For those of you not ‘in the know’ (and I must admit I wasn’t particularly) Bikram is a type of yoga which is done in a heated room (typically 105F (40C) and with a humidity of 40% – to be honest at the moment that feels like a typical Dubai day
Bikram yoga has a worldwide following and is promoted for the way in which it stretches your muscles and ligaments in a routine which is said to be the right order for them to be stretched, it’s also said to promote the oxygenation of your whole body and also for the flushing of toxins from your body due to the heat. It’s suitable for all levels of fitness and body type since you can progress and push yourself deeper into the poses as you gain experience.
No matter where you practice Bikram yoga, all around the world, each class runs for 90 minutes and follows a set routine. During class students are guided by an instructor to work their way through a set routine of 26 Hatha yoga postures or poses and 2 breathing exercise. Each pose is done twice with the aim that you push yourself a little more or a little deeper on the second pose.
This is a class where you need to prepare yourself before going by making sure that you are fully hydrated and you are encouraged to concentrate on getting adequate hydration prior to class. It’s also a class where ‘less is more’ – you will sweat A LOT – many people were in gym shorts and sports bra tops or short leggings and sports t-shirts.
Having done some research (summarised briefly above), I arrived at the new studio at Club Stretch in Dubai Marina a good 30 minutes before class and was signed in and given a yoga mat and small and large towel. Students are encouraged to arrive at least 15 minutes before class and to spend this time getting acclimatised to the heat by lying on your mat in the studio – if you are a yoga fan you will know that this is called the savasana pose (dead body pose – seems I’m quite good at this one !). I found arriving early a good tip as you really do need to acclimatise and it’s also essential if you want to find yourself a decent place in the exercise studio as the classes are popular with both men and women.
The class starts with the instructor taking you through some breathing exercises and then you start with the first of the poses, with each pose being repeated twice. You are encouraged to take the second pose deeper or stretch further than you did for the first pose. Throughout the class the instructor actively demonstrates and corrects you in your pose as you are doing them.
The first twelve poses are done standing on your yoga mat and towel and the remaining fourteen are done lying or kneeling on your yoga mat.
I was pleasantly surprised to be able to do just about all of the poses, albeit some of them were more wobbily than I would have wanted !! And was able to push myself into some reasonably deep stretches as the class progressed. The instructor gave some very precise instructions which enabled us to work through the poses relatively easily and she also demonstrated the poses from a raised platform which was useful.
During your first class, one of the main challenges will be acclimatisation and you are encouraged to stay in the room for the whole duration of the class. If you feel dizzy, which is quite common at first, you are told to sit down on your mat and to rejoin the class when you are ready. I had to sit down once when I felt dizzy, but apart from that was fine.
Once all of the poses are complete, the class ends and students leave the studio as quietly as possible as some of the students remain for some person meditation.
Summary – I enjoyed the class and will go back. If I’m honest, part of me thought I wouldn’t enjoy it as I’m not very good at slow exercise and have not enjoyed some previous yoga classes particularly the more meditation/relaxation type of classes as frankly I’m just not good at the sort of thing. Bikram yoga however challenged me physically and I can see how this would help with flexibility, it’s also a little addictive as I can see how satisfying it would be to be able to do some of the more deeper levels of poses which some of the experienced class members were able to do.
Sweat Factor : I left the class absolutely drenched and wish I had taken some spare clothes with me for a quick shower, alternatively a towel for the car would have been useful ! I drank a good 1.5 L of water during the class and had spent most of the day drinking ahead of the class too.
Calorie Burn – I didn’t wear my HR monitor. I’ve seen claims of 900 cals in 90 minutes which seems high, but will be interested to see what my burn is in another class.
I did a class at Club Stretch in Dubai Marina with an individual class costing 70/AED *rental of a yoga mat is extra & of course, you can take your own.
I’m also fortunate to have access to Hot Yoga classes at MMA FitCentre where I have membership, so will be regularly participating in these too as I can do these classes for a very reasonable 10/AED per class.
NB : pictures are stock photos, it was way too hot for me to take my camera into class with me