Posted by: kerryalina | 13 March 2013

Dirty Little Secret

It’s no secret that I love Bikram.  I love the sequence, the teachers, the community, the constant opportunities to learn and grow.  But you know what?  I think I’d love it even more at room temperature.

Sure, I can appreciate the virtues of the heat.  As soon as I enter the studio, I can feel my muscles relaxing and lengthening.  The sweat pouring from every square centimetre of skin makes sliding into Eagle a breeze.  The heat adds one more element of difficulty, encouraging the adoption of grace and focus under pressure.  And while I’m sceptical of the toxin-cleansing claims that run rampant in the hot yoga community, I’ll happily admit that when practicing regularly, my sweat becomes clearer and less pungent, which can only be a good thing when later I’m running for a tram on a 40 degree summer day.

But, dammit, I just don’t like it.

I always assumed that at some point I’d become acclimatised to the heat, that I’d begin to not even notice it – even start to welcome it.  And to a certain extent, that’s been true – at least it no longer hits me in the face like a steamed towel when I walk through the front doors.  When I came back from my four month break, there was even two blissful months where I didn’t notice the temperature at all.  I had some classes where I was too exhausted to complete all the postures (*coughTrianglecough*), but not once in this glorious period did I even begin to feel overheated.  At some point, I decided that this was it.  I was acclimatised.  I could take whatever the thermostat threw at me and work it, baby!

So of course the next day, I got hit by the yoga bus.  And the day after that.  And the day after that.  I make it halfway through spine strengthening, then spend the rest of the class edging ever closer to panic.  Lying gasping on my mat, convincing myself that I couldn’t breathe, that my heart was beating out of my chest, that if I didn’t get out of the room RIGHT THIS SECOND, I was going to die.

Now, I am absolutely 100% certain that I’m not going to die.  But I’ll be damned if I can convince myself of that during locust pose.  And I’m pretty sure it’s becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy at this point – I expect the panic to hit, I’m waiting for the panic to hit, and so of course it does.

I’m hoping it’s related to this unprecedented (and soon-to-be-broken) heat wave that Melbourne is currently experiencing, but just in case it’s not… does anyone have a magic tip for staving off the monkey brain?  Or reassuring tales of heat acclimatisation suddenly occurring after two years of practice?  Because I’m rapidly approaching the point where I just give up the last half hour of my practice as a lost cause.  Maybe I can start writing out my grocery list during Camel instead ;)



  1. Does your teacher let you drink water whenever you want during class? I went to a Bikram class once (so: expert! lol) and the teacher told me “I’ll tell you when you can have water during Water Break Time.” Maybe you’re dehydrating? In power vinyasa we’re free-feeders and it’s been a while since I thought I was going to die.

    • Definitely not dehydrating; I drink 4-5 litres of water a day plus electrolytes if I’ll be practicing! Your teacher should have explained a little better – in Bikram we try to avoid water for the first three postures (15-20 mins) so that the body can warm up, after which there’s an “official” water break (better known as Party Time!). For the rest of class you can drink whenever you want :)

      • Not at my studio! There is no water allowed in class, period! Drinking water is supposedly a distraction — harumph! I lose 5+ pounds per class (which is about 5% of my body weight) and feel like crap each and every class, but I keep coming back because I paid for a year-long membership and I am going to get my money’s worth by coming every day, sometimes twice a day. Believe me, when that year is up, I am out of the minimum 105F/50% humidity hot room! Yes, I’ve received benefits, but I bet I could receive a heck of a lot more with lower temp, or at least some fresh air to evaporate some of the sweat from my sopping wet self that looks like it’s been standing in a torrential downpour by the time I begin half moon. Even Tony Sanchez (mentored by Bikram and the 84 Asanas poster boy) says no to the heat.

        I drink about a gallon a day outside of class.

  2. I used to be bothered by the heat if the room got too hot. Nowadays, it just doesn’t affect me anymore. I guess I broke through that wall. In fact, the room didn’t get hot enough once last week, and I did not have a very good class. Of course, when summer returns to us in the States, it will be another story. The room never seems to cool off, and it heats up exponentially each day.
    Does your room have hot and cool spots? Ours does, and it helps to stay away from the heating vents.
    I love the “(*coughTrianglecough*)” bit. I used to sit out triangle a lot, now I want to sit out of Balancing Stick.

    • We do… normally! Generally the teacher will open the door once or twice throughout class to let some cooler air in, so the closer you are to the door, the more bearable the temperature. The problem is that we’ve had 35+ degree days (95 farenheit) for the last 2-3 weeks straight, so it’s pretty much the same temperature inside and outside the hot room! Opening the door does nothing, so there are no cool spots anywhere right now. Woe is me ;)

  3. When I was a kid, I threw up during stick ONCE. And for years after that, I’d panic going into it, I’d run out to the bathroom every single class… Just in case it made me sick again.

    Eventually, I talked to my favorite teacher about it, and she told me some funny stories about doing stick- so I had some humorous associations, plus she’d come stand by me and touch my hand sometimes. It was enough to keep me in the room.

