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SHEX Workout Reviews: Bikram Yoga Shanghai

 

Writer

Sonia Su

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Founded by Bikram Choudhury, Bikram yoga consists of 26 postures intended to 'scientifically warm and stretch muscles, ligaments and tendons, in the order in which they should be stretched,' according to Bikram’s Yoga College of India. Emphasis on warm—yes, the room temperature is supposed to be set to 105°F and 40 percent humidity. I’m not exaggerating when I say to prepare to sweat more than you ever have in your life.

Open since August 2011 as the first in Shanghai, this Bikram yoga studio is hidden on the third floor of the Jiu Jiu Building, behind the Ronghua Ji restaurant on Jiangning Lu, a 10-minute walk from the West Nanjing Road subway station on line two.

Gaven Lucas, a Los Angeles-based Bikram-certified yoga instructor, taught our class of 15 on a Tuesday night. The studio offers the standard 90-minutes classes daily from 12:10 p.m. to 1:40 p.m. and on weekdays from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Having only been in the city for a week, Gaven told me he hopes to pass along his experiences and the basic idea behind Bikram during the three months that he’s here to travel and work: Constantly strive to improve your body.

And the mostly female-foreigner participants certainly seemed to embrace this idea. After checking in at the reception, with my towel and yoga mat (available for rental at 10 RMB each), I walked into the dimmed, heated room about 20 minutes before class was scheduled to begin to see a few people already laying down flat on their mats.

Gaven walked in promptly at 7:30 to turn on the lights and begin class with the Standing Deep Breathing Posture. Easy enough. You aren’t supposed to drink any water for the first 20 minutes, but the time passes quickly. Nevertheless, make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day before and after your class. Although the pace of the class seemed rather quick for beginners, as long as you listen carefully and have people next to you who know what they’re doing, following along shouldn’t be too difficult. Plus, each posture is done twice, giving you an extra chance to practice.

Of course, some postures were easier to do than others. Based on the lowest level of difficulty, my favorite was the Dead Body Pose, which is exactly how it sounds—you lie flat on your back with your palms facing up (but eyes remain open).

Gaven told me that the posture that most people struggle with the most is the Standing Head to Knee pose. For this pose, you need to lock one leg, interlock your hands to grab the bottom of your foot on the other leg and kick out. Flexibility certainly helps with this and many of the other postures. It’s likely that you won’t be able to do each posture perfectly, or frankly, you might not even come close, especially if you lack flexibility like I do—but don’t let that get to you.

If at any point you feel the need to lie down and rest, feel free to do so. Not everyone will be physically (or mentally) able to keep up, especially under such warm conditions.

Near the end of the 90 minutes, I was longing to feel and breath in the cool, fresh air behind the closed door. I didn’t need to see my reflection in the mirror to know that my face was red as a tomato, my hair was a jumbled mess, and my body was covered in glistening sweat. But knowing that I had just completed what was, for me, such an intensive workout made the whole experience worth it.

Once the lights were again dimmed, one-by-one, we gathered our belongings and headed out, happily cooling down in the waiting area or changing rooms. Some took advantage of the showers, while others left immediately. Head to the bathroom, and you’ll see a recycled cookie box next to the sink. Don’t get your hopes up, though, as only paper towels are inside.

Ready to try out Bikram yoga yourself? A single class costs 180 RMB, and you can sign up for any of its various memberships, ranging from 500 RMB for an unlimited 10-day pass to 9900 RMB for an unlimited year pass. Students with an ID receive 10-percent off. For a complete list of its available memberships and rates, along with more tips for beginners, please visit bikramyogashanghai.com. Find Bikram Yoga Shanghai in our listings here.

Pros:

•     You sweat—a lot. According to Bikram’s Yoga College of India, yoga ‘flushes away the waste products, the toxins of all the glands and organs of your body.’
•     The instructors are very kind and understanding. They encourage you to do your best but remind you to also recognize your limits.
•     Class sizes are reasonable, ranging from 10 to 15 on weekdays and 20 to 25 on weekends.

Cons:

•     Performing each of the 26 postures twice in a hot room may feel overwhelming. Bikram yoga requires both physical and mental strengths, so come prepared and with an open mind.
•     Although a short walk from the West Nanjing Road subway station, the studio itself is hidden behind a building down a guarded driveway.
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