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Saturday, July 22, 2006

heat wave!

Bikram's Yoga College of India
1862 South La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90035
(310) 838-8040
website: www.bikramyoga.com

Q. What is the recommended room temperature for Bikram Yoga?
The recommended temperature is minimum 105F degrees and about 40% humidity.
The room is kept at this temperature or more for the following:

  • Keeping the body from overheating (contrary to popular misconception)
  • Protecting the muscles to allow for deeper stretching
  • Detoxing the body (open pores to let toxins out)
  • Thinning the blood to clear the circulatory system
  • Increasing heart rate for better cardiovascular workout
  • Improving strength by putting muscle tissue in optimal state for reorganization
  • Reorganize the lipids (fat) in the muscular structure

  • Q. I feel nausous, dizzy during class and very tired after my first class. Is this normal?
    It is not unusual to feel nauseous or dizzy during your first class. Practicing yoga in a heated room reveals to us our present condition, and inspires us take much better care of ourselves.
    Usually the problem is that we do not drink enough water for daily living, let alone for exercising in a heated room. Nutritionists tell us that we need 64-80 ounces of water a day to help the body function properly.
    In the heated yoga room, your body needs adequate fund of water to allow perspiration to release heat from the body as you practice. So we estimate you need another 64-80 ounces (sometime during the day) to allow for your 90 minutes in the room. Once you are drinking enough water your body will tolerate the heat better and you will actually enjoy the heat.
    If you feel disoriented or like you need a good nap after your first few classes, this is likely because your body has begun to cleanse itself as a result of the yoga practice. Don't be scared. After the first few classes this sensation will pass. The more you can relax as you give your 110% honest effort during class, the more energized you will feel throughout the class and throughout the rest of your day.

    earlier this afternoon, the national weather service issued this heat advisory:

    Issued by the National Weather Service at 2:28 PM PDT on July 22, 2006

    An excessive heat warning remains in effect until 8 PM PDT this evening for inland portions including downtown Los Angeles and the Hollywood Hills.
    This warning is in effect for inland portions including downtown Los Angeles and the Hollywood Hills. Very high temperatures combined with high humidity levels across these areas are expected to produce dangerous heat index values of 102 to 108 degrees through early evening.
    An excessive heat warning means that a prolonged period of dangerously hot temperatures will occur. The combination of hot temperatures and high humidity will combine to create a dangerous situation in which heat illnesses are likely. Drink plenty of water... try to stay out of the sun... preferably in an air-conditioned room. Check up on relatives... neighbors... and children at play.

    so what did i decide to do today when i was supposed to be taking it easy in an air-conditioned room?

    you guessed it -- i spent the most uncomfortable ninety minutes of my life at the bikram yoga headquarters in LA, in a class taught by no other than the head honcho himself, bikram choudhury.

    i just had to do it. i found out yesterday that bikram was in town for the teacher recertification program and that this morning's class was the only class he was scheduled to teach here for the next few weeks. of course it didn't help that i had already promised my friends that i would run 7 miles with them early this morning. and that i had also signed up with lisa walford to be a teacher training guinea pig at yoga works later this afternoon.

    when i started my run at 7:30am, it was already sunny, hot, and humid in normally temperate santa monica. feeling lethargic after just a mile, i opted to run at a slower pace and take more water breaks. at the 2.5 mile mark, i decided to do the smart thing and headed back to my starting point. there was no reason for me to keep pushing in the heat, especially since i was going to have my bikram experience in less than two hours. five miles was good enough.

    after peeling off my sweaty running gear, i rinsed myself off quickly then put on my yoga gear, knowing that by the time i peeled those off, they would be just as drenched, if not worse. hydrate, i kept reminding myself. drink now to avoid problems later...

    i arrived at the bikram headquarters with a good half hour to spare. i pulled into the large parking lot behind the building, glad that i didn't have to circle the neighborhood to look for a parking spot. soon after i got out of my car, though, some guy walked up to me and told me that parking was going to cost me a dollar. he looked legit enough, so i handed him a buck (come to think of it, i don't remember seeing him when i left. hmmm...) and walked into the lobby.

