That’s Hot!

Let’s play a guessing game: Where am I? I’m lying on my back, wearing a two-piece, and it’s really hot because sweat is pouring out of every pore of my body.

If you guessed that I’m sunbathing at the beach because it’s all I talk about here, you would actually be wrong. Ü I’m describing lying in Savasana (Dead Body Pose) during a Bikram yoga class.

Bikram Yoga Greenhills practice studio: definitely not the beach
not the beach

The circumstances surrounding me trying out Bikram yoga for a week did stem from a beach trip, though. I met Bikram Yoga Greenhills director Aljarreau Galang during my New Year in Boracay, and tried my first class in his studio one week later. Life got in the way over the next three months, which is why yesterday was only my seventh session. But I’ve seen and experienced enough to know that Fitness First has definitely got some competition on its hands with this.

The Difference: So what is this Bikram yoga thing anyway, and how different is it from what I teach (BODYBALANCE, a yoga-inspired group exercise workout) and what Fitness First offers (Flow Yoga)? Since the first Bikram yoga studio opened here in the Philippines two years ago, a dedicated local clientele has grown around doing 26 postures and two breathing exercises in a stifling hot room. And ever since the BYG studio opened six months ago, my students at Fitness First Greenhills have been asking me what it’s about.

That first class back in January was a doozy. The heat is something I wasn’t used to. BODYBALANCE is taught at room temperature, and I hadn’t tried the hot flow classes being offered by FF North EDSA, MOA, and Trinoma.

The postures were demanding; it’s the same 26 for everyone, always (unlike Balance where every three months we have a new set of choreography, or Flow where there’s a much larger repertoire of poses).

Coaching style is radically different from Balance, where we’re taught to vary our cues; for Bikram yoga, cues are largely memorized and recited in a specific order of phrases called “dialogue.” Also, if you’re used to gentle verbal nudging from a Balance instructor, you’d be unprepared for the disciplinarian style of a Bikram yoga instructor.

BYG teachers
L to R: the hot (literally and figuratively) BYG teachers Betty Khumtong, Sherie Dyer, AJ Galang, and Ginger Diaz

I whinged about that first class to AJ; I had a lot of comments and didn’t want to go back into that heated room any time soon. He took my comments good-naturedly; he probably knew I’d be back anyway.

Three weeks ago, I tested the waters at head instructor Sherie’s class and had a great time. Then I let down my mental barriers enough to take the plunge into a week’s yoga practice.

Monday (AJ’s class) was hellish because I hadn’t hydrated enough beforehand. During the standing balance series, my vision started to cloud over, my hearing became muffled, and I realized at several points I was about to lose consciousness. Tuesday and Wednesday, a lot of work gave me a break and I wanted to make up the time. I went Thursday (Ginger), Friday (Sherie), Saturday (AJ), and Sunday (Betty). Pretty much by the end of the week the heat didn’t bother me as much, class didn’t seem to take so long, I’d made some progress in the postures, and… I might be hooked.

Sherie and AJ in Crow Pose
I learned to do this in BODYBALANCE, though.

The Target Market: I’ve entered the studio with many different shapes and sizes of people, but it’s largely an upscale market. Membership is approximately 4,000 pesos a month for unlimited use, so you really would have to have the budget to spare.

But most of these are also people who have other gym memberships (or maybe they did, in the past). I’ve encountered at least three FF members regularly in BYG, and several more in FF clubs who have told me they’ve tried it. It’s something new, different, and offers them the hope that maybe they can experience a change in their bodies.

And then there are those who seem like they’re aiming for a change in their minds, those who seem like they’ve done their fair share of soul-searching. Aiming for mens sana in corpore sano — a sound mind in a sound body.

It’s a small market. But it can be a fanatical one, for whatever reasons they keep coming back.

The Teachers: Staying inside a sweltering box for 90 minutes at a time may be more than enough for some students on any given day, but I’ve gotta hand it to these teachers. They teach and attend (more than once), every day. There are even some days they all practice together for two hours in an advanced class. Oy.

And since you can’t eat heavy meals at least two hours before taking class, one might wonder how they manage to stay nourished. According to Betty, if the first class is at 6:30 am, next one is at 8:30, then the advanced class at 1pm, they have their first big meal at 3pm. Fruit shakes in between.

Dedication, indeed.

The Community: “Even though there are other yoga schools, this one is special,” Sherie said last Friday. There’s a certain sense of connection people feel when they’ve been through a trying time together, and that’s certainly the case after a class where you breathe in each other’s sweat, breath, and odor. Of course I’m being tongue-in-cheek there. But there’s no denying that the people involved in BYG (whether teacher or pupil) have created very real relationships with each other. Ultimately that’s a powerful motivator for anyone: feeling like you belong.

The Verdict: Bikram yoga isn’t for everyone. You might choose to conduct your search for release from stress somewhere much cooler, like a golf course. You might prefer to lose weight through dancing or other ways of moving your body. Or you might want a little more variety in your asanas so a different yoga school might be better for you.

I experience a sense of accomplishment each time I get a little further in Backbend, or holding my balance longer in Standing Bow Pulling Pose, or getting and keeping the proper alignment in any of the other postures. This, reinforced by genuine feedback from the teachers (“Good work today, Noelle” and more recently “You did very well in first row today” when I had to move there to make room for another student), could quite possibly keep me coming back for more. I’ll definitely be hanging around for the last two weeks of this month…

Sherie in Standing Split
Someday. Maybe.

For inquiries or more information, visit the Bikram Yoga Greenhills website, or contact them through telephone (+632 721-8350) or cellphone (+63917 828-1035).

Update: Here’s the Philippine Daily Inquirer video interview with Sherie and AJ as they explain the philosophy behind Bikram yoga.


0 thoughts on “That’s Hot!

  • April 25, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Bikram Yoga definitely sounds interesting, but, I think I fall into the “it’s not for everyone” category.”

  • April 25, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    Yes, there are definitely some personalities this kind of yoga doesn’t suit (particularly since the teachers have strong personalities of their own). I’ve also found I prefer a less competitive environment which doesn’t make me push my limits before my body’s ready to take it.At least, now I can say I’ve tried it and I see what other people see in it.


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