So I’ve made it no secret that I’m on a big yoga kick these days. Given my background in dance and fitness, yoga is something that comes naturally. I’ve been practicing yoga sporadically and informally for about 8 years, taking classes at the gym and teaching Les Mills BODYFLOW, which is a fusion of yoga, tai chi and pilates that builds strength, balance and flexibility. In the 6 months leading up to my wedding I started taking Bikram Yoga and LOVED IT. It really helped me obtain the physical goals that I wanted for my wedding (in fact I lost so much weight… a lot of it water weight… that I had to have my dress altered significantly right before the wedding). And then I stopped. Cold turkey. Got out of the habit, hot weather set in, and I was feeling turned off by the cost and time commitment of practicing the same thing 3-5 times a week for 90 minutes.
Then I moved to Dallas. I’ve mentioned before that I live one block from an amazing yoga studio called Uptown Yoga (www.uptownyoga.com). When I first moved in I immediately noticed lots of folks just like me walking around with yoga mats and decked out in Lululemon (I have an addiction people — let’s move on). I knew I had to give it a try and I was hooked. I’d never really experienced a Vinyasa Flow practice in this setting: a beautiful airy studio with exposed brick and beams and lots of light. Fantastic friendly instructors and a real sense of community. I’ve been taking classes at Uptown usually 3 times a week, and Kevin has also taken a huge interest in yoga as well. We practice together at least once a week and it’s one of my favorite things to do together.
So why was I itching recently to get back into Bikram yoga? No idea really. It’s hot as hell outside. I’ve become accustomed to enjoying variety in class with a soundtrack of music. I like wearing pants to class.
Let’s contrast Bikram. 105 degree room. No music. Same series (26 postures, performed twice, and 2 breathing exercises) every time. Wearing as little clothing as possible, no pants allowed (we wear shorts people — very very short ones — get your mind out of the gutter).
Considering everything I love about Vinyasa Flow, the idea of Bikram hasn’t been all that appealing. But I wanted to sweat. I wanted to be forced into brutal honestly with my body. I wanted to lose a few pounds. So I gave it a go again, this time at Bikram Yoga Dallas (www.yogadallas.com).
My first class back after 16 months was awful. Terrible. I was miserable and spent the whole class dizzy, nauseated and felt like my heart might explode. I sat out several postures and couldn’t wait for it to end. I felt defeated. And then I resolved to go back the very next day.
That is the key to Bikram — each practice builds on the one before it. And the more often you practice, the better. There will be good days and bad days. So much of it is mental toughness and commitment. So I went back. And it sucked. Again. I decided to seek out the instructor after class to find out what might be the problem and explained how I had just re-started my practice. One word stuck out in his response: EGO. (Boom!) Remember my post “Working Out Your Ego?” Yep. A lightbulb went off. I have made huge strides in enjoying my Vinyasa practice with no agenda, no competitive drive, just accepting each class as it is and it’s been amazing. But with Bikram, I was pushing myself so hard in every pose, picking up where I left off last April 2011 and expecting the same results. This was clearly not practical and I knew he was right.
So I decided to take a day off, go to Uptown with Kevin (had an AMAZING class), and then went back to Bikram this morning. What a difference! I told myself to just relax. Focus on backing off on the poses a bit to pace myself. And I ended up getting deeper into many of them than normal. I didn’t have to sit out any postures. My heart didn’t feel like it was about to beat out of my chest. And I felt amazing when class was over.
So… will I keep it up? I’m dedicated to a consistent Bikram practice for the rest of this month. But can I balance 3-5 Bikram classes, my 3-4 Vinyasa classes, and teaching my regular Gold’s classes? Heck no. I’d have to say I enjoy Vinyasa practice a lot more and I’ll probably stick with it long-term, whereas I see more short-term results with Bikram. Time will tell.
So here’s my rundown on the 2 studios, “Watering Hole Wednesday” style:
Studio: Uptown Yoga
Cost: Drop-in $15. Monthly unlimited if you auto-pay is $108/month.
