Bikram Yoga at Home Takes Mental and Physical Preparation...
Bikram Yoga at home takes both mental and physical preparation to figure out how we are going to heat our yoga space and if we will be able to heat it enough. In an earlier post Bikram Yoga at Home - Mental Preparation, we covered mental preparation, the postures and the correct sequence. In this post we take a practical look at what's needed in the physical environment, because it takes particular care and attention...
Disclaimer: Bikram yoga at home
First I just want to add a disclaimer upfront: I am not a yoga teacher, nor am I qualified in any way to teach Bikram or any other form of yoga. The 'solutions' described below are not ideal, but are the best I could do in my circumstances, to allow me to practice some 'form' of Bikram Yoga. In following any method or suggestion presented here you do so at your own risk. I am just someone who practices yoga at home and wanted to figure out how to do bikram yoga at home. I'm sharing this information in case it helps others but please be sensible. Whenever you do yoga at home you need to be your own teacher and guide and listen carefully to your own body. Always be kind to your body and mind!
Let's also say up front that doing Bikram Yoga at home is not the easy option and may not be the cheapest either! If you live near an official Bikram Yoga Center then that by far (in my humble opinion) would be your best option. Bikram Yoga is a form of hot yoga (it's creator Bikram Choudhury claims it is the original hot yoga). If you went to a Bikram Yoga Center the room would be heated to 105ºf with a controlled humidity of 40%1 although in a YouTube video (see My Interview with Bikram Choudhury) Bikram says that in specific situations the room can be even hotter!
Can Bikram Yoga be done at home without the heat?
Can Bikram Yoga can be dome at home without the heat? My answer would be a cautious yes. The reason I'd be cautious is because all yoga should ideally be done in at least a warm room where your muscles will be warm. I know from personal experience (sprained ligaments, muscles and tendons) that doing any yoga when your body is cold, is a sure-fire way to hurt yourself!
Bikram Yoga is a sequence of 26 hatha yoga postures. Hatha yoga has been around for thousands of years before hot yoga came on the scene, so of course it isn't necessary to have intense heat in order to practice hatha yoga. Bear in mind though, that hatha yoga did evolve in India, a hot country and (given that we don't want pulled muscles or any other kind of injury) it is best to always make sure you are practicing in a warm room where your muscles are more relaxed.
Having said that, from my limited experience so far, the heat does seem to enable me to go deeper into the postures than I have ever done, and that is an important consideration. I would say if you can't heat your room to the Bikram standard then at least get it as warm as you can.
Choosing Your Yoga Space
Wherever you practice you need enough space to be able to lie down. Width-wise, you'll need enough space to be able to extend your arms out fully at your sides, and length-wise you'll need enough space to be able to extend your arms fully over your head. When standing you'll need enough height to be able to extend your arms fully over your head. I've heard people say you can do yoga practically anywhere but that hasn't been true in my experience. I've stayed in caravans, and hotel rooms that are too small to practice yoga. If you've ever stayed in Amsterdam you'll know what I mean- space is very limited there!
Having said that, while it is lovely to luxuriate in a large space, remember for Bikram Yoga at home - you are going to have to heat this space, and the larger the space the more difficult that will be. So you'll want to choose a space that is just big enough to perform the postures, but not so big that you can't heat it. You'll also want to avoid high ceilings and huge windows so your room heats up faster.
What Equipment Do I Need?
The goal is to heat the room to at least 105ºf. How to do that at home? Figuring out what I needed was a process of trial and error over the first week. The first consideration was where would my yoga space be? Where I'm living now, the only space I have for practicing yoga is my bedroom - so that gave me an added challenge of how to heat the room I'm actually sleeping in, while I'm sleeping!
There are then some things to consider about which heating system you choose. Your home heating system may not have the capacity to heat a single room to the required temperature (I'm not a heating engineer so you'd need to check) and you certainly won't want to heat the whole house that much. Imagine the bills, not to mention the environment! So you'll probably need a separate heater for your yoga room. If you have a dedicated yoga studio in your home, you may consider the options for a fixed unit in that room, which can provide additional heat just to that room, over and above your home heating system.
For me, since I travel and don't have a designated yoga room, a mobile heater was the best option. I already had a 2000 watt CED Convector Heater that I used for heating the room for my yoga practice (the question became whether it could provide enough heat for Bikram Yoga). Mine's an older model so I needed a timer to control when the heat comes on and goes off (the newer models have a built-in timer).
Why a timer? So the heater can start heating the room while I'm still sleeping, and it is ready for me to begin yoga practice when I wake up! I settled for an AMOS Digital Timer Plug Switch which was pretty simple to set up and use. I also like that I can over-ride the auto setting at the push of a button. On those rare days when I oversleep I can over-ride the timer and keep the heat on until my yoga practice is complete!
You'll also need some way to monitor temperature and humidity. I got an LCD Temperature and Humidity Meter which shows temperature and humidity, while the clear display is big enough for me to see at a glance from across the room during yoga practice.
