The Lazy Girl’s Guide To Surviving Bikram

embPhoto: Courtesy of Bikram Yoga Chicago
Looking for a new workout? How about one that makes you sweat before you even begin to move? That’s what happens during a 90-minute session of bikram yoga. Bikram, the original hot yoga, is a set of 26 postures and two breathing exercises executed in a room heated to 105 degrees with 40% humidity. A common reason for exploring this form of exercise is to increase flexibility, lose weight, or alleviate achy joints — not because someone is crazy. In fact, that’s the reason Chicago native Gianna Purcell stepped into her first class five years ago, and today she is the U.S.A. Yoga Champ.
Purcell admits she was also confused on the competitive aspect of yoga since it’s common for instructors to stress the importance of focusing on yourself, rather than the people around you. “When you’re actually competing and training, it seems like the community is going on stage. There is no animosity like ‘I’m going to beat this person,’ said Purcell. “So, it’s really cool to see our Western culture react and behave as part of a collective when we’ve been trained to aggressively size-each other up. Everyone just wants everyone else to get better.” And that includes the R29 community. Purcell sat down with us to share her secrets to surviving the mentally and physically grueling class. After all, she’s embraced the experience enough to take two bikram classes a day, every day of the week.

Getting Started

“Come with an open mind and try it at least three times. When you feel like you’re dying, you’re not — it’s sensory overload. The more you come, the easier it gets. There are so many good things that come out of that practice, especially unexpected results like healthy skin or the cure to a mental funk. You’re a little lighter or suddenly pain-free, but an open mind is the key to achieving these results. It’s also inspiring to see people of different ages, races, and body types taking part in bikram.”


“My go to yoga apparel comes from Onzie. Its clothing doesn’t get smelly or pull on my neck, and it’s easy to wash. The key is to wear fitted clothing that is comfortable. Avoid oversized tees or baggy shorts.”


You Are What You Eat

“Everyone is different but bikram on an empty stomach is highly recommended. That said, I practice early and start my day with green tea or juice. I’ll have a 24-ounce container of water and stop drinking 45 minutes before class. I usually don't drink water during class, but if I do, I put a product called L Drain from Transformation Enzymes in my water for lymphatic support. I’m a vegan and because I eat a lot of raw food, I take the digestive enzyme so I don’t get that heavy feeling. After class, it’s an anti-inflammatory pill to be as alkaline and inflammation-free as possible. Most of my post-workout meals are prepared at home, but the Chicago Diner is a place I go to a lot because of its wide vegan selection. Native Foods is another new vegan restaurant I love.”

Getting Through Class

“In the beginning, I decided I would push through a session no matter how sick or nauseous I felt. I have since gotten over that. If a student feels fatigued, I encourage them to sit down. There’s no reason why you should push past that point of discomfort. If your brain is telling you to slow down and your body can go further, then ignore your mind. However, if it’s your body telling you to stop, it’s important that you listen. In order to get through class, I focus on every small movement my body is making and concentrate on the effect it has on my body. This form of meditation allows me to lose myself in the exercise and pretty quickly, class is over. It’s a practice of presence."

Mental Toughness For Everyday Life

“A unique benefit from my bikram practice is nothing seems out of reach. If I say I’m going to do something, then I’m going to do it. Nothing is impossible, and I’m always going to survive. The world is more open to me now because I have more confidence in everything I do as a result of bikram. Even if it is false confidence, like knowing I can’t jump from one building to another, but I won’t create roadblocks for myself. I’m still going to try.”

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