Hot ‘n’ Sweaty Bikram Yoga

Don’t feel bad if you haven’t yet heard of Bikram yoga – you’re not alone. Until yesterday it was utterly new to me too, but the clue is in the title. Bikram is known as ‘hot yoga’. And they really mean it.

Bikram yoga is a series of 26 postures performed in a room heated to – wait for it – 40 degrees celsius. Yes, that’s 105 degrees fahrenheit. There are two reasons for this. The first is eminently sensible: when your muscles are warm, they are more flexible and you do them far less damage when you contort your limbs into bizarre positions. So why bother warming up when you can just pump hot air into the room?

The second reason: when you’re hot you sweat. You drip. You look, throughout the whole 90-minute session, as though you’ve just stepped out of a steam room. And of course the idea is that all of those toxins that undoubtedly lurk in your body will inevitibly leak right out of you.

And what on earth prompted me to go to such a class? Well a very health-conscious friend of mine enthused about it with all the zeal of a convert, for one. ‘It’s so good for you. You can feel it doing you good.’ Wow. Pretty strong accolades, there.

The second reason, I fully admit, was the introductory price. The Hot Bikram Yoga company, with studios in Fulham and Balham, offers a special deal: unlimited yoga for ten days, all for £10. Almost as incredible as the heat of the room, eh? Given that most individual yoga classes in London cost more than that…I couldn’t resist. So off I mooched to the Fulham studio in Parson’s Green.

The lovely receptionist sweetly informed me about the class and the procedures, then told me that I shouldn’t worry if I became dizzy or nauseous during the class. That, it seemed, was perfectly normal. Hmmm…I hope I kept a straight face.

Entering the room for the first time was a shock to the system, of course, but within minutes I felt as though I was acclimatising, and I wondered if I had completely overreacted to the idea of such heat. It soon turned out that I hadn’t. Paul the instructor informed me and two other newbies that the room was about to get much hotter. Oh, and it did.

It was a dialogue-led class, with Paul sitting majestically on what appeared to be mirrored steps that ended up near the ceiling, like some sort of Buddha on his way to enlightenment. I kept to the back of the class so I could copy everyone else, which was definitely a sensible strategy, but it had a drawback – the heaters were just above my head, so I felt the full blast.

So how was it? Hardcore. Not the postures themselves, so much; I’m fairly flexible and I’m also too stubborn to let people see me struggle. But I admit to coming close to fainting a couple of times, not to mention feeling pretty queasy. ‘Keep your eyes open at all times,’ Paul advised earnestly, ‘It’s all too easy to fall over if they’re closed.’ Excellent idea, as it turned out.

Anyway, long story short, I really struggled to stay there for the full ninety minutes, but I stuck it out. Whether it did me any good is another matter. But there are two things that I will definitely say for it: one, my skin felt amazingly smooth afterwards; and two, after any strenuous exercise I generally ache in every muscle in my body to the extent that I can barely walk, but on this occasion…I could walk.

I still hurt, but I wasn’t in agony, so there’s definitely something in the heating-the-muscles thing. I’ve still got another eight days in which I can go as many times as I like, so let’s see if I can make it to another class. And I would recommend it to anyone up for a challenge and wanting to try something a bit different.

Hot Bikram Yoga Fulham
Ground Floor Studio
25 Heathmans Road

Tel: 020 7384 4454


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