Over the past few months, my posts have almost nothing to do with the “inverted” and almost exclusively about the “sneakers” aspect of my blog. Mainly because I don’t have a whole lot to say about the current state of my yoga practice. I get on my mat, but it’s been a bit stale. Primary series, second series, and sometimes a few of the third series postures if I’m digging it that day. Since April, my practice hasn’t been in a place where I’m learning new asanas and it’s my own fault since I’ve been busy with other activities. I desperately needed something to freshen up my routine and reignite my interest. I was browsing the Groupon and Livingsocial deals last week and happened upon a Livingsocial deal for the new Bikram Yoga Lehigh Valley studio. The deal was pretty tempting: 10 classes for $39. To sweeten the pot, Livingsocial was offering their own promotion: another 15% off all purchases. For a whopping $33, I got 10 classes to the studio, which regularly would set you back $160. I’d say I made out like a bandit.
Let me back up for a second and tell you what Bikram Yoga actually is and why it’s considered a little controversial in the yoga world. It’s a 26 posture sequence selected and developed by a guy named Bikram Choudhury. His theory is that these 26 postures systematically work every part of the body and give all of the internal organs, veins, ligaments, and muscles everything they need to maintain optimum health and maximum function. By the way that sounds, who wouldn’t want to do it? Well, that Bikram guy also put a little copyright on “his” sequence. I’m not really sure how you can copyright yoga poses that have been around for longer than he has, but whatever. The dude figured out how and is a millionaire, earning a lot of money each time someone uses his name and opens a studio…and by slapping lawsuits on those who try to copy “his” postures. Needless to say, a lot of people don’t agree with “his” yoga and choose not to practice it. Me…well, I don’t knock something until I try it.
I knew the local studio opened somewhat recently and checked out their site, but wasn’t in a rush to get to a class. Partially because of the hefty price tag associated with Bikram classes, but mostly because I am (was?) a hater of all things Bikram given my less than desirable first experience with the style. Back in the summer of 2010, my ashtanga friends (Lauren and Dina) and I headed into NYC and went to a Bikram studio on the upper east side. After the class, I vowed it would be my first and last Bikram experience. 60 minutes into the 90 minute class, I felt dizzy and nauseous and had to stop and rest before joining the rest of the class. The experience left me cranky for the remainder of the day, with a lingering headache from dehydration and a new found hatred for Bikram yoga. I tried a few hot yoga classes after that (not the actual Bikram sequence) and always had the same complaints. It’s too hot. It smells. It’s hot. My water gets warm after the first 10 minutes. It’s too hot. I feel like passing out. It’s really hot. Is it over yet? IT’S WAY TOO EFFING HOT.
Lauren also happened to see the Livingsocial deal and bought a class card. She had the opportunity to check out the studio last week, and took me by complete surprise when she had nothing but positive things to say about it. We agreed to meet up for the 5:30 p.m. class this past Monday so I could see what it’s all about. I was able to sign up and register for the class right on their website, making my experience a pleasant one from the start. They have lots of different class times offered throughout each day, and it’s easily accessible from route 78. The studio is located in the industrial park in between Freemansburg Avenue and William Penn Highway in Bethlehem.
The studio is bright, cheerful and extremely clean. The lobby is spacious and they have an efficient system of signing in students. Even if you are a new student, you can register online and just check in at the front desk. They sell bottled water for $1 or offer towel rentals for $2 (something I had to do because I forgot my own). There’s a juice bar where you can buy fresh juices to re-hydrate after class. As you continue past the front desk, there’s a large room for shoes, a hallway that leads you to the locker rooms, the actual studio where the classes are held, and a eucalyptus steam room. Yup. A eucalyptus steam room. It’s a real thing (I haven’t tried it yet).
The locker rooms are clean, spacious and complete with ample showers. The actual room where the class is held is a great space. It’s a large, rectangular room with wall to wall mirrors and is dimly lit upon entry. When the instructor entered the room, she turned on the lights to create a bright and energetic environment for the duration of the class. The flooring is a giant yoga mat: it’s covered with large strips of yoga mat material, making it easy to disinfect and clean (the last Bikram studio I visited had a carpeted floor. Do you have any idea how badly sweaty carpet smells? I hope you never have to find out). The instructor teaches from an elevated area in the front and center of the room so everyone can see and hear the postures as they are called out.
From what I understand, there are two owners. The class was taught by one of them, and the other was present and taking the class. The instruction was delivered effectively and was well received by it’s participants. She was very knowledgeable, enthusiastic and motivating. As expected, the room is HOT. The minimum temperature for a Bikram class is 105 degrees and 40% humidity so it was sweaty, but it never smelled nasty like the studio in NYC. The class lasts 90 minutes, and much like ashtanga you move through a specific sequence of postures in a specific order. The actual postures are not as challenging the ashtanga syllabus, but it feels difficult because of the heat. I felt like I was working hard during the class, but didn’t realize how hard until I woke up today feeling slightly sore.
I think what I liked most about it is that it was something different. Don’t get me wrong – I love my ashtanga practice and have no intention of abandoning it. But it felt really good to change it up, and the heat really loosened my muscles in ways my ashtanga practice hasn’t been lately. I’m glad I have 9 more classes to the studio, and plan to continue with the occasional class after my card runs out. It’s a welcomed addition to our local yoga community, and absolutely worth checking out!