1. Hydrate before class! I like to begin hydrating 2 hours before class, and stop drinking water one hour before. This gives you enough time to drink plenty of water, and then enough time before to urinate most of it out so you don’t have to go during class. Seriously, hydrate. Your urine should be clear. Enough said on that subject. Hydration is non-negotiable.
2. Electrolytes can be a game-changer. I’m so grateful an experienced yogi let me in on this secret early in my practice. I like to take one electrolyte capsule an hour before class. Since I started taking these before class, my tendency to feel nauseated or dizzy decreased drastically. I have been using these for a couple years.
3. Breathe. Slowly. Through your nose. And with control. This is key. This is crucial. Your breath is what links your mind to your body, and if you lose control of your breath, you cannot gain control of your mind. If you notice yourself panting, or breathing uncontrollably, stop and rest until you gain control of your breath. When I first started Bikram yoga, I couldn’t get enough oxygen, ever and thus, I breathed with my mouth open. The teachers would always yell at me to close my mouth and breathe through my nose from their podiums and I thought to myself “If I close my mouth, I will die”. Eventually, I closed my mouth, and I didn’t die. Actually, I became calmer, stronger, and more relaxed. Breathing through the nose is key, even though it’s counterintuitive. Try it even if you think you might die.
4. Cold water is worth its weight in gold. A lot of Bikram devotees will tell you that cold water is a cheat (in fact the hardcore yogis skip water all together during their practice) but let me tell you, when I was first starting Bikram, cold water was a godsend. During first savasana, I would lay down, take a deep sip of cold water and almost cry in gratitude for that little treat. Many times I contemplated how amazing it was to feel so grateful for something as simple as cold water. I like to fill a 32oz Nalgene bottle to 12 oz and then stick it in the freezer, then in class I have 1/3 of the water bottle full of ice to keep my water nice and frosty. Also…don’t drink too much water at one time during class because it will make you feel sick, especially in camel posture.
5. Don’t judge. Don’t judge your practice, just try to notice where you are at (e.g. flexibility, mental strength, stress level) and enjoy yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. Do your best and be present in your body. Your best today will not be your best yesterday. Everyday is different. Judgment takes you out of the moment, and out of that mind/body connection. “Judging” pertains not only to your postures, but also to your body. The mirror in Bikram can be your worst enemy in the beginning, but learn to use it as a tool to see your postures, not to compare your Body Mass Index to the girl (or guy) next to you. Use the mirror as an opportunity to learn how to love and accept your body.
6. The Golden Rule. Be a good yogi neighbor. Don’t grunt, pant or invade your neighbor’s mat. Breathing should not be audible during your practice. Refer to tip #3 if you have anymore questions on this one. If you can, please brush your teeth before AM yoga practices. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve smelled morning breath during pranayama deep breathing. This is avoidable with 2 minutes and a toothbrush. Don’t drink water while your neighbors are balancing. Don’t walk to the bathroom or leave the room while your neighbors are balancing. Wait until the posture is over to do these things. Balance takes focus, and focus takes a lot of energy, so be courteous when your neighbors are in the zone. Don’t come to class drunk, buzzed or on drugs! I’ve seen some wrecks in the studio and it’s not fun for anybody when someone faints during the second posture because they decided to get high before class. Hangovers never make for a good yoga class either (refer to tip #1).
7. Wear clothing made with athletic material and bring a change of clothes. Cotton will just weigh you down, especially when it’s drenched in your own pungent sweat. The less you wear, the better you’ll feel when the room is 105F. You will not want to wear your clothes home whether you shower or not because they will be disgusting. The person who introduced me to yoga explained “it’s like you jumped into a pool of your own sweat” and though I didn’t believe him before trying Bikram, after my first class I realized it really is like you “jumped into a pool of your own sweat”.
8. Bring two towels and a hand towel. One regular towel to place on your mat during practice, one for drying off after class, and a hand towel for placing under your face during the spine series or for wiping your hands before standing head to knee, standing bow, bow, and rabbit.
9. 100% correct for 40% of the time is better than 40% correct for 100% of the time. If you practice Bikram regularly, you’ve heard this line many times. Unfortunately, many people don’t follow this rule. What Bikram meant when he coined this phrase was that you want to do the postures correctly, even if it means you must rest for half the time in order to muster the strength for the correct postures. Yoga is about honesty and integrity. It’s about connecting the mind with the body and leaving your ego at the door. I’ve seen too many people kicking their leg out in standing head to knee pose before their standing leg is locked. Don’t be that person. It took me an entire year before I even tried to kick my leg out. I didn’t have the strength or the flexibility yet, and now I kick my leg out every time. Be patient and be honest refer to tip #5. Just accept where you are at in each posture and be honest about it.
10. Yoga mirrors life. What I mean by this is that the lessons you need to learn in yoga are often the lessons you need to learn in life. Use your yoga practice as a growing opportunity ALWAYS. Do you compare yourself to others in class, do you notice that you think self-defeating messages, do you refuse to allow yourself a break even though you are dying, do you panic during uncomfortable postures? How we practice yoga is often how we practice life, so take notice. Your yoga mat is the perfect place to begin making life changes and personal transformations.