Fit Chic NYC’s Blog

Life Lessons I Learned In The Bikram Studio

Balancing Stick Pose

Despite my initial whining, during my 25 days at Bikram Yoga NYC (I had guests in town the last five days of my month Groupon pass) I was able to take a total of 15 classes.

Obsessed doesn’t begin to describe my passion for the practice. Here’s why:

1. I believe sweat is a strong indicator of a good workout. In Bikram, you’ll start sweating before class even begins.

2. In other forms of yoga there can be a lot of down time while holding poses; and, being the competitive person I am I like to look around at other people. That isn’t great for my meditation nor is it polite when they awkwardly catch me starring at them. In Bikram, moving your eyeballs is energy you can’t afford to waste.

3. The group mentality of the class is incredible. Yogis in general tend to foster a sense of comradeship with each other but there’s just something about dripping sweat in front of each other in as little clothes as possible for an hour and a half that makes you feel so…. Connected.

4. Bikram is a moving mediation. While I’ve never been able to fully “zone out” in other forms of yoga (see number 2) in Bikram I find that I’m completely concentrated on my practice.

5. I like to control my schedule and plan it out to the very last details so if you’re like me (very Type A) Bikram is the yoga style for you. Every class is performed exactly the same way and while you might think that performing the 26 postures in the same sequence every time would become monotonous, each class feels entirely different

6. The first class or two is miserable. But that moment when it all just clicks makes the initial suffering entirely worth it.

7. I get bored when I hold a posture for too long – even if it’s tough. In Bikram, no posture is held for more than a minute and I know exactly what’s coming next (see number 5). Knowing when it’s going to end allows me to judge my effort level.

8. I semi-jokingly told my friend that I’d consider a breast reduction so my practice would be better. Personally, I feel that a having a naturally (or unnaturally if that’s your style) large chest hinders some of the postures because they just get in the way.

9. Bikram has a strong cardio component. I wanted to wear my heart monitor during class but I couldn’t get it to stay completely silent so I left it at home. One instructor said that the Balancing Stick Pose pose was comparable to 30 minutes on the treadmill. While that might be a stretch, it gets your heart rate up.

10. You can do anything for 10 seconds. Suck it up and push through.


My Bikram Science Experiment

I’m still on my Bikram high from last night – I totally kicked ass in class. It seems that the third class was the charm for me and it’s funny how I went from “I’m about to die, why did I sign-up to do this” to “I want to do this everyday” in a matter of four days. But consider me converted.

That being said, I wouldn’t be a New Yorker if I weren’t skeptical of my new-found “enlightenment,” hence my Bikram Science Experiment.

So here’s the deal: I bought a month pass to Bikram Yoga NYC from Groupon. My initial goal was to (1) shock my body and try to reap the benefits of Bikram practice. I’m strong, but at 5’1” my muscular frame tends to look a little bulky so (2) I’m seeking the much envied, strong, lean bodies of hipster yogis. And since I enjoy a workout challenge I (3) wanted to give Bikram another shot (if you remember, my first try – and my first FitChicNYC post! – wasn’t exactly encouraging). But now, I’m on a mission to determine whether I actually reached a Bikram high in my third class, or if it was a fluke thanks to a few variable factors.

Let’s examine the facts, class by class.

First Class: Saturday, April 10, Noon
I braced myself for this. I knew it was going to be rough. I hadn’t done Bikram yoga in over a year, and no matter how in shape I am, I was going to have to go through a readjustment period in acclimating to the heated room. The heat was brutal, and when the sun started creeping in around 1pm (30 more minutes to go), and my mat just so happened to be in the spot where it shined through. Joy. My concentration was on breathing and I had to sit down during the last few standing poses. Overall, I felt horrible and I didn’t reach my full potential during the poses.

Second Class: Sunday, April 11, 11AM
I showed up – which was already an accomplishment. The sun wasn’t as strong (and I changed my mat location slightly) so I thought I was going to rock this class. While I admit my breathing was much more controlled, I still just wasn’t getting it during certain postures and much to my dismay, I had to sit down during the end of the standing sequence. Once again the heat got to me and I left feeling a little better than I did the day before, but was wondering why I signed up for this insanity – I wasn’t getting the most out of my practice, I was totally wiped out for the rest of the day and quite honestly I hate staring at myself for 90 minutes while I drip sweat.

