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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

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In Living Commentary

Bikram Yoga's casses are well attended.

In Living Commentary

Bikram Yoga opened three years ago and is going strong.

In Living Commentary

So sweaty. So very, very sweaty.

First-time student survives Bikram yoga class


I'm not sure what intimidated me more about the thought of taking a Bikram yoga class: the fact it was 90 minutes long and inside a 105-degree room or the fact I had not worked out in two years.

Bron Gacki, the owner of Bikram Yoga, 2084 N. Commerce St., assured me every class at his studio is beginner-friendly.

"Anyone can do this. We do simple postures in there, nothing too advanced. The only thing that is intimidating for the first timer is the heat," he says.

Gacki opened the Bikram studio three years ago after studying with the founder of the practice, Bikram Choudhury, in Hawaii in 2007. He says Milwaukee is a good fit for his studio.

"People have become very receptive to yoga in Milwaukee. The Midwestern work ethic has really produced some great students," he says.

Bikram yoga is a series of 26 postures, each done twice, in a room that's heated to 105 degrees and with 40 percent humidity.

Hesitant but well-hydrated (drinking enough water prior to the class is key), I showed up at Bikram Yoga for Julie Shannon's noon-time class. I walked in the door and was greeted by a friendly dog, Gigi, and a sign asking me to remove my shoes. I scratched the pooch's head, kicked off my Chucks and looked around nervously.

Both Gacki and Shannon approached me, smiling. We joked about the possibility of my Bikram-induced death. Then I filled out paperwork, releasing the studio of responsibility when I melted into a puddle of butter and Pabst Blue Ribbon a la Wicked-Witch-of-the-West style.

The studio space, which is currently receiving new flooring, is simple and nice. There's a hang out area with comfortable seating and yoga-related periodicals. The studio sells water, coconut water and a few other drinks / snacks. It also rents towels ($1) and mats ($3).

I changed in the locker room, which was extremely clean and well stocked. Students bring their own locks. I liked the signs written in the voice of Mr. T reminding people to pick up after themselves.

After eying up a few other participants, I was relieved to find out I had chosen appropriate Bikram wear. The trick is to wear as little as possible without breaking any laws. That morning, it took me about 20 minutes to find my work-out clothes. I was surprised they weren't just a cheap motel for mothballs or two sizes too small and equally as surprised that I still owned a pair of black athletic shorts, a sports bra and a tank top. In the future, if I could lose a little ego I might lose the tank top, too.

I filled up my water bottle and stepped into the lobby and started to chat with Shannon. She made me feel very comfortable, with a genuinely nice personality and strong eye contact. She told me the first class, for many people, is about adjusting to the heat more than anything else. "Hey, I can adjust to heat," I thought. Maybe I will survive this after all.

"The heat provides an environment where you can sweat, which stimulates detoxification for your body. Also, the heat acts as a catalyst in the changes that occur within your body through a regular Hatha Yoga practice. You get the same benefits, but the changes simply happen more quickly," says Gacki.

Shannon went on to say that it's common for people to feel dizzy, lightheaded or nauseous during the first class while adjusting to the aforementioned heat. But she also said that Bikram yoga would improve my flexibility, balance, focus, outlook and sleeping. This resonated with me. Especially the sleeping part because, after years of being an I-can-snooze-on-a-picket-fence person, insomnia had trapped me in its frustrating fortress.

When I first walked into the room, it felt very, very hot – the kind of heat that would normally send me running for an air-conditioned room with a good book and a cool drink. For a few seconds, I actually thought I couldn't breathe, but I did a few mental exercises – in other words, I told myself to stop freaking out and that if a lizard can breathe in this, so can I.
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Talkbacks

mikayogawear | April 10, 2012 at 1:06 p.m. (report)

Great post! The comment about wearing as little as possible and still being legal made me chuckle. It reminded me of how nervous I was before going to my first bikram yoga class in my surf trunks! I think a lot of people struggle with going to their first bikram or hot yoga class especially if they have heard some horror stories like I had. Good luck on your yoga endeavors! - Ken Mika Yoga Wear

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