Schools Out: Get down and hot with Bikram yoga

Bikram Yoga better known as Hot Yoga, is a style of yoga developed by Bikram Choudhury, Heather Galuppo, and a Los Angeles, California based company. Choudhury has made many claims that his method is the only true hatha yoga practiced in the West, which seems to be a little preposterous. Bikram Yoga is ideally practiced in a room heated to 105°F (40.5°C) with a humidity of 50%. Classes are guided by specific dialogue including 26 postures and two breathing exercises. Classes last approximately 90-minutes. People of all levels, ages and body types practice together.


Schools Out: Get down and hot with Bikram yoga

To be honest, the only exercise I get is when I walk my dog. So when I was asked to join a 90-minute Bikram yoga class, I was worried that my medical insurance coverage would be inadequate. But accept I did.

Like many others, I see yoga as a number of rather scary (and painful) stretches, contorting your body into very unnatural positions. But don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but admiration for those people who put up with all that pain for the benefit of their health.

Benjaporn Karoonkornsakul, the director and instructor at Bikram Yoga Bangkok, told me that learning this technique would heal my painful knees, my tight shoulders and sore back inherited from long hours working in front of a computer screen. I was, though, worried about forcing my inflexible body to go too far, but Benjaporn ensured me that the 26 yoga postures were very basic and designed to benefit both the beginner and the experienced.

Another thing that was on my side, as I was told, was the 35-degree-Celsius temperature in the studio, unique to this style of yoga. The reason, it would encourage the loosening of my muscles, tendons and ligaments, meaning forced movement would not be an issue, as Benjaporn so eloquently put it.

The studio’s temperature was bearable but, boy, did it make the pores gush. I don’t think I’d ever sweated so much, my top and pants were completely soaked. However, I was advised to drink a lot of water beforehand and after, while sipping during.

“Some people complain about the heat through the few first classes, but funnily enough, later they want the temperature increased. The heat makes them sweat a lot and they love it. They feel the satisfaction of the exercises, getting all sweaty. It also forces them to drink water, [which is of course good for their health],” said Benjaporn.

The bending was not as bad as I thought. However, one thing to keep in mind is to know your limits. Those who are regulars or have practised yoga for a long time will definitely be able to stretch, bend and twist more.

“Don’t expect to be as flexible as the person next to you. And don’t feel bad if you can’t make it to the correct posture,” said Benjaporn. “It’s just yoga. And yoga is something to be practised throughout life,” added John Anderson, an American instructor who taught my class.

Sasinee Vivatpatanakul, 19, a second-year student in commerce and accountancy at Chulalongkorn University, said: “Each time I come to class I do what I can, and I feel that as each day passes I can go that little bit further.”

During the class the instructor walks around and keeps a close eye on everyone’s movement, helping and supporting where needed. There was also encouragement, even for me with postures that looked more suited to a zombie horror movie. Those taking the class were encouraged to lie down and rest when needed.

“Yoga is all about the mind. If your mind says enough, you may want to quit and just walk out of the door. But if you lie down for five minutes, you’ll feel better and want to go on,” Benjaporn said.

Arpavadee Kenpaisal, 19, another second-year student from the commerce and accountancy faculty, said: “During the first class I felt that the length of time we were in each posture went on for ever. I was praying for the instructor to say ‘change’. But as I got more used to it the pain receded and now the classes seem to fly by.”

Unbelievably, I somehow made it to the end. And I felt good about myself even though during class I couldn’t raise my legs more than one or two centimetres off the ground or keep my arms high in the air for long, among my other failures.

I found it quite stimulating, realising it was more like challenging and competing with and for myself.

Things to know Bikram Yoga, also known as hot yoga, is the first of its kind in Thailand, but there are around 500 studios around the world. The studio offers 23 classes a week with at least three sessions a day, all are conducted in English. There are four instructors, each of which has passed a 600-hour intensive training programme at the Bikram Yoga College of India in Los Angeles.

Benjaporn Karoonkornsakul, the Managing Director, founder and owner of Absolute Yoga Bangkok (http://www.absoluteyogabangkok.com) has trained to become the first bikram hot yoga teacher in Bangkok. After the first year, Absolute Yoga Bangkok branched out to offer other traditions of yoga and opened more locations to distinguish ourselves as Bangkok’s dedicated yoga place.