Confessions of a Bikram Yoga Beginner (

(This piece was published in last April 20, 2012)

When in Manila, it’s normal to feel hot and humid, but sweating it out in Bikram Yoga is a whole different thing. What makes this particular yoga more challenging is that practitioners get to do their usual poses in a heated room that is about 35 degrees Celsius. Yes, this is one hot yoga!

There are actually health reasons behind the use of heat. The primary reason is that it lessens the chance of injury, as muscles get some sort of outside assistance in warming up. Also, since it is more challenging to breathe in warm air than in an air-conditioned place, the heat provides an opportunity to strengthen the lungs as well. Lastly, it is believed that the immune system gets a boost as white blood cells proliferate in a warm environment.

Tristan Choa, Founder of Bikram Yoga Manila and an advocate of yoga in its many forms, explains all these and believes that, “Pretty much anyone can practice yoga.” It has done him wonders as well. When he started practicing Bikram Yoga ten years ago, he was 204 pounds, had a 38-inch waistline, and had scoliosis of 10-degrees of vertical and three knee operations. Now, he’s 173 pounds, has a 34.5-inch waist, and gained half an inch in height as his scoliosis corrected. He’s also able to participate in triathlons already.

Tristan was the instructor when I first tried Bikram Yoga and I can imagine how he must have lost all the excess weight and become more fit. The simple breathing exercises at the start made me perspire already! I thought it would be challenging to stay in the heated room for an hour while doing yoga poses, but I was able to go through it. I just acclimatized to the environment and listened to the instructions given. Tristan was very motivating and he went around the room to check on everyone and made sure that we’re doing the right thing.

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