If you haven't done so already, please first read the Be Prepared page.
On this page we will expand on some techniques for making the most of your Hot Yoga practice.Three Elephants
OK, first let's acknowledge the elephants in the room:It's Hot:
Honestly, there are some who don't think it's hot enough. They are few. Most get used to the heat after a few classes. Others take longer. Ultimately, as you will discover, it all comes down to mindset.It's Humid:
For some, it's not the heat that gets 'em. It's the humidity. The humidity can make it hard to breath and make it so that you tire out more quickly. But that's all part of the design. The humidity forces your lungs to become more efficient at processing oxygen, increasing your lung capacity over time. That's why we start each class with a deep breathing exercise -- to train you how to breath in class and acclimate you to the atmosphere.It's Hard:
Every body is different. Every person starts from their own place. Some of us are naturally strong and muscular, making the poses that require flexibility very dificult for us. Others are naturally flexible, making the poses that require strength seem impossible for them. Some of us have never had to push ourselves before, making the bull-dog determination it takes to stay in a pose for 20, 30, 60 seconds a new experience altogether. Regardless of what you need to work on, Strengh, Flexibility, or your Resolve, they will all be addressed in this practice, rounding you out, and filling in the gaps.
So that's what we have to deal with. Now the "How" will be a personal journey for each of us. But there are a few practices and techniques to point you in the right direction.Choices
One of the most fundamental ways you can ensure that your choices are sound is to ask yourself: "How will I feel after..."
In contrast to how you feel right now, asking "How will I feel after..." brings clarity to any situation
So, you've got the munchies, you have a whole pint of ice cream in the freezer and there nothing more you want to do right now than gobble it down. If you ask yourself how you feel right now (before you eat it) the answer is "Yeah, I'm hungry, I'm craving it, let's Binge!". But if you ask yourself how you'd feel after you ate that whole pint, the answer could be something along the lines of "Bloated, gross, guilty, ashamed, fat, like a slob, etc..." (or it could be that you just went for a 5-mile run and you will feel just fine after downing the whole thing).
So, when it comes to this practice, do not necessarily base your decision to attend on how your feel right now (before class), when you may be feeling tired or lazy, rushed or whatever, base your decision on how you will feel after class. Because 99 times out of 100 you are gonna feel fantastic! And you will be glad you made the decision to come on in.
Employing this little trick in your everyday life can be a game changer. Regularity
Face it. The more you practice (anything), the easier it becomes and the better you get at it.
Bikram suggests coming every single day for at least the first 60 days, to get your self fully acclimated to the practice.
If you can come every day, that is awesome! You will see radical changes in your health and attitude.
If you can practice 5 days a week, fantastic. You will be at the top of your game in no time.
But most of us lead very busy lives, don't we. In the end, though, this practice is important, and you will need to make time for it in your life. We recommend practicing at least three times a week to obtain and maintain the full benefits of this practice.Hydration
Most of you will sweat a lot. And that's a good thing. It cleans your body from the inside out. So the general advice is to stay hydrated. But what does that mean? Here's some specific things you can do.
- In your normal day to day living, drink enough so that your urine is a light straw color. Generally, if its darker, you need to drink more, if it's lighter, you need to drink less. Remember, drinking too much is not good either, you will flush away many of the salts and minerals your body needs to function in class.
- Complete drinking a liter of water about an 1 1/2 hours before class starts. This will allow your body to hydrate AND allow you to time urinate out the excess before class starts. Drinking a bunch of water right before class can make it pretty uncomfortable in the Hot Room and can have you running for the restroom by Eagle Pose.
- Bring a bottle of *room temperature* water into class with you. And don't be shy about replenishing your fluids as needed. We don't recommend bringing ice water into class, however refreshing it may seem, as it can be a shock to the system and tighten your up organs and muscles during class.
- Re-hydrate immediately after class with a drink that contains salts, minerals and/or electrolytes (without too much sugar, of course) so that what you sweated out will be replaced. Your muscles will thank you. Coconut water, "Nooma", "Ultima", and water with some added salts like "Endure" are recommended.
- And, of course, alcohol ultimately dries your body out, so try not to drink too much the night before a practice. If you do, also drink a lot of water with some added salts and minerals added.Don't Stress It
Depending on your personality, you may be gung-ho and driven, timid and acquiescent, or dedicated and and eager to learn. All of these qualities can lead you astray if not tempered with some common sense and self-knowledge.