Third Class: Tuesday, April 13, 7PM
Okay so here is where I reached my Bikram high. Not only did I complete the 26 posture sequence without taking any breaks, I was also able to move into poses that I had to modify for the first two classes and believe it or not, I actually kind of enjoyed the heat. As I mentioned, I’m skeptical. I think that the time of day had EVERYTHING to do with my new-found enlightenment because (1) since it was a night class, the sun wasn’t shining, so it wasn’t as hot in the room and (2) I know my body and I am stronger at night.

So if my hypothesis is correct, I will reach my maximum potential in Bikram yoga if I practice at night. I have 25 more days to test my theory but I’d love for you to weigh in on my little workout experiment.

Weekend Fitness Round-Up : June 5-7

Weekend Warriors Unite for these Fun Fitness events in NYC!

Friday, June 5th

What: Bikram Yoga Nite Sweats – a 90 minute Bikram Yoga class taught with candlelight and music

Where: Bikram Yoga Lower East Side When: 10pm, doors open at 9:30pm

Why: This is a community class (suggested donation of $10) with all proceeds going to The Lower East Side Girls Club. The Girls Club provides after school programming to economically disadvantaged girls who live on the Lower Eastside of Manhattan.

More info: click here

What: Yoga For Health: International Yoga Therapy Conference

Where: Pure Yoga in New York City

When: June 5-7

Why: This is the first time that NYC sees the arrival of a conference entirely dedicated to Yoga Therapy. IYTC is a forum that explores the specific and profound ways in which yoga can aid in maintaining good health or recovery from illness.

More info: click here

Saturday, June 6th

What: Outdoor Workouts with Physical Equilibrium

Where: Lululemon, East 66th Street location (on Third Avenue)

When: 10-11am

Why: Physical Equilibrium invites local New Yorkers to embrace the beautiful scenery that the city has to offer. With outdoor workouts, all muscle groups are utilized and exercisers will use “natural equipment” as part of this fitness program. Benches, steps, hills and open grass spaces are at the center of all outdoor workouts which are designed to increase muscle tone, build stamina and endurance, gain agility and increase fat loss. This class is an excellent compliment to the endurance athlete’s training program. Healthy snacks provided after!

More info: RSVP:

What: Yoga for Athletes with Emilie Smith

Where: Reebox Sports Club, NY When: 3:30-5:pm

Why: Explore how yoga can add to a successful training program. This workshop is designed to explore poses and techniques to help athletes and fitness enthusiasts increase their range of motion and flexibility, particularly in the hip, hamstring and shoulder area. Additionally, a focus on breathing and balancing is designed to improve concentration and mental endurance.

More info: Members $20, Non-members $35. Please contact Anne-Sophie Rodriguez, Group Exercise Coordinator at 212-501-1419 for more information and to register.

Sunday, May 17th

What: Buddha Belly 2 Beach Babe

Where: Lululemon Union Square When: 9:30-10:30am

Why: Join us for a belly blastin’ and booty booston’ booty-camp class that combines yoga and Pilates. Target that core and butt – get that Buddha Belly so that it’s ready for the beach! A light breakfast will follow.

More info: Please RSVP to

What: NYRR New York Mini 10K (women only)

Where: Central Park

When: Check-in/registration will be from 7:30-8:30am

Why: The original women-only road race, the “Mini” continues the tradition of celebrating all that is good about women’s running. A professional field of the world’s fleetest female distance runners will lead thousands of women on a 10K course through Central Park.

More info: click here

The Weekend I Rode My Ass Off!

If you picked up on my subliminal hints in Friday’s fitness weekend round-up post you would have noticed that I packed my weekend with spin events. Although thoroughly exhausting, I had an incredible weekend and burned some serious calories!

