I first heard about Bikram yoga in 2008, perhaps 2007. I went to my first class at Bikram Yoga West on a Sunday in July 2008. I’d read reviews, people’s blogs, what the ‘experts’ said, what a friend said… and I gave it a go. I was prepared for nausea during certain poses, the heat, not being allowed to leave the room… but what none of these reviews (or even my friend) told me was that the studio stinks to high heaven.
Nothing prepared me for the smell of stale sweat which started in the changing room and got worse as I walked closer to the studio. It makes sense – it’s a place where hundreds of people sweat every day. Of course it’s going to smell. But it’s nothing I’d even considered before then.
Luckily my first class was fairly empty – there must have been about 15 people there on that Sunday afternoon. The heat was relentless, I could barely do some of the poses, but I got through it. I got home, started watching the Wimbledon final, but passed out on the sofa. In the evening I called my friend and asked her why she hadn’t told me about the smell – she said that if she had, I wouldn’t have gone. She was right. I went back 3-4 times a week for a month. Evening classes were packed – there was about an inch between the mats – sardines. I learned that I absolutely hate Triangle Pose – I don’t know why. I just get annoyed when I’m in it. I lost a little weight, I slept so well, and everyone commented on how my skin was glowing. Then I went on holiday for 3 weeks.
On my return, I *intended* to go back to Bikram, but I never got there. It took a year for me to get back to it. I started going to Bikram Yoga Soho – it was a 10-minute walk from the office and I could get to a 5.30 or 6pm class after work. Again, I went frequently for a month and then went on holiday.
This time it took me 18 months to get back to it! I ambitiously bought a 10-class pass at Bikram Yoga West over Christmas – I was off for 2 weeks, I would go every day (yeah, right). I went twice and didn’t go back. My card expired. I renewed it and went back – after a four-month break. I was standing in the wrong place – I could see the clock behind me reflected in the mirror ahead. It seemed to have stopped. I must have checked it about 70 times in those 90 minutes. Halfway through the floor poses, I realised that I absolutely *hated* Bikram yoga – the heat was relentless and why on earth was I putting myself through that?? Once my pass was over, I wasn’t going back. Ever.
I went to two more classes after that – both during the week at 7pm. I think one of the drawbacks of going to that class is that the next class starts at 8.45pm. So, when I finished my class at 8.30, the changing room was completely full! After each class I just wanted to sit on a bench and recover, but with all the bustling women around me, it was impossible.
My pass expires on Friday and I still have five classes left on it. I’m planning to go tomorrow, but that’s it for me.
Whenever someone asks me what it’s like I tell them ‘Be prepared to be covered in sweat, and not necessarily your own!’ I never tell them how bad the studio smells!