Relaxing torture is Bikram yoga

Tuesday 7th June, 2016


It's been around for years but Bikram yoga, basically yoga in a sauna, is becoming more and more popular. Alive magazine decided to try it.

You cannot leave the room. You. Cannot Leave. The. Room.

Image: Jackson Mardon Heath

Every sinew, tendon and most importantly your lungs ache with the humidity and heat.

Bikram yoga can be brutal. Doing extremely demanding stretches in a room heated to 40°C may sound like hell to some people. Yet its popularity is on the rise.

Many see it is as a new and innovative way of getting a workout.

There are 30 people crammed into the Hot and Fierce yoga class at the Fierce Grace studio on Old Street, leaking nearly all the water their body can hold onto the mats underneath them. Instructor Nina wanders around the room offering advice on how best to stretch a leg at a 90-degree angle whilst resisting the temptation to pass out.

She charitably offers water breaks but, due to the heat, the water tastes more like lava. If you leave, you will not be readmitted.

The sense of social ostracisation is palpable as one of the clients gives up for a cold shower.

But, having survived 90 minutes of torture, there is a sense of being cleansed and, more importantly, a sense of relaxation that few forms of exercise, including conventional yoga, can offer.

Instructor Sorcha Finch-Murray on the left and Jackson Mardon Heath Image: Jackson Mardon Heath

Instructor Sorcha Finch-Murray explains the benefits:

“It is so good for focusing and calming an overactive person, forcing you to just think about your body and dealing with the heat for one hour and a half rather than being stuck in your head and constantly thinking about issues.”

Finch-Murray says Bikram yoga is good for flexibility. It sweats out all the toxins in the body and clears the lungs.

“You literally can smell all the toxins coming out of your skin through sweat.

“You may feel overwhelmed and sick the first few tries, but after a while, your body gets used to heat and you will start to enjoy it. It will be less of a struggle.”

The visibly hung-over Colin Dent, stark naked, tells of the benefits of the regime: “The first few times I came, the heat nearly killed me. I go out most Fridays and come here Saturday feeling like sh*t, but after a session I feel amazing. I feel great right now.”

It feels like hell whilst you’re doing it, but Dent has a point. The feeling of relaxation after the session is unmatched. Although the workout in itself is draining, the after-effects are blissful.

Bikram yoga might sound like a fad, but the effects of putting yourself through hell are well worth the cost of admission. Finch-Murray and Dent are right. All the stress and strains of a working week seemed to disappear.

All that’s left is a feeling of calm weariness.