Beginners: $10 for 10 days is the promotion for first timers who live in the area. They also have classes twice a week strictly for beginners.
Feel/Ambiance: As stated earlier, the studio is warm and inviting, with exposed brick walls and just a few mirrors for those who chose to place their mat in front of them. Instructors chose their own music which varies from ambient to Top 40. A little for everyone. The lighting is soft, you feel a bit like you’re outdoors.
Heat: The room is set to 85 degrees. Moderate humidity. Warm enough to sweat and get deeply into postures but not so bad that you could wring out your clothes afterwards.
Frequency of classes and Instructors: 6 classes a day on weekdays and 4 on weekends. 60 minutes each. You can see who is teaching online, and they hold pretty regular schedules, always announcing online when there is a sub.
Attire and Accessories: Lots of Lululemon (I fit right in). Participants are encouraged to wear fitted clothing and dress “modestly.” Mostly capris and tanks. Most folks bring their own mat and lots use yoga towels (I don’t, but I have Lululemon’s The Mat, which is amazing and you don’t slip.). Mats are always available to borrow for class and they sell a wide selection of yoga towels and clothing.
Location: 3 locations. Uptown, Lakewood and The Colony. I’ve only been to the Uptown location, but it’s clearly UBER convenient for me.
Attendees: At the Uptown location it’s mostly young professionals like me. Skews pretty young and hot. But definitely not intimidating. An impressive ratio of women to men (I’d call is 60:40). I love seeing so many men practicing yoga, and they are among some of the most dedicated.
Studio: Bikram Yoga Dallas
Cost: Drop in for $20. Monthly unlimited if you auto-pay (3 month commitment) is $99.
Beginners: Promotion is $49 for monthly unlimited your first month. Every class is considered a beginners series. They also have a monthly workshop for beginners only with Q&A.
Feel/Ambiance: Apparently the studio is recently renovated. It’s located on the second floor of a Tom Thumb anchored shopping center. But you would never know it from the inside. Lots of natural light, feels very open and loft/industrial style. The room is quite large. Classes are held with the lights on and they are quite bright. It’s part of Bikram’s practice. Be honest with what you see in the mirror. Mirrors are on 2 full walls. You have to focus on yourself — Bikram says you are your best teacher. Outside the studio is lots of concrete and hard surfaces… usually dripping with sweat! No music. Just the rhythmic set of instructions being spouted out by the instructor.
Heat: Minimum 105 degrees. 50-60% humidity. Hot as Hades, no lie. You will lose a few pounds in water weight each class (don’t worry… it come back. :/ )
Frequency of classes and instructors: 5-7 classes per day, 90 minutes each. As far as I can tell, they don’t post who’s teaching what classes. Since I’ve only been a few times, not sure if instructors hold permanent/regular time slots, but I recall from other Bikram studios that they like to rotate the schedule pretty often. Not sure how I feel about this. As an instructor, I know that preferences for certain instructors really drives attendance and keeps people coming back.
Attire and Accessories: Wear as little as possible. Booty shorts, tiny sports bras. No shirts for men. Breathable fabrics. You have to expose it all, for practical reasons (it’s too damn hot) and to allow your body to grip skin to skin. No one is checking you out. It’s pretty benign for all the skin that’s showing. You can rent mats and towels. Most people bring their own. A yoga towel or big bath/beach towel is a must to go over your mat. And it will be drenched. Water or other hydrating beverages (coconut water, Gatorade, etc) are also required accessories and are available for purchase.
Locations: Currently just one, at Mockingbird and Abrams near SMU. But they are planning another location in the West Village part of Uptown for this Fall. That would definitely be more convenient!
Attendees: A little bit of everything. Newbies, hard core yogis. Young, middle age. Fit and de-conditioned. Men and women. Yoga is for everyone here.
That’s my quick rundown. As my old teacher in Arlington used to say, All Yoga is Good Yoga. Just find what works for you!