Blog of the Week: Claire Battles Bikram... And Wins

Claire O'Bryan

Why is this our top blog this week? You could argue Claire gave us all the goods—a first-person account of a new adventure + local + a hot topic like yoga (no pun intended) + plenty o' self-deprecating humor + resource info in case we want to sweat our skin off, too. It's all true, but the real hook? Her War of the Worlds game. Now, THAT'S a good game, not to mention helpful in an end-of-life situation like Bikram Yoga. 



Recently, I bought a Living Social coupon for five sessions at Bikram Yoga and I just decided to partake in my first session. I got up, ate breakfast, and tootled on over. I decided to go to the Spring Street location (where they actually have parking, what!?). The entrance has a spa feel, with manicured trees and a serene, calming presence.



As soon as I walked in and signed my paperwork, the first question I got was, “Have you ever done Bikram before?”


“Sure!” I answered perkily. “At Charleston Power Yoga and I used to go to Blue Turtle about three times per week.” In my head, I consider myself decent enough at yoga to just pop into a class whenever I have time. I’m flexible. I do push-ups. Whatevs. 


“Ooooh, so you’ve never actually done BIKRAM,” they gushed.


“Oh, hot yoga? I’ve done that tons,” I said… thinking, isn’t it the same thing?  They gave me a sympathetic chuckle and explained that, "No… No, it is not the same thing." Well,  I’m not DOWN with the lingo. I started to feel like an ignoramus, and that maybe I’m not as yoga-tastic as I thought.


One of the nice ladies gives me a little tour of the facilities, and a brief list of what should be my goals for the day. In a nutshell, don’t feel bad about taking a break or child’s pose, drink water, and your main goals are this:

  1. Don’t leave the room
  2. Breathe through your nose

At this point, I had no idea what was coming. I was thinking it’s a little odd to hear that my goals are to breathe through my nose and not to leave the studio, but I dig their protective vibe. And then I walked in the room. 


Well, sweet mother… kinda toasty in here. I found a spot as far in the back of the room as possible, kind of behind a beam. Let’s keep a low profile. There was a dude in gym shorts, a fairly older lady, and a middle-aged lady around me. I felt good about my surroundings. Except I was getting progressively HOTTER. Not that warm feeling that’s kind of nice in the early summer, but that feeling you get in July when you’re trying to sprint to get into your car because it’s so hot you’re trying not to lose all your makeup before you even get to work, and then when you do get to your car, you get second-degree burns from the seats. 


Our cute teacher came in and we started the class. Within the first 30 seconds, I knew I wasn’t going to fare well. I’ve never experienced sweating like this, and I've been known to really sweat. I’m usually disproportionately hotter than about 80 percent of people around me, and this day was no exception. At one point, I looked down and my fingers were sweating. This is not a joke, my fingers had beads of sweat on them. I did not know this was possible. 


My friends and I have a little game we do, called “Who would survive if War of the Worlds actually happened?” We periodically discuss friends’ behaviors and tendencies, and decide whether we think they’re a survivor or not. I’ve decided that though I’m scrappy, it’s unlikely that I’d survive. My friend Reames always says she’s pretty sure she would just give up from the start… it just seems too hard. We only have three people who we have deemed as survivors during WOTW: One survived natural childbirth, one used to work at IHOP, and the other packs heat in her purse… all the time. I kept referencing these conversations in my head during my first class. “Don’t give up,” I kept telling myself. “This is not how you’re going to die, it’s just NOT.”   


I looked over at one of the old ladies near me, who had skipped about the last five poses. I tried to give her a weak smile as if to say “I know old lady, I know.  This is no joke.” She did not smile back. 

Finally as the class came to an end, thank GOD our cute teacher (who, at that point, I was convinced had some superhuman ability to speak continuously throughout class, kind of do the poses, and somehow not die) opened the door closest to me. 

This is the single greatest moment of my life. I could breathe. I’m not going to die here. I might just come back? 


Overall I loved the experience, but it’s not for the faint of heart. This kind of yoga is legit. After reviewing the recommendations, I absolutely followed none of them. Don’t eat for several hours prior to class? Nope… made muhself a lovely breakfast right before. Hydrate well with one liter before class? If you mean one liter of coffee, then yes.  The last recommendation stated: “Take your second class within 24 hours of your first class, ” which at first I thought was just a little joke for you to read on your way out.  Apparently it’s not. 




If you’re into sweating and a workout challenge, you should definitely try Bikram yoga. Tip: It is NOT the same as hot yoga. Here's where I went: