Well, it’s been about six months since I started a brief (one month) trial of Bikram Yoga at Funky Door Yoga on Polk Street in San Francisco. I’ve chatted about this before here and here but I think there’s been sufficient time to give a recap of how I feel.
To summarize, Bikram Yoga is a series of yoga poses (that a guy named Bikram claims to have a copyright on) and you go through them in an hour and a half session in 115F+ heat. The main variation from traditional yoga, is 1) The speed 2) The heat and 3) The set of poses. The jury is out on whether this is good for you or not, but it is a huge shift from traditional yoga, which most people agree is a good practice to get in to.
So, the shape that I’m in now is not fantastic. While I’m generally healthy, I have several health problems now that I didn’t have before going to yoga.
The first one is that I have considerably more back pain. At one point while doing the Funky Door thing, I reached for a door knob and threw my back out completely and is pretty freaky to me, since this has never happened before to me or just about anyone in my family. I’m told this is quite common due to how overstretched the muscles get due to the heat you’re doing the poses in. My chiropractor will attest to how much worse my back is now as well. He even admitted that he gets a lot of patients from Bikram Yoga, due to the manner in which they teach beginners the poses.
A second item that I’ve had problems with is an erratic heartbeat at times. I never experienced this before and have a good blood pressure rate overall. I don’t know if there is a direct link to the yoga or not, but I do know that when trying to do the poses in the heat, your heart starts pumping very hard, which the “instructors” will tell you is normal and healthy. This is a load of crap, since it’s never healthy to hyper stimulate your heart rate like this. It just happens that when you’re younger, you can take it better. As you get older, I could see this practice causing a heart attack, or at the very least, weakening your heart. From running cross country and doing other sports when I was younger, I know that you move into this stuff gradually, you don’t just throw yourself into it like they have you do.
I had a couple of other problems, such as abdominal discomfort and what not, but other than starting up after the yoga sessions and possibly being the result of acute dehydration, I can’t attest to this being from the Bikram for certain. But, I need to say that overall, I’m in good health. The main thing is that I’m not in as good a health as I was six months ago when starting at Funky Door Yoga.
I would highly recommend avoiding them unless you’re an advanced yoga student and even then you should be cautious. If you have any kind of health problems, stay the hell aware from there. They’ll only make them worse and the instructors are terrible in that they just doing listen to you when you’re experiencing pain. They seem to be more interested in maintaining class size, rather than helping people out.