Hot Yoga Society, Candlelit Hot Bikram Yoga

Hot Yoga Society was known as Hot Bikram Yoga (HBY) previously. I took this class when it was called HBY!

Now- where were we…. ah yes…

THE BASICS: Hot Yoga Society (or HBY as it was formerly known) London Bridge  is tucked down Magdalen Street, between London and Tower Bridges. During the class itself, you’ll complete the 26 postures series that is Bikram Yoga. Each posture is repeated twice, over a 90 minute class, in a 40 degree Celsius  heated room. The teacher guides you through the practice using the Bikram “script” over every class.

It’s hot, humid and sweaty- and you should heed the guidelines on the FAQ section of the HBY website about pre-class hydration and nutrition prep, in order to enjoy yourself and not get overwhelmed by the heat.

THE BITCHES: Carly and Temi

THE CLASS: Bikram Yoga was the first sort of yoga I ever tried- I don’t like to do things by halves! I practiced sporadically at Bikram Yoga Wimbledon back in 2011 with an ex who would spend the whole time being incredibly dramatic and acting like he was about to die (despite it being his idea) and so my early memories of Bikram were of being hot, cross, and arguing on the drive home whilst sitting on plastic bags so we didn’t leave sweaty bum-prints on the seats. I pretty much hated everything about Bikram yoga in 2011, even though the Wimbledon studio is a beautiful place.

Fast forward to 2013 and I decided to try again- this time whilst living close to London Bridge. The 20 days for £35 offer got me back into the studio, and this was a totally different experience. Hot, sweaty, challenging but I found the effort and feelings after class so rewarding that I completely fell in love with the practice, and was going three times a week at one point. I toned up, was super flexible and my skin was like a baby’s- HBY showed me what good Bikram Yoga was all about!

As Project HB took off and I got my groove on in lots of different classes, Bikram fell off the radar a bit, but it does have a place in my heart. Last week I decided to get back to the studio almost 8 months after I abruptly stopped Bikram, to beat the chilly winter blues. I was also keen to try out one of HBY’s Friday night candlelit classes to enjoy a slightly new experience with this old friend.

The HBY studio is the right size for the number of students, (if you decide to practice Bikram, you should be ready for popular classes to be busy) but the changing rooms are pretty dinky- especially for a crowd dripping with sweat. I prefer to get in and get out, and shower at home, but another way to avoid the surge of people is to wait and chill in the reception/seating area after class until the majority of people have changed and left- after a hot class you aren’t in any rush to do anything other than chill to be honest. It’s an issue in most Bikram studios and I don’t really find it a biggie- there are 8 million of us in London after all!

Adrian was teaching this Friday night candlelit class. Although teachers recite a script as you practice, Adrian still manages to inflecthis unique style which I really enjoy. I was trying to put my finger on exactly what it during class as he spoke- at times his style is like a mixture between auctioneer, horse race commentator and rapper, but he reads the pace of the class well. There were moments where he almost didn’t take a breath as the words spilled out of his mouth, and other moments where he was still. Quiet. One sentence to instruct us and then absolute silence as we bent and stretched in the hot, sweaty candlelight.

The 26 postures are repeated and held twice over, and after such a long time out of the studio I struggled with a few, but in contrast there were some I managed fluidly that had duped me in the past. Bikram, like any form of yoga, is all about your practice on the day, and not about what you could do last week. My favourite- standing bow pose – saw me peek my foot and calf over my head in the mirror, which I haven’t managed previously. Another pose I have always liked- Camel, was too much in the heat this time, and I had to listen to my light-headedness and to take child’s pose whilst people repeated the posture.

The candlelight gave the class a serene, almost sensual quality that complimented the heat and the wave of energy each posture induced, and made the class feel pretty special.

Temi and I had grabbed a spot at the back in the corner, and the heat was blowing right at us. I felt a bit light headed at times especially at the beginning of class after such a long break from Bikram, and so stood still and rode out the feelings as the posture happened around me. It wasn’t a great night for Temi and she had to listen to her body and head into the cool outside air, about 3 quarters of the way through class. Although the guidelines are to stay in the room, it is more important to listen to what your body’s telling you and respect that. It is far better to heed your body warning you of nausea or dizziness and respond to it, than not. So she did a good thing and felt better for it. She’s a practiced Bikram yogi too-  so her experience in this particular class illustrates that each class is a unique experience and shouldn’t be based on the last. It’s not about competing in that room!

Despite being 90 minutes long, and despite my odd wobble, for me this class flowed without missing a heartbeat, and it felt remarkably short. The final savasana (corpse pose) in the candlelight at the end of the class felt delicious, and I enjoyed the feeling of my belly rising and falling with my breath and slicked with sweat. I was pleased to be feeling revitalised, relaxed and ready for a long sleep. Yoga on a Friday night when everyone’s in the pub is truly life affirming!

THE VERDICT: Bikram Yoga teachers run the class to a script so if you go a lot, you learn it pretty much word for word. This means that it probably isn’t for you if you search for new experiences every time you practice yoga, but in another way, it means that you can really feel improvement in flexibility as it happens because you are practicing the same postures every time you go. Teachers can bring a lot to class despite the scripted nature of the practice, and the candlelit element was a great addition to a class I know I enjoy. Make sure you follow the pre-class water/food guidelines if you want to enjoy your sesh!

THE EXTRAS: HBY also offer Run Club! I’m a big believer in keeping your training varied to keep your interest, and also to develop your strength and fitness in a balanced way. Really nice addition to the studio.

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