Heating Your Yoga Space to the Right Temperature
Everyone's needs will be different. If you have the space it would be best to have a dedicated yoga space, separate from your living and/or sleeping area. You could then put the heater on and wait until the room reaches the required temperature before going in there. You need to consider the size of the room, and the capacity of your heater. So far I haven't been able to get the temperature of my room above 96ºf which isn't up to the Bikram standard but it's the best I can do at this time, and that's okay with me. I'm happy with the practice and am seeing some progress already. (I'll post soon about my first experience of 'Bikram Yoga')!
During the first week the humidity in the room fluctuated between 54% and 38%. I noticed it does change depending on the weather outside and when I started it was early September in the north of England. It seems to have evened out now at between 40% to 45% but it's too early to see a pattern over time. I haven't found a way to control humidity so I'm open to suggestions in the comments below - but I'm not worried too much about it. We can't always control our environment, and I'm pretty confident that our bodies can adapt greatly to changes in our surroundings. Having said that on 'high humidity' days, it is important to listen to the body and rest when needed. (Getting the balance right between knowing when to 'push' and when to rest is an important part of yoga anyway, which I'll write more about in future posts).
Self-Care and Adequate Ventilation
Adequate ventilation is essential. This is where you really do need to be your own best friend and take care of your body. Check the temperature and humidity and make sure your room is well ventilated. My problem was slightly different. The room was actually drafty - the heat was 'escaping' under the door, and around a poorly-fitting window that doesn't close properly.
During savasana (corpse-pose) on the first day I could feel a lovely refreshing cool breeze coming from under the door (you won't get that in a Bikram class where the floor is heated)! So now I use pillows at the bottom of the door to keep the heat in, and I'm aware the room is still well ventilated and I can breathe easily. It is important that you be aware and make sure you have adequate ventilation for your Bikram or hot yoga practice. Getting the balance right between heat, humidity and ventilation isn't easy but it is important.
If, like me, you are also heating the room you are sleeping in, pay particular attention to your hydration and energy levels. I set the timer to have the heat on for two hours before waking. Then when I get up, I leave the room for 30 minutes and drink some water before returning to begin yoga practice. In this way I get some relief from the heat. I can feel my energy levels improve. On the rare days where I've overslept I definitely feel 'drained' and it affects my practice. Normally I try to keep my 'exposure' to the heat to a minimum: 2 hours to heat the room, and then 90 minutes of practice. Three and a half hours in total. You'll also want to make sure you have water to drink during your practice. Your own self-care is vitally important and you need to find the way that works best for you.
Although it will vary for everyone (depending on the capacity of your heater and the size of your room) it can take hours to get the room up to the right temperature. You need to consider how long your heater will be on, and how much extra that will cost you in terms of your electric bill! In winter I would have been using this heater anyway to warm the room for yoga, but I wouldn't have had it anywhere near this temperature (and I wouldn't normally have had it on in September).
I haven't yet had an electric bill, so I can only estimate what the difference will be for me. Electricity rates vary between service providers and between countries, so you will have to make your own estimates of what the difference will be for you. My guess is it won't be quite as much as the $99 monthly subscription to a Bikram Class, but it could be close!
Non-slip Yoga Mat and Towel
With this yoga you will sweat! Bikram and other hot yoga is always practiced on a towel, on top of a yoga mat. Over the years I'd had different yoga mats and recently I'd just been practicing yoga on a thick rug, not a specially designed yoga mat. After the first day of sweating with Bikram Yoga I realized this wasn't going to work. I'd have to go ahead and get a specially designed non-slip yoga mat and a towel.
The towel was easy, I found a Susama towel on offer on Amazon (which has been great so far) but what about the mat? I'd had mats in the past and given them away because they were supposed to be 'non-slip' and weren't... I found a 6mm thick non-slip mat by Fitness We Trust that sounded promising. Then I read in an Amazon customer review that yoga mats sometimes have an oily substance on them for shipping! Who knew? So when this mat arrived the first thing I did was wash it in warm soapy water... best thing I ever did. Now I have a truly non-slip mat!
Is doing Bikram Yoga at home really possible?
We can do anything we put our minds to as long as we are equipped with the right information, are well prepared, and pay attention to our self-care. In the introduction to his book (Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class) Bikram himself talks about 'if you are practicing this at home'. I definitely got the impression that the book is specifically geared towards people who are learning at home.
If you are considering doing Bikram Yoga at home this post gives you an overview of some of the practical things to consider. In my earlier post (Preparing for Bikram Yoga at Home) I gave information and links on learning the postures the right way. If you can think of anything I've missed that needs to be taken into account, or if you came across specific challenges from your own experience, write them in the comments below and I'll add them here.
Above all, whatever you do, be kind to your body and mind!
with best wishes,
PS Do you need a mirror? In his book Bikram emphasizes a full-length mirror so you can see yourself and how you are progressing in postures. I don't have one (yet) because I can't figure out where it would go in my room, but you might want to consider one!
Final Checklist - Things To Consider Before Doing Bikram Yoga at Home:
- read the book Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class
- learn the postures the right way
- choose your space wisely
- consider your heating system
- get a temperature humidity monitor
- ensure adequate ventilation
- estimate your cost
- get a non-slip mat and towel
- Source: Bikram Yoga Basics at http://www.bikramyoga.com/Studios/BikramYogaBasics.php