I arrived at the studio, checked in, and entered the hot room 20 minutes before class started. I set my matt, towel and water on the floor near the wall. As I lay on my back and began deep breathing, I looked up through a tall stained glass window into a cobalt winter sky, dotted with white cotton-ball clouds and migrating birds. I felt peaceful and very warm. Then the instructor walked into the room and the work of healing began.
Bikram Yoga is certainly different from any other exercise class I've taken. It's not a fast-paced group activity. Although it did take place in a room with other people, I didn't feel the atmosphere was competitive; to me it felt contemplative. Each person was only focused on moving correctly into the postures as they followed the directions of the instructor.
The recommended temperature for Bikram Yoga is 105 degrees and about 40% humidity. Why so hot? According to Bikram Choudhury, "Yoga changes the construction of the body from the inside out, from bones to skin and from fingertips to toes. So before you change it, you have to heat it up to soften it, because a warm body is a flexible body. Then you can reshape the body any way you want."
Each class is conducted in precisely the same way. The instructor stands at the front of the room facing the participants, and leads the class through each of 26 postures. As students face the mirrored wall of the classroom, they are encouraged to focus on their image and attain the correct form in each posture. Every class is a "beginner" class and every class is 90 minutes long.