Posted by: kerryalina | 14 May 2012

Cheating on Bikram

I’m sure you’ll be shocked and appalled to discover that I haven’t been to Bikram in over a week.  And why haven’t I been to Bikram in over a week?  (I know you’re all on the edge of your seats!)  It’s because I decided to fulfil a promise I made to myself at the start of my challenge and try a different style of yoga.  One that does Downward Dogs.

Here’s my verdict: all of you who do “normal” yoga?  The ones with Downward Dogs and Sun Salutations and all that jazz?  You’re INSANE.  I couldn’t lift my arms above shoulder height for three days afterwards.

The class itself actually felt almost laughably easy at the time.  It was billed as Dynamic Yoga; the website described it as “a moving meditation” and said the class had “a focus on energy, alignment and breath.”  It was… Sun Salutations.  Lots and lots and lots of Sun Salutations.  A full hour of Sun Salutations, in fact (both A & B, they informed me afterwards.  Presumably that means something to other people.  People who aren’t me.  Or people who could be bothered to google it).

I was excited at first, but then became more nervous about it, mainly because of the eyeroll I got from the teacher when I said I’d only ever done Bikram.  I felt like my one great love’s reputation was at stake and I’d be damned if I was going to let the home team down!  So as scary as it was to lie on my mat waiting for class to start, feeling my muscles contract in the slightly chilly air and watching the fans lazily rotate overhead, I swallowed my trepidation and threw myself into it.

Just a little too energetically, as it turns out.  What I forgot was that Bikram doesn’t have a whole lot of arm work and I’ve never done a pushup (let alone a Chaturanga) in my life… so although I do have shiny new bicep muscles, I don’t actually know how to use them properly!  Everything felt easy at the time… but I woke up the next morning feeling like I’d been dragged by wild horses.  I felt approximately 90 million years old.  My shoulders still haven’t forgiven me.

Ignoring for a moment the agony the next day (and the day after that… and the day after that…), it was actually a really interesting experience.  Our mats lined the long sides of a narrow studio and we faced the centre of the room for most of the class – meaning the two rows of students were face-to-face with each other.  It took a surprising amount of concentration to avoid being distracted or unnerved by meeting the eyes of someone else!  The teacher was at one end of the room, both verbally instructing and physically demonstrating the poses… so I was constantly craning my head 90 degrees to figure out the next step.  There were no mirrors, so I have absolutely no idea how good my alignment was, or how deep I managed to get into each pose.  I have a few habits from Bikram that seemed to be antithetical to her teaching – she patiently coaxed my chin away from my shoulder in Triangle, and dropping my head all the way back in Cobra was frowned upon.  Surprisingly, I found it much more difficult to do slight variations on poses that I already knew, than to learn completely new poses from scratch.  There were so many similarities, both during the poses and within the elements of the class itself… but just enough differences to take completely out of my comfort zone.

But that’s always the way, isn’t it?  For most things we do in our lives, we have habits and routines.  We do the same things, day after day… either because we think that’s the best way to do it, or because that’s just the way it’s always been done.  Either way, our actions become second nature over time and we stop considering the myriad of steps involved in each action – be it a yoga pose, or how we brush our teeth in the morning.  It only takes a few very small changes to realise just how much we do on autopilot… and it can be an amazing experience to take a step back and consider each individual act that makes up the whole.  From that point of view, I’m really glad that I went to this class.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get another heatpack for my shoulder.



  1. I think it’s great you went and tried another form of yoga. I don’t know about an entire class of sun salutataions though!

    • Omg, I spent the whole time going “…Another one? SERIOUSLY?!?” Apparently it’s a slightly different class every time though, so maybe I should give it one more chance :)

  2. So did vinyasa yoga win you over? It’s such an interesting post for me! For a diehard bikram fan to try something new and your perspective of it! I’d love to hear more :)

    • I haven’t decided yet! I’d definitely go back… if it wasn’t for just how sore I was afterwards. The class itself was interesting and enjoyable, but the aftereffects meant I had to take more days off from Bikram than I’d like. And for now, Bikram’s still my priority!

  3. I’ve typically stuck to a beginner’s level hatha class, and I recently added in an intro to power yoga. It’s definitely a change-up, but my body loves it! Mixing things up is a good way to learn new things about your body.

