November 16, 2018

By JESSICA MARTIN

Sweat soundlessly drips off every muscle exposed in the sauna. Perspiration pools on the floor, and drops of water trickle down the walls and linger silently in the air. The instructor softly raises his voice and begins the class.

Even celebrities are participating. George Clooney, Lady Gaga, David Beckham, Ashton Kutcher and Madonna, just to name a few, are taking part in the fitness fad that is spreading across Canada.
It’s a steamy trend. It’s Bikram yoga.

This yoga includes 26 yoga postures and two breathing exercises, all completed in a 40 C sauna.

It is one of the oldest but most popular forms of hot yoga created by a man named Bikram Choudhury. It took Choudhury, his medical doctors and his guru (spiritual leader) three years to put together this specific set of postures.

“We always do the same postures in the same order because that’s the way it works,” said Meghan Huehn, an instructor at Bikram Yoga in Kitchener. “Every posture we do warms you up for the next posture. They all work together.”

“Breathe in deeply. Hold your breath. Exhale slowly,” the instructor says. “And again. Breathe in deeply. Hold your breath. Exhale slowly.”

David Alexander Tiviluk, owner of Bikram Yoga, said there are many forms of hot yoga.

“Saying hot yoga is like saying hot food. There are so many different kinds of hot food: hamburgers, steak, rice, potatoes, pizza and so on,” he said. “Hot yoga is the same way and Bikram yoga is its own unique form.”

There are benefits to doing yoga in a sauna versus in a room at regular temperature.

It warms up the body so there’s less chance of injury, it gets your heart beating faster so you burn more calories and it dilates your blood vessels so the blood flows through your body more quickly.

“Bring your right arm under your left arm, intertwining them, and fold your hands together tightly,” the instructor says. “Now bring your left leg over your right leg and cross your left foot behind the right calf muscle. Slowly lower into a sitting position keeping your back straight. This is the eagle pose.”

Huehn said this yoga is beneficial for students.

“It’s 90 minutes where you don’t have to do your homework, you don’t have your cellphone, you’re not on Facebook and you can’t talk to anybody,” she said. “When you’re done, you’re relaxed and you can breathe. You have more focus for when you go back to your homework.”

A variety of people attend these classes.

“It’s college students, older guys, business guys, sports guys, middle-aged women, retired women, etc. That’s what I think is really cool,” Huehn said. “You can be in that room with all these different people but you’re all doing the same thing.”

Body thirsts. Muscles burn. Licking the lips leaves a strong taste of salt on the tongue.

Lynda O’Krafka, receptionist and regular participant in yoga classes, said Bikram yoga is hard for everyone.

“It doesn’t matter how experienced you are,” she said. “It’s completely day to day. Some days you need to take a knee, some days you can make it the full 90 minutes.”

Bikram Yoga’s studio in Kitchener offers 36 classes a week from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. They have pamphlets around Conestoga College offering deals for students wanting to participate.

Sweat controls the room, overpowering all senses. Bodies lay still and relaxed on yoga mats. Breathing deeply. Inhale. Exhale. The class draws to an end.

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