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Self-Help: Bikram Yoga

Sitting in a hot room and twisting your body into pretzel shapes is really good for you. We promise. Learn all about it right here...
Jan 22, 2014 | 18:05 Wed

In an attempt to reverse the downward spiral of your mental and physical wellbeing, in these Self-Help articles we bring you suggestions of classes, sporty things, team events, volunteering and educational stuff that might just pull you out of that boozy tail-spin.

Bikram Yoga is a system of yoga synthesized from traditional yoga techniques created by a man named Bikram Choudhury. It consists of a set series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises practiced in a room heated to 40 degrees Celsius. The purpose is to tone and strengthen muscles, get flexible, relax your mind and, of course, sweat. It’s probably one of the most intense non-weight training workouts you can find. So if you are one of those people who get dolled up before going to the gym and can finish a workout without breaking into sweat, this is not for you. You will look like you've just taken a shower when the class is finished.

What you need

You need to wear something that can handle a massive amount of sweat, so a white cotton tank top is probably not the best choice. Most girls wear a sports bra and shorts. Men wear T-shirts and shorts. You also need water, a lot of it. Especially if it’s your first time trying this out because at one point you will feel like you are going to die. A towel and a mat are essential, too. Both are a available for rent at the studio for 20rmb.

What happens

The class starts as soon as the instructor walks into the room, there's no time for messing around. The instructor will lead you through the class and tell you exactly how to position your body. As long as you listen, it’s not difficult to follow the rhythm of the class. The instructions are delivered in a mix of Chinese and English. Each class starts and finishes with a breathing exercise, which you might feel a bit awkward doing your first time. Just go with it.

What happens next

It's hot. So uncomfortably, impossibly hot. It's like Africa hot. The heat will start getting to you after a few minutes. It doesn't matter how good of shape you are in. You will eventually start sweating. The first few times your body tries to resist the heat and in some way work against it, but eventually you just submit yourself to the sweat. It flows from you, through you. You are the sweat. The sweat is you. All is sweat.

Who goes in for this

The classes are always filled with a mix of people, from young, lean Chinese twenty-something girls to middle-aged American men with latent love handles and pretty much everything in between. During the midday class you will most likely see students, freelancers and, in general, people who are not glued to a desk-kind-of-job. Usually classes are about 70% female. Though there is almost always a couple of dudes in attendance.

How much of your life does this take up

All Bikram Yoga classes are 90 minutes long, so it takes up quite a bit of time if you're really dedicated to doing this. You'll spend at least two hours in the studio for each class. Currently there are two classes each day of the work week: one at 12.10pm and one at 7.30 pm. During the weekend, only the 12.10pm class is available. Lunch is for wimps.

How much does it cost

Bikram Yoga, like all types of yoga, can be pretty pricey. Bikram Yoga Shanghai is the only certified Bikram studio in town, which means all the instructors have been trained by Mr. Bikram himself. So there’s no real competition to push the prices down. A single class is 180rmb. A one-month pass will set you back 1500rmb, a three-month pass is 3900rmb and prices go all the way up to 8000rmb for unlimited classes all year.


They say that regular practice of this series of postures results in the healing and repair of injuries and illnesses, weight loss and peace of mind. If you can bring yourself back to class at least a couple of times a week, you will notice an increased strength, flexibility and balance in your body. Once you get used to it, you'll feel more energized.

Few people really enjoy Bikram Yoga the first time they do it, especially if they've never tried “regular” yoga before, but after the first few times the heat becomes addictive. Bikram Yoga Shanghai is still relatively new, so you don’t need to worry about filled-up classes or getting your neighbor's sweat all over you, there’s plenty of space for everyone.


Are you going to pass out? It's possible but not probable. The biggest challenge for newbies is to just stay in the room for the whole 90 minutes, and most manage to do so. After your first experience you will feel very tired. That may last the whole following day, too. Your body will be sore and you'll need to rehydrate intensively. Some claim that coconut water is the best option because all of its naturally occurring electrolytes. I think it tastes like vomit, but hey that's just me.

For more information about the Bikram Yoga's studio and classes click here.