What to expect when you are .. Bikram Yoga -ing
Have had many requests from friends to document why the first four days of going to Bikram Yoga is a make or break and what to expect.
There are many websites and personal chronicles you can find out there thanks to Google. Actually one such link (passed on by San) is what made me go back.
As most of you know there was a viral infection that pretty much took me down the second week of February. It also left my eyes, nose, throat and inner ear in a bad shape to the point that the local doctors told me that my inner ear canal could have been affected by the virus. Was having a little dizziness to start with occasionally and ended up wearing glasses shortly after our trip to St. Louis and back.
So when we decided to go check out the Yoga, the studio gave us a Pamphlet and a guideline of sorts. This was good.. It said "no eating anything 2-3 hours before the class, drink lots of water the previous day" etc. etc.
So we did drink water, but the word "lots" is relative. For a 38 year old guy who drinks maybe 2 cups of water during a work day and another 2 glasses of water at home.. an extra 2 cups is "lots". That is not enough by a long shot, but you don't realize that at that point in time.
So off we went and did the first class. Both of us tried to do the postures sincerely but our goal (after the first 10 minutes of the class and after the very first aasana) was to simply stay in the hot room for 90 minutes. We met the goal and we came out happy.
The rest of the day was a daze.
1. There was a lot of nausea which faded away after 4-5 hours of the class for the first few days.
2. There was dizziness. Every now and then you feel like everything around you is doing a spin. This also fades away after the first two classes. The key is to drink enough water and keep going pee pee on a regular basis the first four days. That helps you flush out everything that has been stagnant in your body..
3. A purging of sorts of your bowels.. (lots of farting, your stomach exploding in the bathroom and you feeling "where did all that come from?") Trust me, it is good because after the second day my bathroom time has been cut to two minutes max. You wake up in the morning, brush your teeth, drink a big glass of water and two minutes later you can empty out your stomach and be on your way to Class. You also think that you have achieved some way to control your bowel at will (this is a feeling I get, but not sure if there is any real control or it is just me learning to squeeze muscles in the stomach area.. muscles that I did not know I had)
4. Hunger and thirst. Walk around with a water bottle if you have to. Currently I drink 3 liters of water during the day and possibly another 2 liters of water after class and in the night (easily). The 500 ml water bottle gets filled around 10 times a day. You also crave healthy food. I am not making this up. Eat two bananas a day. The bananas were always there in front of me in the kitchen table next to the Grand sweets deep fried Boondhi and my hand will always go for the Boondhi and ignore the Banana.. now it is the other way around. There is a realization that this body is valuable and we should not feed it junk. Do not over eat. Did that the first two days. Then everyone we spoke to said "try to avoid over eating the first few days". Drink water, gatorade, electrolyte solutions, fruits etc. Don't go overboard on rice/naan.
5. Tingling sensation in hands and legs and back part of head. This was my personal experience. MIL did not have this or the hunger. Guess she always controlled her diet. There was a sudden rush of blood to parts of the body which have not experienced this feeling. So the Yogis tell me this is also normal.
6. Bad smell on the first two days. Felt constantly like I was standing next to a public restroom in Chennai on a hot summer day a few times during the afternoon on day 1,2 and 3. My kids who are super sensitive said they did not smell it on me, but it was in my nose. Somehow was constantly smelling a urine smell in my nose and head. This went away in three four days and was replaced by a very sweet smell. Now that smell is also gone. However the kids say daddy smells real nice now after a shower.
7. Bad breath on day 1. Then completely gone. Kids actually verified that daddy does not have bad breath even before going to bed. That is nice.
Fortunately we did not overdo any of the poses in the first few days. We both stretched as far as we could and stopped. So there was no pain, strains etc. Did get over ambitious two weeks ago and tried to touch my head to my ankle, kneeling down on the floor and bending my back. Lucked out on that one. Last week, had my legs too far apart while doing the "awkward pose" and strained my hamstrings and knees. That was taken care of by going back into the heat (thanks to advice from the Bikram web site and book). If you are trying to make a sword of steel and you heat it and bang it into shape and if you have a small blemish, you do not try to beat it when it is cold to reshape it. You have to make it pliable again before fixing it. So, took that advice, went back into the room the next day and "problem gone"!
We did feel a freshness even on day 2,3,4. These days I feel so fresh after the post Yoga shower that it is amazing. You can look forward to the rest of the day. It is like your batteries have been recharged fully!
One thing to note is that both MIL and me had very different experiences. She has done Hatha Yoga 10 years ago in Mumbai for a few months and is in general more flexible than me because she does a few minutes of stretching after we leave the house and walks every day in the evening. So the experiences vary from person to person and your past.
If you experienced any of the above, you are not alone. That is all you can take away from this post. . . and you know at least one guy who had these symptoms kept going and is now very happy.
Final note. I have large huge stretch marks on my tummy and thighs. The BMI on my weighing scale shows that my BMI has changed. That means the fat/protein balance in my body has been disrupted. What does this mean? Based on a lot of internet reading from other people who have done this Yoga here is a summary:
1. Your body is burning calories in the hot room. Unfortunately not all my muscles were in great shape when I started. So the body loses some muscles and fat.
2. The skin starts hanging off in some places (like triceps area, hips, front of tummy etc.) Hence no pictures of the six pack that is starting to show.. there is a seventh pack which resembles a deflated balloon at the bottom of the six pack! This also is normal for people losing 11 pounds in 29 days. Patience is being advised. The skin will shrink with time and with continued Yoga is expected to stretch and get in line with the muscles.
3. The sudden low fat diet that the body automatically adjusts to and the heavy liquid diet makes you lose muscle mass also. So there are recommendations out there for doing additional exercises to strengthen these areas. Most of the yoga students (especially pregnant women) tell you that nothing additional is required. Just regularly show up for class and things get better. Based on looking at some of the bodies in that class, one will have to agree.
The plate and screws in my right hand are still there and in spite of it, can do a whole bunch of aasanas that were originally thought to be impossible. Now the strength is back in the right hand and that alone makes up for everything.
Hope this information helps other folks who are starting Bikram Yoga and are planning to give up in the first 4 days. Please call your Yoga instructors instead of going to a regular doctor. The regular doctors don't understand that these are normal side effects for a body that has not exposed itself to this type of exercise of focus.
DRINK "LOTS" of water. You will know by day 2 what "LOTS" means.
Will post pictures soon.
ps. There is no more dizziness. Can stand on one leg, bend my body like a T parallel to the floor, stretch one hand towards the front and other leg towards the back and hold the pose without falling off.. Inner canal damage?! Don't think so!
pps. This is what Yoga did to the body. What it did to the mind is another story. Won't be able to articulate it that easily. The mind wandered and wandered endlessly and has finally slowed down the last week or so. Will try to write about it tomorrow.