If you are like some people, you have already forgotten about your New Year’s resolution. However, it is never too late to “improve your heath, mind, and soul” through Bikram Yoga, practiced right here in Rockville, Md.
Diana Kang, owner of Bikram Yoga Rockville, opened her studio’s doors in 2003 at 10062 Darnestown Road, after looking for some relief for her fibroid tumors. The first of its kind in the Maryland region, Kang recalls what is it was like to open her doors to the public:
“People could not even pronounce the word 'Bikram,' and no one knew anything about it."
But times have changed in the past ten years. “It has gotten very popular because of word-of-mouth,” Kang said. Today, “I don’t have to explain. When I say ‘Bikram,’ people think ‘hot.’”
Bikram Choudhury, founder of the worldwide Yoga College of India™ in 1974 in Beverly Hills, Calif., created Bikram Yoga as a form of Hatha Yoga. Bikram Yoga classes are 90-minutes long and are held in 105 degree Fahrenheit, 40-45 percent humidity, artificially heated environments. Also, unlike other yoga classes that do random postures in each class, Bikram Yoga consists of a 26 yoga posture sequence with two breathing exercises. Kang said this is a standard practice for every Bikram Yoga studio, so students will have the same experience no matter where you go. The idea behind this series is that one posture gets you ready for the very next one.
According to Choudhury’s website, there are seven officially recognized Bikram Yoga studios in Maryland, including the Rockville studio. Kang describes Bikram Yoga as, “kind of like a recipe when you cook. Bikram created that recipe to make sure every part of your body has been addressed in a safe mode.”
For Kang, safety is the number one priority at her Rockville studio. There are more than 500 studios in the U.S., and the numbers are growing every day, she said. Bikram Yoga is a very popular group exercise; however, it is not for everyone and it does require preparation. People who want to participate in Bikram Yoga should be checked out by their physician before they start. Bikram Yoga is also not good for those who are on certain medications, or have certain health conditions such as heart problems or high blood pressure. Many things can restrict people from performing hot yoga, so people must be cautious and well prepared by drinking lots of water. Bikram Yoga is ideal for students between the ages of 18-70 years old, health permitting. It may be too intense for those under 18 years old.
Kang finds one of the misconceptions people have about Bikram Yoga is that it is not safe, because it is so hot. She said, “It’s not safe anywhere to do anything if you are not prepared properly. … If you are well hydrated and are not feeling low on energy, if you have been checked out to make sure you are in good health, it is safe.”
Cherise Fanno Burdeen, 43, of Rockville, started doing Bikram Yoga in 2004. “I came the first time and got totally addicted,” Burdeen said. “I then had back surgery in 2009 for a herniated disk, and the doctor actually said the only reason why I was still walking was because of yoga and that I would have probably had to have surgery years earlier.”
Yoga is the only activity Burdeen participates in without headphones on. “Some people think because it’s the same 26 postures every single time, it must get boring,” she said. “But, it actually gives that part of my brain and my body something to do, so the other part of my brain can just sort of float … its almost ironic, but it’s the only time I can relax.”
Glenn Yanis, 54, of Rockville, has been practicing Bikram Yoga for more than a year. “I discovered hot yoga kind of randomly. That is, I stumbled upon the studio while running some errands and visiting a store next to the studio,” he said. “Strangely, I had been coming to this convenient strip mall for a decade and never seemed to “notice” the Bikram studio before. But on that chilly day in October, I felt compelled and destined to stop in. ... I decided to give hot yoga a try the next day.”
Yanis said he felt a little intimidated and embarrassed at first, but that feeling didn't last very long. “The instructor, Elizabeth, made me feel very comfortable and relaxed,” Yanis said. “Not only did I make it through my first 90-minute session in the hot room unscathed, but my experience was a revelation. I loved hot yoga; the heat, the humidity, the intense focus, and the motivating instructors … it was for me! Yes, I was physically and mentally drained after the session, but I felt great. I knew at that moment, I needed to make Bikram hot yoga a part of my life.”
“Our Bikram Yoga class is standard,” Kang said. However, “students who have given feedback have said, because we’ve been here a long time, we definitely have a tighter community. And, the teachers have been here for many years, which are an exception to the general.”
People have also said we are friendlier, nurturing, and we create the community feeling in the studio, she said. Someone even wrote on the studio’s Facebook wall that Bikram Yoga Rockville is "like CHEERS without the alcohol.”
For Yanis, practicing hot yoga is a big commitment, but he tries to attend at least three to four times a week. “I find the concept of group fitness very motivating and energizing,” Yanis said. “It makes one realize that we are all struggling with the same thing at the same time. Practicing hot yoga in a group also helps push me to the next level and do things I never thought I could do.”
Yanis has also seen many health benefits since he started, including weight loss, better sleep, and the desire to eat healthier. “Hot Yoga makes me feel great,” he said. “I miss the hot room when I am not there and always look forward to my next session. My only regret is that I did not start sooner – but there is no looking back, only forward.”
Sheila Rosenberg, 55, of Potomac, has been practicing Bikram Yoga four times a week for 13 years; she also enjoys spinning, walking, hiking, and weight lifting. She said, “I have tried other kinds of yoga, but I love the heat, mirrors, and the deep stretching. … Bikram yoga is very precise, you fine tune every posture and having the mirrors is an extra tool to make sure you have good alignment. Your abdominal muscles are key to Bikram and to spin, and holding them in supports your back.”
Eventually with practice, your abdomen muscles will become very strong, and this will help with your posture, she said. “Yoga makes your muscles long and lean, whereas spin and other types of cardio shorten muscles, so keeping everything in balance is critical.”
Bikram Yoga Rockville recommends students to arrive 15-20 minutes before class, wear light workout or yoga clothing, avoid heavy meals 2-3 hours before class, properly hydrate before class, bring a beach or yoga towel and a smaller towel for your head, bring a yoga mat, and bring bottled water with electrolytes and/or coconut water. You can also rent equipment and buy water/coconut water from the studio. Bikram Yoga Rockville also has dressing areas inside the men and women’s bathrooms, equipped with showers.
Just imagine how you may feel and what you may look like by this summer, if you decided to devote yourself to Bikram Yoga today. Email Bikram Yoga Rockville at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (301) 762-9642 for more information.