Plus size workouts: 10-day Bikram yoga programme at One Wellness Fitness Club
Hot in here
The lowdown: Ten consecutive days of Bikram yoga — is this actually humanly possible? Most might write it off but I said, "Let's see if I survive." The good news is I did. First things first, let's address the elephant in the room and do away with Bikram as a name with regards to the infamous yogi's controversial claim to fame. But essentially, the practice itself is a 90-minute hot yoga session comprising 26 postures repeated twice with two breathing exercises in a heated room of about 42°C. Yes, the heat is pretty intense.
As a beginner, the best thing is to imitate the other students in the class, especially when you aren't able to effectively catch what the teacher is saying. But at the end of the day, no matter what level you begin at, everyone sweats just about the same. Which is equivalent to taking a shower.
What I liked about it: I felt so much energy coming through after each class. I could do an 8.30am session on a Saturday, be out all day, go home to power nap, then party with mostly continuous dancing till 2am. In fact, over the ten days, I ended up partying unexpectedly on three nights. Life is strange, indeed.
Physically, you feel great for conquering such a class. All the teachers and students were encouraging and supportive. They were impressed with my 10-day journey and felt so proud when I completed it. The community spirit at One Wellness is particularly amazing.
Mentally, this 10-day challenge came at such an apt time in my life. The universe must have known I needed something to calm me down and give me strength. 2019 wasn't exactly the best year for me, as I have experienced pain, frustration, anger, loss, and grief in my personal life. Bikram yoga helped me through what I had already experienced and prepped me for what was to come. I am grateful for it.
The great thing about the practice and what it teaches you, especially for me, is no matter what you're going through in life — represented by the heat and humidity — is that you can do it. Even if you need to take a break, you can still finish well. It takes a crazy amount of concentration just to get the poses right. It's an exhausting practice, but you hold on your teacher's instruction of "follow along". Even with the heat engulfing your body, but you just learn to push away distractions, be present, and get on with it. Even with an intensive amount of sweat trickling off your skin, you have to ignore the feeling and get used to it. If you can do this, you can do anything — really.
As a bigger person: No matter what size you are, in your first class (or maybe even fourth), you will feel nauseous and dizzy at times. The key is to stay in class. If you need to only stand, or sit, or even lie down, that is fine, just stay in heated room. This applies to returning practitioners and even some advanced teachers that I witnessed needing to just sit and catch a breath. If you need to take a break, take it.
For girls like me who have a big stomach, it is completely fine to modify some poses. In my private class with Jill Alphonso (yes, One Wellness offers these too), I was taught to push my stomach aside when bending over during the standing series or bend my knees more than the pose calls for due to tight hamstrings, or place my hands in front for cat pose instead of rabbit pose just because I can't hold onto my heels with my tummy as a barrier.
In my first few sessions, the teachers praised my technique and ability to stay in class. The need to take a break was also lessened after every class. The 90 minutes truly felt like a blessing as it taught me to be present. All I did was concentrate on the poses, not think about anything else which felt like a meditation, and only listened to the instructions by the teacher. My mind quietened so I was more aware of my body — what hurt, what felt good —which helped me push myself further. It was insightful. Breathing is also a conscious effort (only through your nose) and I felt accomplished that I could do it.
For me, there was a deeper desire to consume healthier foods before and after the classes. Choices like salads and non-processed meals made me feel lighter within my body to tackle a hot class. To top it off, after ten days, I measured the biggest part of my stomach (which happens to be the circumference around the belly button) and I lost two inches.
The aftermath: I felt more energy like I haven't before. My shoulders and neck hurt less, I can hold my arms above my head for longer during poses, and I feel loosened up in my muscles and joints. Mentally, I feel calm, confident to handle challenges, and refreshed with a clearer mind and a stronger soul.
Good to know: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I aimed to drink at least two litres of water before class. If I don't, I can feel it in my head like a hangover when I get up from lying down poses to sitting up ones. I will have my last meal three hours before a class to prevent myself from feeling overly nauseous. This depends on your metabolism as my friend who's sporty and skinny and had to have something to eat right before class or else she would feel faint during the session. Don't forget to hydrate after class too.
The practice is all about being in a group, but a private class is beneficial to get your poses corrected or modified. In a group setting, the teacher can't stop to help you because of the running dialogue. Everyone follows along as best as they can. What was a first for me at One Wellness were the unofficial mini workshops the teachers gave after each class while we were all recovering. In between isotonic drinks, yogis John Ng and Khew Chin Rei would advise and give tips on certain poses when students asked about them. This was especially helpful and encouraging that your teachers cared about your progress.
What to bring: Wear anything from a top or a sports bra and shorts. The skimpier, the better. Some practitioners are in swimwear because it is that hot. Teachers want to see your knees to check if you're tightening your muscles correctly. I switch between a sleeveless top or T-shirt (as I'm still too shy to reveal my midriff) and yoga or bicycle shorts. Besides a fresh change of clothes, bring an additional bag to carry your soaked workout wear. A huge towel to wipe yourself during and after the class would be an essential item as well.
Name of session: Bikram Yoga
Try it out here: One Wellness Fitness Club
Duration of session: 90-hot-minutes