Bikram Yoga Heats Up in Tokyo

By Luisa Heenan
February 11, 2014
Health & Beauty

With avid devotees such as Jennifer Aniston, Madonna, Lady Gaga and Beyonce, Bikram Yoga was bound to eventually make its way to Japan. It has attracted a wide variety of followers of all shapes and sizes, men and women, young and old, from all around the world.

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Bikram Yoga was developed from traditional hatha yoga techniques and was designed to work all muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons and internal organs in the body to invigorate, detoxify the body, clear the mind, and heal the spirit. All classes are 90 minutes long and are structured exactly the same, with a series of 26 poses and two breathing exercises. The most distinguishing factor of Bikram yoga is that the room temperature is heated to 40 degrees Celsius (105 degrees Fahrenheit). The heat is intended to warm the body in order to improve flexibility and to flush impurities from the body through the skin via sweating.

There are 14 Bikram studios around Japan, with the seventh Tokyo location about to open in Minami Aoyama this month. Lessons are taught in Japanese, but an English class is offered at the Ginza studio at 7 p.m. on Friday. However, as Bikram is a universal practice and the same each time, a simple Google or YouTube search can also give you some tips on postures before you go if you’re worried about the language barrier.

Bikram Yoga can be quite challenging on the body, especially if you have never done it before or are quite sensitive to high temperatures. Here are my top seven tips to help you get the full benefits of Bikram yoga and enjoy your practice:

  • Make sure you are well hydrated before the class by consuming the recommended eight glasses of water gradually throughout the day. Don’t scull a big bottle of water right before class, as it will just lead to discomfort in some poses. Sip water throughout the class and then drink lots of water afterwards. Dehydration is not nice and can lead to lightheadedness and nausea, so make sure you are well prepared! Drinking coconut water afterwards is also a great way to replenish electrolytes.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol the day of your lesson and the night before if you have a morning practice (it can dehydrate your body).
  • Make sure you get enough sleep the night before and avoid a big meal within two hours of the lesson.
  • Expect to sweat…a lot! For this reason, it is best to wear as little clothing as possible. I recommend bike shorts and a crop or tank top.
  • Make sure you arrive to your lesson early and give yourself at least five minutes in the room before the lesson begins to get your body adjusted to the temperature.
  • Make sure to take a towel and change of clothes for after. A shower after class is a necessity!
  • Take it easy if you’re a beginner! Don’t push your body too hard in poses as it can lead to injury. Also, if you’re starting to get lightheaded, just rest during the class and relax until you feel better.

Bikram Yoga Japan is currently running a trial campaign of three lessons for ¥3,000, which you can sign up for on the website (Japanese only). This is a great opportunity to test out a new type of yoga and challenge your body and mind by going out of your comfort zone. Just follow the recommendations and it can be a very rewarding and satisfying experience!

Fun fact: The Ginza studio played host to Lady Gaga when she was in Tokyo, which the staff are very proud of, with plenty of evidence plastered around the studio!

Note: If you have any injuries or conditions, you will want to check with your doctor or practitioner in advance to see if Bikram Yoga is suitable for you. Also, I wouldn’t recommend this type of yoga for pregnant women due to the high temperatures.