Saturday, May 16

rtz What: Ride The Zone‘s Soho location grand opening

This is the moving spin bike class I mentioned I took a few weeks back. I signed up for one of the free 30 minute classes being offered throughout the morning from 9am-1pm. Upon arrival, I was blown away! They had gone all out with snacks – fruit and veggie platters to the sky, Zico coconut water for hydration, bagels and muffins and more! Then there was the goody bags which had a free class voucher, t-shirt, water bottle and more Zico. Oh and did I mention the Cyko Challenge they had going on? Riders who registered and successfully completed the challenge of cycling all four hours straight (yes there were rules involved) would receive 50 free classes! There were a few empty bikes for people like myself who signed up for a class but wasn’t taking the challenge. Although I had only signed up for one class, there was a spot opened in the following class so I ended up joining the cyko challenge riders for their 3rd hour (11-12pm). Originally I wanted to take the challenge, but after only an hour I was done – taking a class on that bike is insane! I wore my heart rate monitor and I burned a whooping 650 calories in one hour. I also didn’t hydrate properly so I suffered from a dehydration headache later that evening but I’m semi in love with these classes! But what was most incredible about the event was the people taking the challenge and the cyko instructors. During my time with them they were cheering and pushing through while “motivators” were walking around the class helping replenish water and towels as well as making sure riders up’d the resistance when instructed to. The challenge riders were insane but again I experienced this group mentality that was so encouraging and so inspirational (the other time was with my first Bikram Yoga class). Besides the fact they were dripped in sweat and had quads that were screaming in pain (and still had an hour to go) they were happy and energized and it was contagious. It was almost like one of those religious epiphany‘s you hear about.

Sunday, May 17

rnbWhat: SPIN ‘N BARE, A benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS

The Spin ‘N Bare event involved four individual hour long classes that participants could register for (with spin bikes set up in the hallway entrance of Hell’s Kitchen’s Club H Fitness) with each class taught by a different spin instructor. And after leaving Crunch gym in February I finally had the opportunity to take a class with my beloved spin instructor John Nobile. He even remembered me! I think he’s NYC’s best spin instructor and in my eyes, his class is worth any amount of charitable donation!  I wore my heart rate monitor again (this time I burned 500 calories in the hour) and John comes around throughout the class and checks your monitor. If you’re not in the right heart rate zone, he cranks up your resistance and makes you work harder. Charity riders also had a nice distraction. Two Broadway hunks were dancing around keeping us pumped and motivated! This event also had a nice supply of fruit and veggie refreshments and a personal guilty treat, sugar-free red bull! Club H trainers kept refreshing our water and towel supply during the ride and I’m pretty positive I overheard someone say they met their goal for the event! (Post John’s spin class everything blurs together as your try to recoup but I hope I heard right)!

All in all I had lots of free fruit, was inspired by a group of crazy “cyko-lers” and got fit for a cause. Talk about exhaustion! Plus, those were only my cardio sessions; I still went to the gym for weight training after the classes. Now I could really use a yoga class – I have the horrible tendency of scrunching up my shoulders when I ride and I’m still tense in that area now, ugh! Spinners out there, any advice?

Take Your Spin Class to the Next Level

Hi, my name is Fitchic and I’m a fitness junkie.

Maybe it’s for the adrenaline rush, or maybe it’s an addiction, but I’m constantly seeking out new classes to satisfy my fitness cravings. Recently I tried Bikram Yoga and this weekend I got my “fix” with Ride the Zone.

About a year ago I got into spinning; it was a nice departure from the elliptical/treadmill and I enjoyed the group mentality of the class. And while each class can be just as challenging as my first, I decided to up the ante this weekend with the RealRyder® – the indoor bike that moves.

Oh yes, it moves. Not forwards or backwards, it’s still a stationary bike. Rather, it tilts and turns and was created to “simulate the experience and the benefits of riding a bike in the real world. Not just the pedaling; the steering, the leaning, the balancing, the mental involvement and the emotional excitement,” the product’s website claims. The result? “A 5-in-1 workout for the whole body – not simply legs and cardio, but also upper body, core muscle groups, and balance.” It’s a revolutionary piece of equipment to the spin world.

