You know I’m more of a strength-training and HIIT kinda girl, but when I was offered the chance to try Bikram Yoga at Bikram Yoga London I was too intrigued to say no. The thought of working up a serious sweat without having to do a single burpee appealed to me. Before I knew it, I was armed with towels and a yoga mat and on my way to my first ever Bikram Yoga class.
If you’ve never done Bikram Yoga before, it is a 90-minute sequence of 26 hatha yoga postures, practised in room heated to 42 degrees. 90 minutes in a 42 degree room sounds intense. It is intense, but trust me, if I can do it you definitely can.
The Bikram Yoga Class
I arrived about 40 minutes before my first class, which gave me plenty of time to get set up on their system, get changed and have a few minutes of Savasana to get used to the heat. Tip: Arrive early if you can to allow yourself time to adjust to the heat before class starts. Bikram Yoga London leave a minimum of 30 minutes between classes, giving you time for Savasana before and after class.
As I lay in the heated room with my eyes closed, I felt like I was on a sun-lounger on holiday with the warm heat of the sun on my body. It was bliss and I almost drifted off to sleep before Conny, our instructor and co-founder of Bikram Yoga London, announced it was time to start the class.
Tip: Lay your mat in the section of the room Bikram Yoga London marks out for beginners. This is the coolest part of the room and also means the instructors won’t correct you too much. It can be demotivating if you’re doing everything wrong and getting corrected every 2 seconds, so this will allow you to enjoy your practice with no fear. The left hand side of the studio is the hottest, so only go there if you’re brave!
We started on our feet with a standing deep breathing exercise called Pranayama to rid our bodies of old air and make room for new, fresh air. I’d never done this type of breathing before and found it challenging to get my elbows up high enough, but it felt refreshing. From there, we moved to the first of the 26 postures. Bikram Yoga isn’t really a flow, instead you hold each posture for period of time then repeat for a second hold before moving on to the next posture. You really focus on your breathe, using it to allow yourself to move deeper into the posture and intensify the stretch and/or strength.
Conny, the instructor, was really good at explaining what each part of your body should be doing in each posture. For example, what parts should be touching, where your hips should be pointing, how far apart your feet should be, where you should be looking etc. Usually I find myself having to look around at other people in yoga classes to figure out what I need to do, but I could just listen to Conny’s instruction. Tip: The people in the front row at Bikram Yoga London have been practising Bikram for six months or more, so if you do get lost, just follow them.
For the first 10-15 minutes of the class I felt warm, as if I was on a beach on a hot summer’s day abroad. The next 15 minutes I was glistening, but 30 minutes in I had a full on sweat on. I was dripping. We were all dripping. I was worried the class would be full of people wearing next-to-nothing and that I would look weird in my capri leggings and top, but thankfully there were quite a lot of people more clothed than I’d expected. If like me, you’re not brave enough to wear a sports bra and short shorts, don’t worry, you won’t be the only one a little more covered up! There were a real mix of abilities, ages, races and a good balance of men and women, which I really liked.
90 minutes actually went by a lot quicker than I thought. I’m not much of a yogi but I really enjoyed Bikram Yoga. I found I could keep up with the pace of the class and I liked how long we held each posture for. I felt it was long enough that we could really feel the stretch and move deeper into it with each breath, but not too long that it felt painful. Some of the postures I couldn’t do, like Toe Stand, but Conny scaled back the more difficult postures and let us know what we could do instead. I also liked that it was so sweaty, as it made it feel like more of a workout to me. Plus my skin felt great afterwards!
Tip: Bikram Yoga London offer an introductory offer of 20 days for £40 which I’m making the most of. I’m actually booked onto a class tonight and can’t wait!
Based in Canary Wharf, Bikram Yoga London opened in 2009 and is just over the footbridge from the JP Morgan building. The studio is a little on the small side, but has everything you need and has a real friendly feel to it. When you arrive you’re asked take off your shoes and place them on a shelving unit. I really liked this attention to detail as it meant when you were walking around barefoot later, you didn’t have to worry about treading in dirt.
There are plants and diffusers around the studio, giving it a zen-like vibe. The female changing rooms consist of hooks to hang your things, benches and small lockers for just your valuables. The showers are communal, something I’m not comfortable with but luckily I don’t live far from Canary Wharf so I shower at home. I’m told the water in the showers is soft, which is a rare treat in London! I’m just too much of a prude to strip down and shower next to a naked stranger. There’s also organic body wash in the showers and hairdryers in the changing rooms.
You can use mats provided by the studio and rent towels for £1. Bikram Yoga London were one of the first (if not the first) to have a dedicated mat washing room to thoroughly clean every provided mat after each use. Alternatively you can buy your own yoga mat or a whole outfit in their shop featuring brands like Onzie.
I’ve been in a hot yoga studio before where as soon as you enter the building, the heat and smell of sweat hits you in the face. At Bikram Yoga London, everywhere outside the studio is a nice, cool temperature which means you can sit on a bench after class to cool down. Or at least, that’s what I do!
Bikram Yoga London offer a range of hot yoga classes, not just Bikram. My new favourite way to spend a Friday night is at their Hot Jivamukthi class, which is a slow to medium paced flow that focuses on breathing and includes chanting. It’s super relaxing. They also offer Candlelit Bikram, a Hot Power Flow, a 60-minute Bikram Express and Music Beats Express. Sign up for their introductory offer of 20 days of unlimited classes for £40.
Get sweaty for charity
Bikram Yoga London are holding a charity event on March 25th called Sweat Out Poverty to raise money for Action on Poverty. There will be 5 hot yoga classes in one day and to take part you can do 3, 4 or all 5 classes. That’s no mean feat! Get your friends and family to sponsor you and help raise money for those living in poverty.
I think this is such a great cause and fun way to raise money! Unfortunately I can’t make it so I’ll be donating instead. If you can make it and would like to help raise money, find out more and sign up here. You have until March 14th to sign up so don’t delay. Good luck!
As I said at the start, if I can do Bikram Yoga, you definitely can! I’m no yogi but I found the slower pace and the length of time we hold each position for really suits me. I know with more classes I’ll see progress and be able to get deeper into the postures.