First, pushing yourself too hard can backfire. Bikram Hot Yoga can be a very Gung-Ho practice. A lot of people enjoy pushing themselves to their limits and try their hardest to get there. But in trying to reach that limit, sometimes they go too far: pulling a muscle, stretching a tendon, or even tearing a ligament. All of these will set you back in your practice. This practice is very gentle and safe if performed as directed. What newer, driven practitioners need to keep in mind that this practice is not all about pushing. Often the only way to improve and move forward it to STOP pushing. It may take some a while (or a pulled muscle) to learn this, but there is a balance to this practice. There is an opportunity to push yourself if you like, but that desire needs to be tempered with the understanding that every push needs to be accompanied by an equal state of relaxation and calm.
Second, the instructor leads the class through a very detailed set of instructions. And these instructions usually represent the final expression of each pose. However, most new students will not be able to actually do much of what they are being told to do (they are still too inflexible, uncoordinated, or haven't yet grown strong enough). This can be very stressful to those who want to follow the guidance to the letter and are eager to lean and progress. However, the new student needs to understand that all they need to do is follow the instructions *just up to the point* of their current ability. The instructor will continue talking the rest of the class further into the pose, buts that's OK. You just need to go as far as you can, and stay there. Eventually, over time will will be able to follow the instructions deeper and deeper into each pose. But until then, DO NOT feel you need to push yourself past your personal ability just because the "instructions" say to go there.Extra-Curricular Stretching
For those of use who are naturally muscular and stiff, taking some time to work on flexibility outside of class is extremely helpful.
Becoming flexible is a long process, and it takes a great deal of patience and acceptance (a great deal of patience -- remember, it took you years to get to the inflexible state you are, it will take years to get flexible again). And it also takes dedication and consistency.
You can work on your flexibility at any time, but one of the best times is to work on in it the hot room right before and after class -- the room is warm, your muscles are warm, and you're already on your mat. We have put together a pre and post class stretching routine designed specifically to get stiff practitioners into the Bikram postures as soon as possible (See Prescribed Stretching on this website) but this routine can be done at home as well.Surrender to the Flow
This is truly the real key to making the most of your Bikram Hot Yoga practice.
There are so many things about Hot Yoga that on the surface may seem to be road blocks or obstacles to the new practitioner: It's Hot, It's Humid, It's Hard, etc... But the simple fact is that you have to let all of that go and Surrender to the Flow of the class; Work within that flow; and Accept that this practice is also about learning to be comfortable with being a little uncomfortable.
Getting to this point of calm acceptance can take weeks, months, even years for some practitioners, but once that internal realization happens, once that switch is flipped in the mind, your practice will move to a whole new level. Transforming from work to play, from dread to anticipation, from frustration to peace.
Getting there is a personal journey and each of us will take our own path, but here are some pointers that may help you to get going in the right direction.Focus exclusively on you.
This is your practice and yours alone. There is no need to pay attention to what anyone else is doing, how they're doing it or why. It doesn't matter. Focus on yourself in the mirror as if there were no one else in the room. Turn off your mind and Listen.
There is no need to think about anything. All you need to do is listen and follow along. This class is an opportunity for you to give your head a rest. Take advantage of it.Concentrate on your breathing.
OK, so turning off your mind is more easily said than done. Don't worry about it. Thoughts will come and thoughts will go. But if, during class, you purposely and consciously focus your attention on your breathing: in through your nose... out through your nose..., in through your nose... out through your nose..., this will eventually settle your mind. The more you practice this focus, the easier it gets. And the clearer your mind becomes.Repeat a mantra to yourself.
Sometimes, your brain may start churning, you may feel overwhelmed, and concentrating on your breathing is not enough. At these times a reassuring mantra (repeated silently -- not out loud) can be used to calm yourself and bring you back to the present moment. Experiment and come up with mantras that make sense to you. But here's a few to get you started.
"I surrender to the flow... I work within the flow..."
"I am cool, calm, flexible and strong..."
"I am a lean, mean, fat-burning machine..."
"I am here, I am now..."
Use a mantra to calm yourself down when needed, or to re-point you in the right direction. Once you have regained control, go back to purposefully and consciously focusing your attention on your breathing.
You may have heard or read this practice called a "90-Minute, Open-Eyed, Moving Meditation
". And that is exactly what it was designed to be, and what it can be, if you make it so.
For those of you who may have practiced traditional meditations, you understand that there is a wide variety of methods and purposes of meditation. But, always, the initial and most important level of meditation is to clear your mind of thoughts and to experience the calmness of just being. To get to this level of consciousness, this ability of turn off your mind, one or more techniques are employed, such as Focusing
on an object or a concept, Listening
to an inner or outer monologue, Concentrating
on the in and out flow of your breath, and Repeating
of a mantra to clear unwanted thoughts from your brain.
These are all just techniques to get you to a specific state of calmness and serenity -- and they are the same techniques we use to in the Hot Room bring us to a calm, purposeful, and rejuvenating practice. So, if you so desire, you truly can make your practice a "90-minute, open-eyed, moving meditation"