While you can purchase these bikes from the website, they carry a hefty prices (and well if you live in Manhattan, good luck finding a place in your apartment for it), so I suggest checking out their list of partnered facilities for a class near you. That’s how I stumbled upon Ride The Zone – I went to their Upper East Side location. Check out their website for a video of what the bike looks like in action. And your first class is free! (Although you will need cycling shoes,  you can rent them for $3.)

After having one of the instructors help set up my bike, I gave the class a shot. Maneuvering the bike while sitting down (position one for you spinners out there) was fine, kind of exciting. The standing run in position two and three was a different story. My bike was moving left to right causing the seat to ram into my thighs; I just couldn’t control it as well as the more experienced riders in the class. It took almost the full 45 minutes of class to get used to the bike’s swaying and sadly my cadence never picked up, even with minimal resistance, but it’ll just take some getting used to. It didn’t help that I also got side stitches halfway through the class. The instructor said I needed to breathe a little more – it’s a common problem for first timers. Apparently I was holding onto the handlebars so tightly that I forgot to breathe normally.

Overall, I loved it! My entire body felt the class (especially my obliques) and the cardio component was much more intense than what I’ve experienced from a normal spin class; but, that could be because it’s still new to my body. I can’t wait to try it again and work on increasing my stability and speed while standing.

I looked nowhere near as graceful as this, but check out this Youtube video that demonstrates the bike:

Think of it as fierce yoga
February 19, 2009, 11:56 AM
Filed under: Fitness, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , ,

Great question Lynne. Through both my experiences, and research, I find Bikram Yoga to be fundamentally different than other yoga styles. While I’m by no means a yoga expert, I do enjoy the practice and try to take classes at least once a week and experiment with the different styles.

Typically I practice Vinyasa Yoga which utilizes a flowing movement, and at the core of its practice are the Sun Salutations – a series of poses done in a flowing succession. Hatha Yoga is the more popular practice, and is what people usually mean when the refer to “yoga.”  This style has a slower, calmer pace and is about establishing a balance. Both of these styles utilize a variety of poses allowing each practice to vary depending on instructor. There are lots of other styles and if you’re interested, I found a great yoga style guide here.

Bikram Yoga was developed separately by yoga master Bikram Choudhury and is practiced by performing a strict sequence of 26 postures, each performed twice during a 90 minute class. The studio whose class I took, Bikram Yoga Lower East Side, compiled this fun description of the different postures. According to the official Bikram Yoga College of India Headquarter’s website, this sequence is effective because of it’s tourniquet effect. Unlike other yoga practices such as Vinyasa which is designed to create flowing movement and Hatha which incorporates stretching, Bikram poses are designed to stretch, constrict and compress the body to create pressure. This sequenced stretching and compression of various internal organs was designed to help improve circulation, increase joint mobility, boost the immune system, release toxins and stimulate the nervous system.

For example, during my previous yoga training, if I wasn’t flexible enough to have my forehead touch my leg during a pose, it was a stretch for me to work towards. However during the Bikram class, students are encouraged to bend their knees in order to force the forehead to touch the leg in order to create that constriction and compression that the pose was created for. A yoga instructor telling me to bend my knee? This was oddly exciting, until I moved fully into the pose and felt the constriction, ugh!

Oh and that brings up a good point, during the classes I took (which happened to be taught by the same instructor), we were told, not shown, how to move into the designated poses. Unlike the other yoga classes I’ve taken where I could watch and follow the instructor to move into the pose, the Bikram class I took was lead entirely through verbal visualization and encouragement. The 90-minute performance my instructor gave – and I say performance between her description and motivational encouragement and pure stamina to talk for 90-minutes straight in the heated room –  deserves an Oscar. It was very easy to follow and I was able to model my positions after the obvious Bikram experts in the class.

Another main difference I’ve found is in the basic nature and atmosphere of the class. In my other yoga classes, during the practice you are free to move around and readjust. But I found Bikram to be strict. It’s fierce and intense. You follow a precise order of poses and move from pose to the designated neutral stance with precision. Each class is exactly the same and was designed in a precise order and extraneous movement is discouraged. I’ll admit, I felt a little naughty for grabbing my towel to wipe the sweat off my face or readjusting the shorts that were riding up my thighs but after the warm-up, you are encouraged to have water between poses and take breaks when needed.

