Last Wednesday the doctor cleared me to move on from my removable soft cast into an ankle brace, which marks a huge step in my recovery process - I'm so excited! Since then I have taken a few celebratory yoga classes at my favorite spot, Bikram Yoga Dallas. Even though there are a lot of poses that I won't be able to do for awhile, it feels so, so good to be back in the hot room - I swear that the heat and the postures are therapeutic not only for my body but also for my mind.
The Bikram Yoga studios in Dallas are truly the most beautiful (and clean!) I've ever done yoga in, and the vibe from the other yogis that I practice with is so invigorating and encouraging - there's such a dedicated crew of people who consistently take classes and it really creates a good energy in the room. Sometimes, though, people do things in class that are disruptive, likely without realizing it. I know that I did these very same things when I first started practicing three and a half years ago. I wish someone would have told me what to do/what not to do right from the get go, preparing me for class and sparing the yogis around me from any annoyances incurred by placing their mats near a newcomer. (Actually, someone probably would have told me if I would have attended a New Student Orientation class that the studio offers, but that's neither here nor there.) So here are some tips that I've learned over the years that I would impart upon a newbie yogi. Summed up their entirety, these rules are part of my self-proclaimed Bikram Yoga Sweatiquette.
- We will all sweat a lot in class - after all, the room is heated to 104 degrees and the humidity is jacked up to 40%. But if you're an extra sweaty person, do everyone a favor and bring more than one towel to sop up the water around you. I understand that we may all fling a bit of sweat on each other throughout the course of the class, especially if the room is packed, but I've sometimes been in classes where I'm several feet away from my nearest classmate and still a terrifying stream of sweat makes its way towards me. This, of course, is unpleasant always but especially during savasana when my face is on the ground and uncomfortably close to the aforementioned sweat stream. Just, please, practice some awareness while you practice your yoga.
- Drink water in between postures, not during them. At our studios, there are three designated water breaks throughout class, and drinking water is discouraged before the initial break, as it prevents your body from warming up efficiently. Make sure to take swigs of your water afterwards while you're transitioning between postures, not while your classmates are currently engaged in them. It's distracting and, of course, jealousy-inducing - everyone else around you would probably rather be drinking water, too.
- Leave your phone and your watch in the locker room. It's so nice to take a break from your cell phone/e-mail/text messages, and it actually makes the class go by faster if you don't know what time it is. If you have a clock or to-do list to stare at, you'll only focus on how long you have to hold an uncomfortable posture instead of shifting your thoughts onto how wonderful you'll feel once class is finished.
- Stay home if you're sick. Some people believe in taking class even if they're unwell, and while I understand that some yogis may like the idea of sweating out their sicknesses, it's not a good practice (for the yogi or for the people in class with said yogi).
- Hydrate properly prior to coming to class. I cannot stress this one enough. Drink plenty of water and consume lots of electrolytes - you will be grateful for both, especially at the beginning of your practice when you're still getting used to the heated room. Also make sure to eat something healthy and light about an hour prior to class, even if you're practicing early in the morning - it will be very difficult to get through the 90-minute sweat session without some gas in your tank. Even when I don't think I can get a banana down before the 5:30 a.m. class, I make sure to drink some Spark so that I have a little boost of energy and a few additional calories to burn. This way you can make sure to stay in the room throughout the entire class. There is really nothing more distracting than someone leaving the room to refill a water bottle or get a drink. If you're feeling really crummy and you need some more liquids, ask your instructor to get something for you - they'll be so happy that you didn't leave the room that they'll have no problem grabbing you something to make you feel better.
- Bring fresh clothes to change into after class (even if you don't have time to stay and take a shower). This seems like a no-brainer but I didn't do this after my first class and I desperately wished that I could make some dry clothes appear out of thin air. I like changing into a bathing suit cover up that's light and airy, and that doesn't stick to my sweaty self.
- Tell your instructor if you have an injury that will prevent you from doing the postures correctly. This helps your teacher keep an eye out for you in case something happens and it allows him or her to make suggestions in the (highly likely) event that you need to customize certain postures. If you don't mention this initially, your instructor won't know that you're hurting and he or she will give you instructions that will push you further than you should go (which isn't their fault if they don't have any advance warning - they're just being good, motivational teachers).
- Every day will be different in the room, so don't worry if you feel like you've taken a step backwards - some days you'll be on your way to teacher training, and other days you'll need to take lots of extra savasanas. All that matters it that you came to class. Seriously. Remember what I said about the heat being therapeutic for both your body and your soul? Real talk. If you're still feeling fed up, keep your exasperation to a minimum and emote quietly - I have been in many a class where a yogi is so visibly and vocally frustrated that it's distracting.
There you have it, folks. If you have other questions about Bikram Yoga, the FAQ page on the studio's website is super helpful. Now get to sweating!
Image via Tumblr Gym: Yoga