I just got home from St. Louis and taking my 2nd ever Bikram Yoga class. While the experience was overall positive, I do feel like I need to add a little bit of information about Bikram Yoga--as I definitely would want anyone who is interested in trying it to have a clear picture of what they will be experiencing--(please keep in mind this is all based on my opinion):
1. You should only take a Bikram class if you're very familiar with yoga asanas (postures)--Bikram IS NOT a class for beginner yogis.
2. You should be prepared for a very strict, rigid yoga practice--Bikram is a very structured style. The first time I took the class in Denver the instructor was informative and to the point; however, this time the instructor was a bit more like a drill sergeant (a nice one with a bit of a sense of humor, though).
3. You should be prepared to feel very cleansed, yet incredibly exhausted after class is over. (It's 8:30 p.m., and I'm ready for bed. Typically after power yoga classes, I feel very relaxed, yet energized and ready to go).
Here is a bit more about my experience today:
When I arrived at the yoga studio, I checked in and the instructor was very friendly and clear about the expectations and structure of his class. He told me I should position myself in the back of the class because the more experienced students would be in the front, so he could put more "pressure" on them. (From my experiences in other yoga classes "pressure" is NOT something most yoga instructors would want their students to feel. Challenged-yes. Pressure-no.) He told me I was free to come out of a pose and be still at any time, but there were NO modifications. (I was thankful to be told I was allowed to rest, but once again the idea of no modifications is not the norm in most yoga classes). I was told that once in the yoga room I was not allowed to leave unless there was an emergency--his definition of an emergency being if I was vomiting, bleeding, or my head had fallen off (yes, he said this.)
During class he talked about an upcoming Bikram yoga competition. Competition? This is typically not a word used in conjunction with yoga!
So, it's really hard to desribe the actual experience of the class. Like I said earlier, it was positive, but in a very backward sort of way. The final words of the instructor when ending the class sort of sums it all up. He said (while we were just getting into the final relaxation posture, savasana): "How's it feel to experience a kick-ass class? To be beaten down until you're forced to surrender? I have no final words of wisdom, just enjoy your evening." And that was that.
He was right. I definitely was forced to surrender during class. In a way, it felt very good. However, I would say rather than being beaten down to the point of surrender, I would rather learn to surrender through my own internal guidance. Bikram does not seem to teach the participants to listen to their bodies or their internal voice.
So, what is my internal voice telling me about Bikram Yoga? It is an interesting experience. I do think at some point in my future I will attend another class; however, I so appreciate power yoga and yoga styles that contain flowing sequences, encouragement of accepting oneself, surrender (without being beaten down), and being encouraged to listen to one's own body and inner wisdom.
My inner wisdom is telling me I need to go to bed, and I think I'm going to listen. Good night.