  4. I’m going to be cheating on Bikram myself in October. Doing a week at Kripalu. Excited and scared! Great post.

    • Oh that sounds awesome!! I’m crazy-jealous :)

  5. What timing for this post! I am on vacation this week and my goal is to try at least one new form of yoga, everything else be damned! I am going to Sumits Hot Yoga tomorrow (if all goes well) which is a form developed by one of Bikram’s students — maybe even a family member (???). I also want to try one other form of yoga while I’m off work. I only hope that the universe allows this to happen…


    • Hope your vacation was amazing! Sumit’s a former Bikram student, not a family member :) But I’d love to hear what it was like!

  6. I’m the opposite way! I’m a diehard Vinyasa fan, so my teachers are trying to convince me to also have a regular Bikram practice. ;)

  7. I’m a Vinyasa girl myself and am glad you liked it! It’s just so funny how different the classes make people feel. It totally died during my first Bikram class but then wasn’t as tired afterwards (which is weird because it’s so much longer and hotter). Are you going to keep going?

    • I think everyone dies during their first Bikram class. Unless you’re like me, and then you die during your first FIFTY Bikram classes :)

      I’m still trying other classes here and there, but a) it’s expensive when I’m already paying monthly Bikram fees and b) MAN. It kills me. After a class full of planks and downward dogs, I seriously can’t lift my arms for three days afterwards.

  8. That’s funny-I did Bikram for 3 years and I had to be instructed over and over again that there is nothing interesting up on the ceiling and that I should not crunch up my neck just to look up. I am much better at lengthening through the spine and finding my own horizon now…I miss certain things about Bikram and I am actually nursing really, really, really sore shoulder muscles from yesterday’s Vinyasa class’s Chaturangadanasanas…oy. I may have been a bit too vigorous (c: I am glad that you enjoyed it and got to see a different side of Yoga. I was really, really skeptical when a friend of mine told me to come to this particular class–I was a BIkram girl, I didn’t want any pansy gym yoga…but, turns out, the Vinyasa class makes me sore every week and I learn something new every time I go…and I don’t get yelled at if I laugh at myself in class (out loud!) when I fall flat on my face trying to do a pick up and jump back…You’re totally right about getting that outside perspective and also how unnerving it can be to make eye contact with someone else! My Bikram teacher told us that if we accidentally touched our neighbor during a class that we were touching an angel-I feel the same way about making eye contact with someone–we’re just connecting with them. Keep exploring!

    • I have a teacher who likes to say (during Full Locust) “If you touch your neighbour, that’s okay… just don’t FEEL your neighbour ;)”

  9. that’s great to read about trying new stuff! the biggest kick I get out of yoga is trying new classes with new teachers. I love the practice, but I get a thrill out of new situations. on June 3 where I live I hear there is a class where you do 108 sun salutations, to celebrate the summer solstice! you should look for a class like that :)

    • Ahahahahahahaha. Hah. No. I would DIE OMG. Plus we’re coming into winter in Australia, so I’ll have to wait a while for any summer solstice celebrations :P

  10. I had a time where I did one on and one off (ie. bikram one day, ashtanga the next) and continued this way for a while – I’m far from that sort of fitness or flexibility now BUT pleased to tell you from experience that one helps you improve on the other so you end up seeing results faster! I found ashtanga helped with strength + toning and bikram helped with flexibility + weight loss – you’d be amazed at the results! Once you get used to it, your recovery will be much quicker!! :)

    • This is what I really wanted to do! But I just can’t afford to do both… and the regular yoga classes KILL me. Seriously, I can’t lift my arms for a couple days after doing a class full of Downward Dogs and Planks. And I hate taking that much time off from Bikram just to nurse sooky muscles :(

  11. The only other yoga I have done is vinyasa and I love it. Doing Bikram jostles me mentally because I sooooo want to go into down dog or do my sun salutation and warriors. Not doing the flow my body likes really threw me off, but I have to say after two nights of Bikram, I like the change. That doesn’t mean I am going to give up my main yoga love, but see if I can balance it out this month I am doing Bikram :)

    New to your blog btw. And I can only handle a small number of sn salutations before I go nuts. Haha.

    • Hi and welcome :) I didn’t go nuts after the FIFTY MILLION HOURS of sun salutations… but bloody hell, I was sore afterwards! I’m kind of scared to go back now!!

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