We visited my brother in Traverse City this weekend and it is one of the few places in our state that offers certified Bikram (Hot) Yoga, so I, a devotee of Yoga for over 10 years, thought I should try it at least once. For a long time, I thought “no way will I try that – insanity!”. But, one of my yoga instructors told me that I should do fine and that she really liked it and I felt encouraged to at least give it a try. (Of course, the other instructor told me it can make people sick, but I guess I didn’t listen to her). Bikram Yoga is 90 minutes of 26 poses performed in a 105 degree room, at 50-60% humidity. Yikes. It’s the extreme sport of the yoga world, for sure. One celebrity after another will tout it’s praises, and many people claim it cures all sorts of ailments – some scoliosis patients have claimed improvement from this form of Yoga. My husband joked, though, that I should put my cell phone next to my matt, dial 9-1…and then all I’ll need to dial is 1 and “send” should I feel the need. 🙂 It was funny at the time, but proved to be pretty true.
I have to say that as far as Yoga studios goes, the Traverse City studio was great – clean, friendly, efficient, affordable. I don’t want any reader to think that the opinions and experience I had are any reflection on the quality of this studio – they seem to run an upstanding business.
I arrived a 7:45 on Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend. I signed a few forms, paid my $15 drop-in fee, and bought a Smart Water. I was supposed to take my shoes off, but forgot and rudely walked to the locker room with them on. Oops. It was not intentional – I was sleepy. The room was oppresively hot. I was not sure I could breathe in there, much less do any kind of movement. The instructor said, “Just try to stay in the room”. So, that was my goal. The class started with a breathing exercise where you put your hands in a fist below your chin and kind of make “bird flapping wings” with your arms as you slowly inhale and exhale. When you exhale, though, you are supposed to push your head way back and bend your neck back. Not cool. A couple Doctors have told me in the past that my neck is not supposed to go that way, and my neck was saying it, too. So, I didn’t push my neck back. The instructor kept saying, “push your neck back” and I kept, rebelliously, NOT pushing it back. He also told me to stay in the room, though, but 45 minutes into the class I felt like I might need the 9-1-1, so I went to the bathroom to cool off a bit. I was nauseous, dizzy, and lightheaded – all things they said I could be, so it was not a surprise, but I was determined to make it through the class without vomiting. After 5 minutes, I headed back in and was able to complete the class (mostly). I was pretty rebellious with my form, though. He kept wanting me to flatten the back of my neck against my mat, when I KNOW from Dr. Morningstar that our necks are not supposed to bend that way. (We’ve worked hard to get mine to bend the OTHER way, thank-you!) There were also lots of backbends. Although the instructor claims they are very healthy for your spine and body, other Scoliosis experts say otherwise. Also, he kept saying it should feel a bit uncomfortable to do some of the poses. That discomfort in the class would mean less later. Bull. The philosphy of most yoga is to listen to your body and NOT push it to where it hurts. So, I didn’t. The instructor that said to just try and “stay in the room” was telling me to push further in poses than I normally would and I didn’t appreciate that (especially when he kept telling me to do more and using my name, in a room full of people, over the loudspeaker!)
In summary, Bikram Yoga is NOT for me. It was my first and last time doing it. And, I don’t think it’s great for Scoliosis patients. That is just my UNPROFESSIONAL opinion!! The heat was nice for my muscles, but I actually had a flareup of Sciatic pain that I haven’t had in years that very night and was extremely tired and weak the rest of the day. I assume that would lessen over time and that I would get in better shape, but there are other ways to do that without feeling like you are literally walking through the fires of hell for 90 minutes. My advice would be to be cautious – if you have Scoliosis, work with an instructor who knows what that means, who recognizes that Bikram isn’t a magical cure for every body (that a Scoliosis spine is created differently from other spines) and that will not pressure you to go further than your body wants. I firmly feel that one needs to be very careful when doing such intense Yoga moves and take it slow.
I’m happy to say that I could take the heat, but won’t choose to do it again. Namaste.