I have yet to meet a person who hasn’t had some personal version of a “I wish they had warned me” story. When it comes to fitness, every Class Rookie has a tale to tell. I am the fitness personality who is always on the hunt for the best new experience, the ultimate workout routine, or the hottest boutique fitness studios. I am the explorer who scours New York City for new ways to break a sweat. As a result, I find myself in the awkward position of Class Rookie time and time again, thinking to myself “Really? You had to do this to yourself again?! You couldn’t just ask what the class was going to be like before you took it?”
On my hunt for the best workout in New York City I discovered Bikram Yoga in the Flatiron District (the studio has a number of locations in Manhattan, but this one is my favorite). Bikram Yoga is a type of hatha yoga characterized by a set series of breathing exercises performed in a very hot room. I have many friends who are serious yoga devotees who told me time and time again again Bikram Yoga and all of its glorious benefits. But I had never considered myself to be much a “get in touch with your inner yoga mat” kind of girl so I had shied away from Bikram for years.
When I finally took the plunge I never looked back. But taking that first step wasn’t entirely painless. These are some of the insider tips I wish I had known:
Tip #1: Wear flat shoes
My first mistake. Sometimes on “boutique studio” days I pack workout clothes sans sneakers to take with me to work because I know I will be shoeless in class. I invariably end up regretting this after class when I am sore, stiff, or fatigued from an incredible workout and have to hike home in five inch stilettos.
Tip #2: Arrive at least 10 minutes early
The room is H.O.T. Bikram Yoga is performed in 100+ degree heat. Your experience during the class will be infinitely more enjoyable (i.e. you won’t faint) if you give yourself some time to acclimate to the temperature.
Tip #3: Wear as little as possible
There is a time and a place for modesty. Bikram yoga definitely is neither the time nor the place. It’s gonna be hot. You’re gonna get sweaty. Every square inch of fabric matters.
Tip #4: Bring an extra towel
Did I mention the sweating?
Tip #5: Park yourself near the window
After my fourth or fifth class I found out that the temperature in the room varies slightly depending on your exact location. There are “hot spots” to avoid as a beginner (like the back corner of the last row in the second floor studio). Sometimes the instructors will open the window for a few minutes if the room is really heating up.
Tip #6: Wear leggings, not shorts
This is a slight contradiction to #3 but I still think it’s worth an honorable mention. A couple of the standing poses involve wrapping one leg around the other. If you are sweating up a storm then your thighs might be too slippery to nail each pose. Leggings helped me throw a little friction into the mix.
Tip #7: Bring a large bottle of water…but take small sips
Having an extra large bottle of water during Bikram is the proverbial safety net. It’s there if you need it. I try to drink only half of the bottle during class and then down the balance afterward. It’s also good to be mentally prepared for the fact that the instructors strongly discourage you from taking any water breaks during the first three poses because the goal is to “heat your body up, not cool it down.”
Tip #8: Don’t be a hero
If you need to sit down during class, just do it. I’ve had several instructors who have said during class, “if you are feeling nauseous, dizzy, or light-headed then you are doing something right.” Great! Thanks for the positive reinforcement but I am still nauseous, dizzy and lightheaded! I always think to myself in response. The instructors will tell you if you have to, sit for a pose but don’t leave the room. It’s good advice, take it.
Tip #9: Buy the one month unlimited
The second class actually feels harder than the first in Bikram. The first time around you don’t know what to expect or how your body will react. The second time around you know what’s coming. Buy the one month unlimited for beginners for $59. If you can get through a second or third class, chances are you’ll be hooked after that.
Tip #10: Eataly after!
One of the best things about the Bikram Yoga Flatiron Studio is that it is across the street from Eataly, Mario Batali’s all-around-hip half supermarket/half restaurant dining mecca on the corner of 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue. You can grab something to go or feel comfortable dining in gym clothes if you brought a friend to Bikram and want to make a night of it.