10 must haves for Bikram yogis
Why are people so evangelical about yoga? What is Bikram yoga, exactly?
Bikram yoga was developed by one of the most famous living yogis, Bikram Choudhury. He set up 26 poses in a specific order so that they produce the maximum benefits for your body and mind. The standard Bikram yoga room temperature is 105 degrees, but at my studio it often feels much, much hotter. The heat helps your body stretch deeper. It also causes your heart rate to increase because your body is trying to stay cool. So, Bikram yoga gives you cardio, strength and flexibility training at the same time. It’s the ultimate workout.
I started practicing Bikram yoga in 2009 and am now officially addicted. Last month, I went to a 90-minute class every single day, no matter what. I felt my body transform and I learned that if you really want to, you can make exercise part of daily life. It’s not as hard as you might think. But, you do need to be prepared. So I put together a list of 10 essential Bikram yoga accessories for beginners and advanced students alike.
1.Gym Bag – I go straight from the studio to the office so a gym bag and a lock for a locker is essential.
2.Beginning Bikram Book – This book, published by Bikram Choudhury himself, shows and explains in detail each of the 26 poses. It’s great for when you’re getting started and is really helpful to revisit as you progress in your practice.
3.Wrap Dress – You’re going to need something to wear over your skimpy Bikram outfit on your way to the studio. A wrap dress is easy to roll up and into your gym bag. I love having something easy like this to wear every day. Since I only wear it to the studio, which takes all of 30 minutes, I wear the same ‘over clothes’ every day and wash it on Sunday. It’s not gross, I promise.
4.Sports Bra – I like a small top so that I have more exposed skin and opportunity for sweat to cool me down. This Nike Reversible Strappy Sports Bra is a perfect partner for the shorts (below). But any small short & sports bra will do. No bathing suits in Bikram!
5.Fitted Short – Unlike traditional yoga classes where bootleg yoga pants are standard, you want to be as close to naked as possible in Bikram so that your sweat can help regulate your body temperature. I am obsessed with these Nike Game Shorts because they have a crotch gusset which makes movement a lot more comfortable and they aren’t too short.
6.Yoga Mat – Any mat will do, it is mainly to mark you space in the room and to potentially help you grip during hard poses like Triangle.
7.Mat Cleaner – When you sweat as much as you do in Bikram, you need to clean your mat regularly or it will get funky fast. I clean mine at least once a week.
8.Large Water Bottle– Because you sweat so much, you need to stay hydrated. I swear by my 40 oz Hydro Flask because it’s double walled so water stays cool and it has a large capacity that you need in class. I drink the entire thing during the 90 minute session every day. I also refill it at work at least twice to re-hydrate after class.
9.Bottle Tote – Another obsession of mine is my Built NY insulated water bottle tote. This makes sure that the water in my bottle stays cool through the entire class & makes my bottle easier to carry because of its handy handle. Thank you Built NY for letting me test this out & wonder how I ever lived without it!
10.Skidless Yoga Towel – You will be sweating like crazy and may find it hard to do some standing poses on a wet mat, so a Skidless towel made to cover any standard mat makes a huge difference. It dries fast and is easy to rinse at home, so you can use it over and over again.
Some other Bikram yoga tips:
Don’t worry about feeling overwhelmed. It’s ok to sit down if you need a rest, but get back up as soon as you can.
It’s about trying to get your body in the right alignment before it’s about depth so don’t push, feel. It can take years to get into a pose correctly.
Do the absolute best you can every day. Yoga is about challenging yourself today, not competing with others or competing with who you were yesterday.
Go as often as possible, but don’t push yourself too hard in each class. If you’re really sore from previous sessions, treat your next class like a warm-up instead of a full blown workout. It’s ok, you still made it to class and are doing yoga!
Hydrate! I drink about 160 ounces of water a day and eat a lot of watery fruits and vegetables. Some say you sweat up to a gallon of water at one Bikram yoga session!
It’s National Meditation Month, you owe it to yourself to practice a 90 minute meditation in a 105 degree room. It’s easier than you think & you will feel so satisfied afterward. Even on mornings where I’ve only gotten 6 hours of sleep I feel great after leaving yoga. However you choose to do it, take a few minutes each day to empty your head and just listen to yourself breathe a few deep belly breaths. Namaste!
Yoga pose drawings courtesy of Happiness Series