Rejuvenating the body and the mind with Bikram yoga is quite literally the hottest trend among Katy’s fitness enthusiasts.

In a room heated to 105 degrees and kept at 40 percent humidity, aspiring yogis sweat away calories and troubling health issues.

“It changes the construction of the body from the inside out,” said Holly Hope, owner and director of Bikram Yoga Katy at Westheimer Lakes. “A warm body is more flexible, and then you can reshape the body any way you want.”

Hope’s Bikram studio opened in mid-October 2011 but has already caught on with locals, a number of whom fill the sweltering room three, four or even five times a week for the 90-minute classes.

The first 45 minutes of the Bikram Yoga System consists of standing poses intended to improve musculo-skeletal balance. With sufficient intensity, these standing poses also provide an aerobic benefit.

The second half of the class consists of floor postures that address the spine’s proper alignment. Many first-time clients notice spinal problems they didn’t know they had after their first Bikram class, Hope said.

Because of the warm environment, participants can quickly achieve deeper stretching throughout the 90-minute period.
The higher room temperature, which is carefully monitored and continuously adjusted by state-of-the-art technology, also helps prevent injury and relieve stress and tension.

In addition, Bikram yoga — like all styles of yoga — emphasizes deep and even breathing, an anxiety-reducer in and of itself.

“Your breath is very important,” Hope said. “After the first breathing exercises, you’re encouraged to breathe in through the nose and out through the nose the whole time. If you don’t, it activates a flight-or-fight reaction that makes you want to get out of the class.”

The first class most likely won’t be enjoyable for beginners, Hope said. She compares yoga to a marathon, something that requires a long-term commitment in order to see desired improvement.

“At first I was so worried everyone would look at me and know I was doing the poses wrong or judge me if I couldn’t make it without resting,” said Jay Jay Lee, a student at Bikram Yoga Katy. “But the good news is that everyone is too concerned with making sure they are doing it right themselves, they don’t have time to worry about anyone else in the room.”

Yoga students should know not to be self-conscious about any inevitable sweating either. By placing a beach towel over their yoga mat or using an absorbent Bikram-specific mat, the issue of sliding around due to sweat is diminished.
“There are certain poses you need to sweat in order to get your body in certain positions. People want to wipe that sweat off, but it’s your natural cooling system. If you wipe it off, your body has to work that much harder,” Hope said.
To help stay cool, women don form-fitting shorts and tops, while men typically opt for no shirt at all.

The heat might not be easy to endure at first, but with 800 to 1,800 calories burned in 90 minutes, improved blood circulation and the flushing away of toxins, those who regularly practice Bikram yoga will reap the rewards.

Hope already has students reporting that health issues from oversleeping to chronic neck and back pains have ceased entirely.

She knew after she tried her first Bikram class in Sugar Land that she needed to open a studio in Katy. She’d been a yoga instructor for 10 years prior and has taught fitness classes since she was 16 but found that practicing Bikram was the first time she felt she truly achieved the much-hyped union of mind, body and spirit.

“I knew this is what I wanted to be teaching everyone. I wanted everyone to heal their body by doing this,” she said. “We have new people coming every day, which is great because our mission is to enrich the community and provide a new body, new mind and new life to our clients.”

If Lee’s personal testimony is any indication, the studio’s mission has certainly been fulfilled. Practicing Bikram yoga helped Lee end her life-long digestive problems and put her on a path to keeping off weight she gained upon reaching her 40s.

“I truly believe I am mentally, physically and spiritually stronger and healthier after only one month of Bikram yoga. I am more flexible now than I was at the age of 16,” Lee said. “Once you make it through the first couple of weeks, you will be a yogi for life, just like me.”