That that don't kill me, can only make me stronger. I need you to hurry up now, cause I can't wait much longer. Kanye West, Stronger

Monday, March 3, 2008

Bikram NYC Flatiron

So I finally took my second class at Bikram NYC Flatiron. For some reason, getting me to Bikram is like getting gym haters to the gym! But I arrived to my second class at 6:40am this morning. (I spent most of my weekend vigorously studying for my first exam in three years. But I did sneak in a spinning class and a few workout videos. Totally skipped all workouts on Friday for socializing.)

So let's start with the first class, as it was a totally different experience from the second one. I went to a 3pm Tuesday class (my office had a fire and we didn't have work!). My first reaction was that it smelled horrible in the studio. I wouldn't say I am overly sensitive, but it wreaked. I didn't understand how people were dealing with it. But I went up to the front desk and hoped I would quickly adjust to the horrible scent--It never did.

The receptionist was not extremely friendly, and I had to pay $7 for mat and towel rental--I didn't want to get my mat all sweaty. I also thought they were included with the intro week, but I guess not on the class pack. I also spent $2 on a 32 ounce smartwater, which seemed like a great deal comparatively.

The run of the mill locker rooms had tiny lockers, which no one was using. I decided to bring my bag into the studio with me just in case.

The studio room itself was very nice and open, with one wall all windows directly facing the Flatiron Building. It was definitely 105 degrees! There are mirrors in the front, not typical for yoga. I really wasn't prepared to be so up close and personal with my body, wearing only shorts and a sports bra. I recently heard someone say that Bikram Yoga can quickly become naked yoga! (There are naked yoga studios in the city, but I don't intend to try them.) My second class I was in the back, which was better for my focus.

At any rate, I really didn't know what I was in for other than heat. I kind of thought it would be like hot vinyasa yoga, but it is very different. You basically spend 90 minutes of "grueling meditation" going through 26 poses, 2 times each. See diagram for poses.

Classes start and end with a breathing exercise, which I definitely prefer to chanting. I like to sing in groups only at Girl Scout Camp.
The first half is standing, mainly focusing on balance. It wasn't incredibly hard. A bit uncomfortable though.

The second half is on the ground, which is actually more demanding in ways because you keep flipping back to front. It challenged my strength and stamina, and definitely my flexibility. I also liked that it was a communal activity, our collective energy was supposed to help us through the poses.
I left feeling very calm and at one with the universe, corny as it sounds. But I didn't think I really got a workout. I also wasn't sure I really wanted to go back.

I never think to research classes until after I take them. I ran the marathon before I started gobbling up running books like thanksgiving dinner. So I was planning on doing some more research to see what the obsession is all about when I received a very nice thanks for attending email from the studio. I really appreciate those touches! Here is an excerpt:

"Welcome to Bikram Flatiron. Whether it was your first time in class or you’ve practiced at other studios, we’re glad you could come and try out our favorite kind of yoga. We know it gets hot in the room, and your first class is not necessarily the easiest thing you’ve done, but make sure you take advantage of your intro week and come again. The second class is very different from the first, and the classes keep getting better and better.

Making Bikram a regular part of your lifestyle produces a range of benefits such as:
Increases metabolism
Improves the digestive system
Cleanses the body of toxins
Increases joint stability and mobility
Makes you immune to the annoyance of the subway!"

So the balancing of the body and metabolism more than the calorie burn is supposed to help your body.

My second class, as promised very different from the first. The room didn't smell, thank god!

My instructor was so energetic and upbeat, kind of a cross between a game show host and an auctioneer. He spoke quickly and rhythmically, varying tone in pitch in long connected sentences.

But he really helped me focus. He also corrected pretty much everything I did until I was doing it perfectly. He helped us push ourselves to the edge, saying without challenge there can not be change.

The room definitely seemed hotter, super hot in fact! As it was very early in the morning the first few poses were really challenging. Fortunately, you only hold them half as long the second time around.

I enjoyed the class more, I worked very hard with the motivation of the instructor, push, push, pushing us through every second.

In both classes I was pretty sweaty, especially for me, I don't sweat much. The showers at the studio are very see through, just so you know!

So again I left class happy and upbeat. I felt cleansed and detoxed. It was really warm out, so I walked the 20 blocks to work without my ipod so I could experience the city instead of totally zoning out to Soulja boy or something.

Again I felt like I would need a cardio workout and since I don't have a whole lot of time on my hands to do multiple workouts, I would tend to focus on cardio. But by the time I got to the office I realized I was really sore. The soreness lasted all day, which is a sign I got a great workout! I definitely enjoy the cleansing and mental benefits, and craved water all day, I managed to drink 4 liters!

One of my blog intentions was to review as many workouts as possible and maybe someday write a book, but it looks like a yoga duo has beat me to it! You can buy a book called Citystretch which review 250 studios in NYC, several studios offer a free class for anyone carrying the book check it out.

PS Lot more deals coming up after midterms.


Kath said...


Thanks for the great review of Bikram. I'm scared to try it myself - not because of the class, but because I don't have a yoga mat anymore and am scared of going to a new studio, etc. Your report made me bolder to go to a new place! Thanks!


Kelly said...

Thanks for sharing! Do you think you are sore because you built muscle or because you stretched muscles in a different way? I am trying to decide whether yoga is enough or if I need weight training. Do you think it would be enough (I know you have limited experience with yoga).

Last, do they hold poses a long time in bikram? Thanks!

Melissa said...

Hi Kelly,

I think I am sore because I used my muscles in a new way and definitely lengthened them. Many of the poses called on my physical strength to hold, and I wasn't strong enough to hold a few of the poses, just like in other yoga classes when I can't do headstands.

The first time you do the pose you hold for 60 seconds, the second time for 30.

As far as strength training versus bikram to develop muscle, I am still trying to figure this out.
I think it will help define muscle, and create nice long muscle, but I am not sure if it is as effective as strength training. Just looking at the students in the yoga classes I take, there is a huge range from lean and defined, to super cut, to not very toned, so it's hard to tell!

This is probably a good question for Jenna.