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23rd February 2016

It’s getting hot in here, so bring two towels

Liam Kelly turns up the heat with Bikram Yoga

In a bid to further my quest to become a total parody of myself, and to add a semblance of productivity to my crippling, chronic procrastination, I decided to spend £30 and sign up for a 30-day trial period at Bikram Yoga in the Northern Quarter.

For the uninitiated, Bikram Yoga is a yoga class done in a studio heated up to 40°C, and with 40 per cent humidity—which, for 90 minutes, sees its practitioners do 26 postures of various difficulty, as well as two breathing exercises.

The proprietors of Bikram Yoga promise a lot, claiming that regular practice improves mindfulness, flexibility, strength, muscle tone, and general fitness. As none of those have ever applied to me, I was intrigued to see what effect regular yoga classes would have.

Now, while I was not a total novice to yoga practice (I started following an online video in my Oak House bedroom, which was not great for achieving proper form), the first session of Bikram was a real shock to the system.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most shocking aspect was the combination of the heat and humidity, along with their inevitable partner: sweat. Before going to the studio, you are asked to bring two towels with you, as well as plenty of water. If anything, that is not enough.

By the end of the 90 minutes, after the final breathing exercise, every member of that class came out drenched in their own fluid and carried out their a totally saturated towel, as well as a sense of having accomplished something.

As I went to more and more classes, the routine became more manageable; however, as each class is choreographed in exactly the same way, there is a danger of it becoming dull.

Each class proved more than capable of totally tiring me out, making the rest of day a recuperative affair, with an average session burning roughly 400 calories. Inexplicably, there are sadists who exist in the Manchester area that take on the 30 Day Challenge—taking part in Bikram classes for 30 consecutive days, or more.

Even more inexplicably (and unacceptably), the attire of one older gentleman who was a regular at the class consisted solely of a canary yellow pair of Speedo-style swimsuit. It is an image I will try to shake, but I fear it may live with me for the rest of my days.

“Inner peace” is an inherently difficult state of mind to achieve, and I’m not sure if I have ever, or ever will, achieve it. However, all of these sessions of Bikram that I attended were so taxing mentally and physically that it was almost impossible to think about anything that was happening outside that room. Never before have I felt so “in the moment”, which was a hugely welcomed change from exam and essay stress.

Plus, I never knew that I was capable of standing on one leg whilst pulling the other towards the top of my head. Or, as Bikram instructors call it, the standing bow pose.

On balance, whilst I enjoyed my month of Bikram, it is not for the faint of heart (or body). And with its cheapest subscription being £65 per month for 12 months (10 per cent less with a student card) I do not anticipate returning to the Bikram studio any time soon.

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