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...Be a Bikram Babe

Bikram yoga brings new meaning to the phrase "slick as a goose."
Friday Jul 21, 2006.     By Misty Tosh
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

There are people who sweat and there are people who don't sweat. I used to think I belonged to the latter: clean as whistle regardless of the heat index. Bikram yoga brought new meaning to the phrase "slick as a goose."

I was a riverbed by the end of the 90-minute class, held in a steamy, 105-degree environment, and after a solid week of hardcore sweat sessions at the airy Bikram Yoga Chicago studio in Wicker Park (the sister studio is in Lakeview), not only was I leaner and meaner, I was ready for more.

The skinny:
Created by Bikram Choudhury, Bikram yoga is made up of a series of 26 poses (asanas), all done in the same order then repeated. Unlike other styles of yoga, it's always performed in a large room heated to 105 degrees; each pose slowly loosens the muscles and prepares the body for the next pose, while the sweltering heat speeds up your ability to touch your toes. Flexibility is something you're born with; Bikram just helps you get it back.

The getup:
If think you can roll into this buck-o-five joint in sweats and a loose t-shirt, think again. You'll be drowning in soaking mess of cotton within seconds. Don form-fitting knee-length leggings and a very thin tank top with a built-in bra. Those with the hyper-lean Bikram bod often sport a tiny bra and barely-there short shorts (this goes for boys, too). Your mouth will be agape at phenomenal figures of the truly devout, male and female alike.

The payoff:
Imagine a crystal clear thought process, the beginnings of a six-pack, the energy of a jackrabbit and, for once, a really healthy addiction. It's one of the cleanest, most beneficial forms of exercise I've ever come across.

Wear and tear:
Although Choudhury developed Bikram in the early '70s as a way to heal the body after injury, it is still possible to overdo it. Heat stroke and over-stretching are the main culprits, and beginners should take it easy by using modified stretches and drinking plenty of water. At the start, many of the moves easily slung me to the point of violent full-body tremors, but after a few classes, I was wrapping my body into pretzel forms with the best of them.

The commitment:
A minimum of 10 classes per month is recommended; for life-changing results practice six days per week. If you complete one class (you'd be surprised at the number of walkouts per session), you'll skip home with balls of energy. If you go a week straight, expect to feel rock-star powerful. The truly determined should try the 30-day challenge (one 90-minute class every day for a month). If you can rock this baby, you'll have earned a giant notch in the golden belt of life—one that's a smidge or two looser, no doubt.

The cost:
Sure, $15 is a pretty penny to spend on a singly class, but when you see little muscles begin to form in places you didn't' know existed, it seems like chump change. But if you're just looking to get your feet wet (or sweaty!) check out Bikram Yoga Chicago's killer introductory deal: $29 for a whole month of all-you-can-melt-fat sessions. Om on the Range Yoga Studio, another Bikram studio, offers new students an unlimited week for $20.

Difficulty level:
Thanks to the heat, first timers usually excel at Bikram. The desert-like temperature allows the muscles to warm up quickly, resulting in a deeper stretch in every move. I was stunned to see people double my size twist and turn with great ease. It goes to show that the more classes you take, the stronger and more flexible you become.

The verdict:
Be prepared to practically collapse on day one. As I positioned my body into forms I'd not encountered since the womb, there were times I'd literally tumble over. The high I got from the heat rush was far superior to any summertime elixir I've come across. Save for the atrocious smell at the end of class (that many people sweating in one room cannot be right), I'd call this the dream workout for those looking to change their physique and their mindset in a really short span of time.

Get ready for the heat at Bikram Yoga Chicago, 1344 N. Milwaukee Ave. and 2736-A N. Clark St. View the class schedule online.


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