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Reporters’ Notebook: Sweating it out in Bikram yoga

We like to think of ourselves as active, but we found a new challenge in Bikram yoga.

We’ve always wanted to do Bikram, which consists of 26 postures performed in a room heated to 105 degrees, with 40% humidity.

So, when we saw the Groupon deal for 25 sessions in Costa Mesa for just $25, we were sold.

We thought we were tough enough right up until we stepped into Bikram’s Yoga College of India at The Camp.


Let’s just say we’re dripping with results, but we’ve dried off enough to share the experience with readers.

Lauren Williams: I do tons of yoga at a studio near my home, and I was excited to try something different. I read that it was in a heated room, but didn’t give it a second thought. Heated room? Big deal. Forty percent humidity? Who minds a little moisture?

Mona Shadia: I had been reading about Bikram and getting more serious about trying it, but I stuck to my weekly (regular) yoga class at the gym until I found this deal.

LW: We visited the studio early in the day before our first practice to check out the new place, and the heat was radiating out the doors. The girl at the counter took one look at the chai tea in our hands and said we would need to drink an extra eight glasses of water for every cup of tea or coffee before our class hours later. It was noon, and I was on my third cup.


I began to panic, imagining myself passing out from dehydration. Images of an ambulance pulling up to the curb, lights flashing and me tied to a stretcher, ran through my head all day. I imagined reporting the next day on the Fire Department responding to a call for medical aid rescuing two inexperienced women from a yoga studio.


I worried I was going to faint; I knew it was going to be tough. But I love a challenge, so all I could do was tell myself that I would be able to do it.

LW: Our first day was all about surviving the heat. Bikram is very different from other forms of yoga in that it has mirrors everywhere, and as I moved through the postures I learned a new meaning to the phrase “beet red.” About an hour in, I began measuring the distance to the door in multi-colored yoga mats. A few leaps, and I could be out of there, possibly without anyone noticing. I’d wait until they were all stretching forward or careening back, and go for it. But then there was Mona. I was sure she would be shocked to see my empty turquoise mat when she came out of camel pose, so I stuck around.

MS: Have you ever watched as your body expanded from heat? After a few postures, I could swear that my feet were not that wide or that I was seeing double. I wondered if my shoes would ever fit again.


Our instructor, Patrice, spoke with the speed of an auctioneer and the command of a drill sergeant, but she mixed in these encouraging phrases, telling us we’re “looking so nice” and “doing excellent.” In so many ways this defied my traditional thoughts on yoga. The bright lights in the music-less room, and the carpeted floor were so different, but I liked it. Patrice’s passion for Bikram was contagious. As she described our spines strengthening, our body improving from bones to skin, I imagined my body becoming stronger, healthier, cleaner.

MS: If only I could speak, I thought, I would be able to tell Patrice exactly what I think of her for being such a cruel person.


LW: After my first day, I noticed immediate improvement. Things I had come to accept as inherent parts of myself began improving. A slight wheeze disappeared. A sun rash I’ve had for more than a decade began clearing up. After a few sessions, my jeans started fitting just a little bit looser. My skin seemed to feel brighter, and I felt stronger and more balanced.

MS: I too saw immediate results. My legs and arms are firmer and much stronger. My skin is clearer. What do you expect sitting in 105 degrees for 90 minutes? And the best part: My clothes fit much better. I’ll have to get a second job to pay for my Bikram habit.

Think you have what it takes to sweat and stretch? Well, here’s your chance.

On Friday, the College of India, 2937 Bristol St., is hosting an all day, donation-based yoga challenge in which participants contribute what they can to raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

The goal is to raise $25,000. Last year the studio raised $7,000 for the Red Cross to benefit Japan’s tsunami victims, according to a news release.

This year’s event, featuring food, prizes and massages, starts with a 6 a.m. class and ends with a 8:30 p.m. class.

For more information, call (714) 429-7900 or visit

Reporters LAUREN WILLIAMS and MONA SHADIA can be reached at (714) 966-4632 and (714) 966-4620 or and