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

Add some spice to your weekend fitness routine with these fun events going on around NYC!

Friday, April 3rd

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

Where: Bikram Yoga Lower East Side

When: 10pm

Why: This is a community class and all proceeds go 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 and a movie

Where: Strala Yoga, 178 Fifth Avenue #6 (btwn 22nd and 23rd)

When: 7pm (1 1/2 hour yoga class followed by a movie)

Why: Instructor/founder/model/writer Tara Stiles has a fun, approachable, “yoga for everyone” teaching method that makes this class a great way to relax and unwind on a Friday night.

More info: For more information and pricing, click here

Saturday, April 4

What: The Masala Bhangra Workout

Where: Reebok Sports Club/NY Studio 1, Club Level 6, 160 Columbus Ave, NY, NY

When:  3-4:30pm

Why: Dance your way to fitness! Created by Sarina Jain, the Masala Bhangra Workout is derived from two Indian words: Masala, which means “spicy” in Hindi, and Bhangra, which is a traditional folk dance from the northern state of Punjab, India. The Masala Bhangra Workout is an exercise dance routine that modernizes the high-energy folk dance of Bhangra by blending traditional Bhangra dance steps and the exhilaration of Bollywood (Hindi film) movies. This unique dance mixes cardiovascular with fun, and is suitable for participants of all ages and fitness levels. Cost: Members $25, Non-members $35.

More info: Contact Melissa Morin, Group Exercise Manager, at mmorin@reeboksportsclubny.com or 212.501.1429 for more information or to register. To see event details, click here

What: Booty Slide

Where: lululemon athletica East 66th (1127 Third Avenue)

When:  9-9:45am

Why: Join us for an awesome Booty Slide class with founder Rebecca Kordecki! The workout combines principles from Pilates, yoga, slide training and promises to do in 45 minutes what would ordinarily take 90 minutes at the gym. Each participant wears soft, slippery booties (we’ll provide these), and performs sliding and lunge-like motions with all parts of the body. It’s an excellent way to target the core while lifting, shaping and firming all other areas of your body from head to toe! Please come wearing ankle-length socks.

More info: Space is limited to the first 35 participants so RSVP at east66th-store@lululemon.com. For more information visit the lululemon athletica website.

What: CrossFit free beginners class

Where: The Black Box located at 25 W. 26th St. between Broadway and Sixth Avenue, third floor.

When: 10-11am

Why: Because CrossFit is awesome! What is CrossFit? The Black Box describes it as: an extremely efficient and effective way to get into world-class shape. CrossFit workouts are functional, varied and intense. They also scale to any ability level.

More info: About the Black Box click here. About CrossFit in general, click here

Sunday, April 5

What: City Parks Foundation Run for the Parks 4M/Kids’ Races

Where: Central Park

When:  4mile race begins at 8am, Kids’ Races at 9am

Why: New York Road Runners says it best: Think and run green in this 4-mile race that supports City Parks Foundation (CPF). Proceeds from the day benefit CPF’s free citywide programs. You can bring the whole family to participate in the kids’ races and have fun at the post-race reception!

More info: click here

What: Free Pilates

Where: lululemon athletica, Lincoln Square location

When:  9-10am

Why: Every Sunday morning in April, instructors from YogaWorks will be in our store for free Pilates! No RSVP required. This week’s instructor is Elaine Sinclair.

More info: For more information visit the lululemon athletica website.

What: Bootcamp

Where: lululemon athletica, Union Square location

When:  9:30-10:30am

Why: Every Sunday in April we are offering you a high intensity workout to Spring into the new season! All events are complimentary, all you need are comfy workout clothes and some tennis shoes. This Sunday’s workout is provided by Bootcamp Republic (instructed by Heidi Tinter) and will provide a high intensity workout that combines cardiovascular conditioning and strengthening exercises. You’ve never worked out like this before! We use only your natural body weight to get you fit. Our class is high energy, motivational, innovative and invigorating.

More info: For more information visit the lululemon athletica website or Bootcamp Republic’s site at www.bootcamprepublic.com

What: CrossFit free beginners class

Where: The Black Box located at 25 W. 26th St. between Broadway and Sixth Avenue, third floor.

When: 10-11am

Why: Because CrossFit is awesome! What is CrossFit? The Black Box describes it as: an extremely efficient and effective way to get into world-class shape. CrossFit workouts are functional, varied and intense. They also scale to any ability level.

More info: About the Black Box click here. About CrossFit in general, click here



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!