Although designed for anyone, at any fitness level, in my opinion, Bikram Yoga probably isn’t for the modest or faint-hearted. You’re going to be hot and uncomfortable on top of trying to be as flexible as possible and take each pose to its full potential. You’re going to be disgustingly sweaty. You’re going to want to be as minimally dressed as possible. It’s a challenge, and the first class isn’t going to be fun. But give it that second chance, it is an incredibly rewarding and empowering experience.

Still up for the challenge and interested in trying a Bikram class near you? Here are my tips:

1. Bring multiple water bottles. Better to have extra, trust me, I ran out and was miserable.

2. Start hydrating well before the class.

3. Bring multiple towels. A large bath towel to cover your mat and a wash cloth to wipe yourself down with.

4. Don’t me modest, strip to the essentials. But please, wear the essentials! I saw way more than I signed up for during one of the classes.

5. Be humbled by the experience. Unless you regularly spend and hour and a half in the sauna, the heat will take getting used to. You will be increasing your heart rate, stretching and working towards a total body detoxification. Embrace it.

Winter Sweat
February 16, 2009, 6:00 PM
Filed under: Fitness, Yoga | Tags: , , , ,

As a native South Floridian, I’ve developed a healthy appreciation for the sun and more importantly, air conditioning. While used to breaking a sweat, I’ve never been one to willingly endure prolonged sauna-like sessions.

I’ve always been a big fan of yoga and Pilates but the thought of practicing in a heated room of about 100 degrees sounded, well, exhausting. But for some inexplicable reason, since moving to New York City I’ve had a desire to practice Bikram Yoga. So after about two months of staring at the schedule of Bikram Yoga Lower East Side on my computer, I finally decided to get myself to one of their classes.

My first Bikram experience was, interesting to say the least. For those of your unfamiliar with Bikram Yoga, it is a precisely designed yoga series that involves a strict regime of 26 postures performed in a heated room, and according to Bikram Yoga Lower East Side, “it works by something called the tourniquet effect: stretching, balancing, and creating pressure all at the same time to restrict blood flow to certain parts of the body.” The purpose of practicing in a heated room is supposed to help protect muscles, detoxify the body and stimulate heart rate.

After 90 minutes of trying not to drown in my own puddle of sweat, I have to admit that my concentration and form lacked significantly. Between thoughts of running out of the studio screaming and stripping outside in the 30 degree weather, I somehow managed the composure to make it through class. Nevermind the fact that the humidity in the room left me gasping for air, and I ran out of water 45 minutes into the practice, I was also dressed in black capris and a black shirt… big mistake. Each class begins with a specific breathing exercise, which upon first observing, made me feel like I walked into the sacrificial room of a cult. But as the class continued, I noticed this unspoken bond between everyone (or rather a mutual insanity) and it was instantaneously something I desperately wanted to be a part of, and Bikram Yoga became the new skill I wanted to master. The effects of my first class lingered with me the rest of the night as I downed water bottle after water bottle and awoke the next morning to a little present from dehydration – a nice headache.

But that didn’t stop me from waking up early and dragging myself out of bed the next morning to make another class – trust me, it was a true testament to my willpower and for the entire bus ride, I was questioning my own sanity. But it was worth it. I came more prepared today – two water bottles instead of one, and despite my overbearing self-conscious thoughts about my body, I stripped down to a tight tank top and spandex shorts, because of my stronger fear of passing out. Moving through the posses, contorting and twisting my body and embracing the dripping sweat (rather than trying to daintily prevent it) felt incredible and easier than the first time. The last half hour didn’t drag on like before and while my form still needs some work, I found myself in some weird state of nirvana as I left the class thinking to myself “I made it, I really just did that.”

I’ve heard that surviving your first Bikram Yoga class goes down as one of those memorable moments, you know, like your first kiss or graduation. You’ll just never forget where you were, what you wore, how you felt etc. If anyone else has practiced Bikram Yoga I’d love to hear your first experience with the class!