Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Alex Brandon Thayne Dibble, an instructor with Bikram Yoga demonstrates yoga poses as people look on a corner of Rittenhouse Square.
What's bikram yoga and should I give it a go?
This isn’t a pursuit practised by just women, or just gymnasts.

THIS ISN’T THE preserve of harem pants-wearing tree-huggers or hippy airheads who love chanting on the beach at dawn.

This isn’t a pursuit practised by just women, or just gymnasts, or the kind of people who need scented candles and slow-beat music to sleep…..bikram yoga is currently sweeping the country and the message is clear; anyone from 18-year-old boys with growing pains to pensioners with nothing else to do should do bikram.

Kate McNamara has practised yoga all of her adult life, and the owner of one of the biggest studios in Cork (Bikram Yoga Cork) says that attitudes towards this type of yoga have changed, and not a day too soon either.

“There was quite a build-up to Bikram Yoga before it came to Ireland because demand for it abroad made sure that everyone knew it was coming. It was well sign-posted and we had a lot of people taking it up initially,” she explains.

Almost three years in business and it’s going from strength to strength. “There was a fall-off after the initial surge,” she outlines, “but you do have a dedicated crew and people know it from other cities and countries. They tend to kind of want to come, as opposed to feeling like they have to. They tend to look forward to it because it’s a good way to de-stress.”

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“People come for all kinds of reasons but the main ones are for stress relief, injury recovery and prevention and the third would be weight-loss or toning.”

The classes are 90 minutes long and take place in a climate-controlled room, which reaches 40 degree heat and 40% humidity. “It’s a bit like being in Turkey,” laughs McNamara.

“The heat is the big benefit for a lot of sportspeople like GAA players, rugby players and walkers, because when they train a lot they get very strong but then they have tightness and recurring injuries, so the heat is like a therapeutic benefit of the class, so I think that’d be the main benefit of the heat.”

The classes generally last for 90 minutes and McNamara recommends a “minimum of three classes a week”.

“You start to understand more and more with every class. If you did it once a week you’d have forgotten a lot. We have people who come five and six days a week.”

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What you need…

As little clothes and as much water as possible. If you’re worried about how you look when you sweat then you’d better conquer this phobia fast!

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(Bikram yoga demonstrators take a break for a drink of water in New York’s Times Square)

What’s the difference between this and ‘normal’ yoga?

“The main difference is the heat but the other part of it is there’s 26 postures and you repeat them again and again, each class. That allows you to get confident and familiar with the 26 postures. These cover all your major joints and muscles, so you’ve given yourself a full workout.”


There are bikram studios right throughout the country — but the message is clear, don’t be intimidated the first time you walk in the door.

“It wouldn’t be as humid as a sauna. Okay, when you go into the room initially you feel warm. But it’s only later in the class that you feel the heat and your body starts to sweat, which is what your body does in a hot environment; cools itself down. So the very fact that we’re sweating is a way to rid itself of toxins through the natural process of sweating. The heat then also makes you feel more limber and prevents you from overstretching and injuring yourself.”

Top tip from the pros…

“It’s a big challenge,” she adds, “ but all you can do is take your time, sit down and take breaks, that’s really important, focus on your breathing. And afterwards, you’ll feel so proud and so happy and you’ll go away thinking ‘I’m coming back tomorrow’.

“The focus is on the individual as opposed to trying to keep up with those around you. That’s what we encourage and teach; do not judge yourself by anyone else. Do your best because your goals are not the same as anyone else’s. It’s your body, your history, your health, all of those things are very individual.”

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