    Now, I do both sets most days. But I STILL have to talk myself into it every time.

    (I don’t know if that’s useful, but I know the feeling)

    Do you usually drink at the same places every class? Could you possibly be going into the spine strengthening with a little too much water in your belly, making it uncomfortable to lay on your stomach? I’ve don’t that, and just feel panicky instead of feeling like I’ve had too much to drink.

    I know you can beat that monkey brain!

    • That’s totally useful! I have a similar problem with Triangle – when I first started, my legs were too weak to hold myself up and my straight leg kept sliding out. I ended up pulling my inner thigh muscle quite badly, which was painful and scary and nearly two years later, I still get anxious and pull out if my legs start to wobble. However, I’ve found that when the teacher makes a joke when I’m panicky, I can’t help but laugh and I immediately start to feel better. Maybe I’ll just start making knock knock jokes to myself during spine strengthening :)

      I down so much water throughout the day that I rarely drink much during class. I take a mouthful of water at Party Time and again at the end of the standing series, but it’s literally less than a tablespoon each time (it’s more to rinse out my mouth than for the hydration). If I’m feeling dehydrated then I drink more, of course… but I’m so conscious of getting enough fluids before class that it rarely happens!

  4. Thank you for writing! I actually needed to read this because I had an experience like this during an am class… for some reason they are so much harder than the pm ones for me!

    • I refuse to admit that morning classes exist ;) As far as I’m concerned, if I can’t make it to the evening class then there’s no yoga for me!

  5. Know that when it is hotter outside – you are literally hotter. The body has been cooling you off all day. Even if you’re not dripping, you are sweating though it may be evaporating as soon as it happens. Therefore, more water, more electrolytes are needed during hotter temperatures outside. Also, when I have a rough class I remind myself I can still breathe – one breath at a time – sometimes that’s all you need to make it through. It will get better – hang in there!

    • This is the thing that’s giving me the most hope right now! We’ve been in this truly unprecedented heat wave for the past 2-3 weeks… and it coincided perfectly with the air con at work dying completely. So I’ve been hot and bothered all day, and then I go to class where I get more hot and bothered… I’ve been careful about staying hydrated, but I think my body still cracked it at me! We’ve got some cooler weather coming through tonight, so I’m crossing my fingers that tomorrow my practice will be a little less panicked :)

  6. Do you practice at Fitzroy? I can let you in on a dirty secret… There is a cold air vent in the back corner of the room under the ballet bars. If you get there early enough to lay anywhere within the vicinity of it, every 20 minutes or so it comes on and blasts cool air for about 30 seconds. I always feel super naughty when I manage to nab that spot (it’s in high demand… I probably shouldn’t be telling you!). But it does provide some relief from that awful oppressing heat…

    • I’m already a big fan of the back corner whenever I’m at Fitzroy ;) But no, I generally practice as Prahran and Richmond. I stick to the cool spots… but with this heat, they just weren’t that cool! Hopefully it’ll be a bit more bearable today.

      • Hah, it backfired massively on me today — it didn’t come on until last minute!

  7. I can relate to the hot weather… it will be just as warm here in Texas before too long. I can also relate to liking the yoga. It’s always a love/hate relationship for me… dreading going at times but almost always thankful I went. Thanks for the comment on my post… I am glad to see you writing more!!


  8. This is quite fascinating for me – as I’m currently doing a Bikram 30 day challenge and I can say honestly that the heat doesn’t bother me… if anything I love the heat and all the sweat that pours out of me. I know this an unconventional response from a newcomer to Bikram!

    The only thing is that I feel quite funny afterwards (I’m only on Day 2!). I have slept amazingly both days – like a log – but I feel quite queasy and my body feels slow – it doesn’t hurt but I feel exhausted, whilst being very mentally alert? Perhaps it’s because I’m releasing all the toxins. I’m trying to keep as hydrated as possible…


    • I’m so jealous of people who don’t struggle with the heat! I love the sweat, but not the temperature :) I can rock it when the room’s around 38/39 degrees, but the second it hits 40 I start to struggle.

      If you’re feeling funny after class, especially if you’re feeling nauseous and/or lethargic, it’s almost definitely an electrolyte imbalance. You’re sweating out more than water – heaps of salts and minerals are also lost during class. And then you rehydrate with pure water, you’re further diluting what little is left. If you’re doing a challenge, there’s generally not enough time in between classes to replenish these naturally.

      So, either a few hours before or straight after class (try each way a few times – your body will have a preference), chuck some rehydration mix into your water bottle (my favourite is Nuun – tasty, convenient, natural(ish) and sugar free!), buy a bottle of sports drink (like Gatorade – but these are usually high in sugar and taste pretty meh), or drink some coconut water. Most studios sell a couple of rehydration options and any of these will help replenish your electrolytes. I promise they’ll help you feel better!

      • Wow, amazing advice! Thank you so much. I will definitely look into rehydration options… that makes a lot of sense.


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