groupon or a special for newcomers. My Bikram Yoga studio offers a $10 for 10 days special. If your studio offers a deal like that, go as many times as you can within that window.
  • Read your studio’s website thoroughly.
  • Go to the official Bikram Yoga website and read it thoroughly as well. https://www.bikramyoga.com/  
  • Get on YouTube to hear about other people’s experiences. You’ll hear the good and the bad. Just remember nothing can replace your own experience.
  • Get familiar with the 26 poses before your first class. The 9-minute video below is a good demonstration. A Bikram Yoga class is 90 minutes long. It consists of 26 poses and 2 breathing exercises. All poses are done twice. Also, you are staring at yourself in the mirror the entire time.
Click to watch the video.

Two days before your first class

  • Start drinking more water than you think you need. Drink until your urine is clear. Also start drinking a sports drink for electrolytes. The room is heated to 105 degrees with 40% humidity. (My dad calls it “Yoga in a Sauna.”) I cannot emphasize enough the importance of drinking water.

The day of your first class

  • Continue to drink more water than you think you need. You will pee a lot. It’s annoying but it will keep you from cramping during class.
  • Stop eating one hour before class. What to eat? I can’t tell you what to eat because everyone is different. My humble suggestion is to eat carbohydrates, i.e., fruit, beans, bread, pasta, potatoes, etc., because they give you energy.

Wardrobe

  • Men: Shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt. Expect to take that shirt off. Also, no cologne.
  • Women: As little as possible. Wear shorts or leggings. Wear a sports bra or bikini top. Wear a sleeveless t-shirt if you must. For all women who don’t want anyone to see their “mom bellies” or “batwings” or cellulite, this is for you: It’s hot as f^%! in that room. Modesty will disappear as sweat pours down your body like rain. Believe that.

Also for women:

  • Don’t wear perfume.
  • Don’t wear makeup. This is not the time to be cute.
  • Don’t wear jewelry.
  • Don’t wear a wig.
  • Don’t get your hair done the day before. It’s a waste of time and money.
  • Pull your hair away from your face.
  • Keep that weave tight.
  • If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor first. As a teacher, I tell all pregnant women to wait until their second trimester to practice any yoga. If you are new to Bikram, I’d err on the side of caution. And let the teacher know that you are pregnant.
  • If you are on your period, it’s safe to attend. Listen to your body’s wisdom.

Why so many “don’ts?” Because this is a challenging moving meditation practice. You are staring at yourself in the mirror to cultivate focus and mindfulness. The less distractions, the better. And did I mention the heat?

Bring to class:

  • A yoga mat.
  • A beach towel or two large bath towels to cover your mat.
  • A hand towel (or two) to wipe the sweat off your face.
  • Water.
  • Sports drink.
  • Eyeglass case if you wear glasses. Your glasses will fall off your face because of the sweat. And sweat will be running into your eyes.
  • A snack (leave it in the car). You will be hungry afterward. If it’s an evening class, I only eat fruit because I’ve already had my dinner. If it’s a day class, I eat fruit in the car, then have a meal when I get home. Eat in a way that works for your body and your schedule.

Get there 30 minutes early. Use that time to do the following:

  • Finish your registration.
  • Ask the teacher questions.
  • Go to the bathroom.
  • Change your clothes.
  • Put your clothes/purse/wallet/bag in a locker or cubby.
  • Get familiar with the studio.
  • Go inside the yoga room to get acclimated to the heat.

Once you are inside the room

  • Lay out your mat. Put the towels on top of the mat to prevent slipping. You are barefoot, btw. Place your drinks next to your mat.
  • Sit in the second or third row so you can watch more experienced people in front of you.
  • Lie down or chat with other folks about their experience.
  • The teacher will come in to begin.
  • Listen to the teacher’s guidance.
  • Do NOT feel the need to do the entire sequence.
  • Do NOT feel the need to be in a pose in its full glory. Respect your limitations.
  • Do NOT hold your breath. Take deep breaths through your nose. Breathe.
  • Do NOT compare yourself to other people. Everyone is on their own journey. (I call it “the yogi flu.” You’ll make yourself sick comparing the quality of your postures to someone else’s. Focus on yourself. Those 90 minutes are precious self-care time.)
  • Sit down. Take breaks when you need to. You have your entire life to master the sequence. Honor and listen to your body’s messages.
  • Expect to sweat like you’ve never sweated before in your life.
  • Sip your water and/or sports drink throughout the entire class. Don’t gulp. You may feel nauseated.
  • If you feel the urge to bolt from the room, sit down or lie down. The teacher will encourage you to stay in the room. You are an adult, so you can do what you want. However, human beings run toward pleasure and run away from pain. Your teacher knows if you leave the room, you are not coming back inside. A pee break is one thing. Bolting from a 105-degree room in a panic is another. Try to stay in the class.
  • Enjoy a long savasana (corpse pose, aka final relaxation).

After the class

  • You did it!!
  • Be amazed at the experience.
  • Be amazed at how wet your clothes are.
  • Pee.
  • Drink more water and sports drink.
  • Shower at the studio if you can. If not, change out of those sweaty clothes (especially in the winter).
  • Put a towel on the car seat if you didn’t change your clothes. 
  • Drink more water and sports drink. (Again!!)
  • Eat your snack.
  • Take a shower at home.
  • Eat a meal.
  • Take care of yourself that day. Rest if you can. You exerted a lot of energy.
  • Register for your next class.
  • Sleep well.

Up next: After all these do’s and don’ts why do I like Bikram Yoga?