    i filled out a registration form, paid my $20 (which included mat and towel rental), and added my name to the class sign-in sheet. i was told that i would find the mats at the back of the classroom, so i headed that way. there were already a number of students hanging around in the lobby and in the hallway, and once i entered the room, i realized why no one wanted to sit inside. it was so hot, it was stifling! i stayed just long enough to pick up a mat and find a spot FAR from the ceiling heater vents (which were blowing full blast, by the way) and near the door, where some cooler air was finding its way in from the hallway. i dropped off my belongings in the women's locker room, grabbed a few towels from the towel rack at the end of the hallway, and went back into the classroom. after spreading the towels on my mat, i lay there for a while, hoping to acclimate myself to the heat. and all i managed to do was get myself lightheaded.

    water, i reminded myself, keep drinking water...

    i walked back out to the lobby in search of something cool to drink. for $2, i could get a large bottle of smartwater or a bottle of vitaminwater. i scanned the vitaminwater flavor selections and spotted:

    lemon-lime (b + electrolytes)

    from my marathon running experience, i know that both water and electrolytes are lost during periods of excessive sweating. and that it would be proper to assume that i would sweat excessively if i had to do an hour and a half of yoga in a room with temps over 100 degrees. so not wanting to subject myself to possible cramps, fatigue, or maybe even heat stroke, i paid the two bucks and immediately started to drink as much as i could before class started.

    the students started making their way to the classroom; some headed straight for the front of the class, some hid out in the back (like me), and some spent time trying to figure out where the coolest spots in the room were (where i was). choudhury walked in and immediately made everyone move forward and towards the middle of the room and align themselves with the lines on the newly-replaced wall-to-wall carpet. but i managed to stay put in my nice spot without him noticing :)

    bikram walked up to his "throne" on the stage at the front of the room (i'm not sure what it's called, but it was an enormous armchair covered in what looked like towels, maybe to protect it from all the airborne sweat?) and sat himself down. from there, he had an eagle's eye view of the room, which was about 3-4 times the size of the larger yoga studios i've practiced in. he greeted some of the familiar faces, rattled off the usual precautions -- if you're dizzy or lightheaded, that's normal; if something hurts, that's normal; if you feel like giving up, don't. the reason why you're feeling miserable is because your body's not used to working at 100% of its capacity. you have a lamborghini... you must use all its power! (ok, so that's my take on what he said)...

    and now i was about to find out if everything i'd heard about the man was true.

    while i really don't remember his bragging about his wealth nor his cars, he did spend some time boasting about his 10-pack (much better than a six-pack) and his virility. all due to his method of yoga, of course.

    even if he spent a lot of time reprimanding specific students ("the girl in orange", "you in blue", "michael, what's wrong with you?") and releasing a good number of expletives, he really wasn't as tough as i thought he would be. for one thing, since there were so many bodies in the large room, there was no way he could enforce perfect form on everyone. i would wobble and/or cut a pose short, or, worse yet, close my eyes and not look at myself in the mirror and i never heard a peep from him. also, i and many others left the room a number of times to cool down and take a break, and again, he never chastised us for doing so, although he did eventually start picking on people as they left en masse as the temperatures became unbearable. surprisingly, there were a few students whom he commanded to leave the room because they looked like they were about to pass out. so i guess the guy does care, even if he does call some students "f***ing idiots" when they do something wrong :)

    and as i had expected, i sweated up a storm during the course of the class. fortunately, i didn't pass out from dehydration or fatigue. maybe those added electrolytes and the occasional breaks had something to do with it?

    so the long and short of it is that i survived bikram's "torture chamber" (his words, not mine). and i had a more interesting time in his class than i did in the classes back in manila, partly because he never called out to me specifically by name or "costume", and partly because listening to him go on and on about how his yoga prevents every disease known to man was enough to distract me from the high temps that i was subjecting myself to.

    now this doesn't mean that i've been turned into a bikram devotee; however, i might be open to the thought of giving this "hot yoga" another shot.

    on second thought, maybe that's the heat stroke talking...


    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    what a great post about bikram. really jodi, it does get easier after you go to class a few times. I go thrice weekly but i did miss ten days, then the heat was tough when I went back. i'm always amazed at what a jerk bikram sounds like though. my local folks are nice enough. of course i can't HEAR them, so maybe that's why i enjoy the classes. I know they talk constantly though what about i have no idea...

    8:26 PM  

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