Located on a busy and bustling street in Marina del Rey and sandwiched between a Chinese restaurant and a chiropractor’s office, Bikram Yoga Marina del Rey proves appearances can be deceiving. As I waited to find a spot in the completely packed parking lot before class, I wondered what the studio could possibly have inside. I knew they offered quite a few classes each day, but the studio didn’t look very big from the street. I then followed what I assumed to be fellow Bikram yoga students down the back alley and into a doorway. In any other situation, following strangers down a dark alley at night is not the best idea, but I somehow felt safe with a legion of pedestrians in yoga pants.
I stepped into the studio completely shocked — what I found could only be described as a beautiful chaos. Pieces of wood bound the lobby in clean and modern lines as colorful clothing hung across from the front desk. Though the room’s design absolutely invoked a serene state, the hustle and bustle of Bikram students suggested the opposite as I had arrived just a few minutes before the start of my class. It was clear I entered the studio at perhaps the only time it was like this — students were both entering and leaving class at the same time, with two staff members at the front desk handling package purchases, rentals and release forms.
As my class instructor Kari greeted me and set up my yoga mat inside, I had a chance to briefly look over the space, which packed a lot more in than I thought. The wood-lined hallway leads to a steam room on one side for students to loosen up before class and locker rooms on the other, equipped with restrooms and showers. After checking out the studio, I made my way into the class and, needless to say, I had found where all the people had gone. Because I was in the Saturday 5 p.m. class where everyone only pays $5, I had expected the price to attract a larger and more diverse group. But the reality definitely surpassed my expectations — I was absolutely surprised at the number of bodies in the room. As I tried to find my mat in the back of the room through a sea of bodies, fighting my body’s immediate shock at the room’s heat — typical Bikram classes are ideally performed at 104 degrees, with 40 percent humidity — Kari helped guide the class closer and closer together as more students arrived. At the start of class, our mats were two inches apart from one another.
The studio states that a typical Bikram class attracts a demographic that can span 65 to 70 years, and it was right. My class held both ends of the spectrum, with a boy who looked to be about 10 years old sporting some swim trunks and as a woman who looked to be in her 70s, with all sorts of ages and bodies in between. Bikram yoga truly is for all different ages, bodies and athletic abilities.
As we began the class, starting with the breathing exercises, I became fully aware of the diversity in the room. My position in the back row allowed me the opportunity to observe others and witness all different body types moving through the positions with an ease and grace I thought I hadn’t yet acquired. After the first few poses, however, I found the heat had become my best friend and my worst enemy. The heat had both created a flexibility I hadn’t known possible, but as I’d raise my leg in the air or fold my body like a pretzel with new confidence, I would sometimes lose my grasp to the sea of sweat I was producing. With so many people in front of me, I couldn’t look into the mirror to see if the vast amount of sweat dripping from my body made me glisten glamorously like a Hawaiian Tropic model or Edward Cullen in the daylight, or if instead I looked like a sickly version of my usual self. I chose to believe the former.
Kari had warned me that I might feel lightheaded and that it was normal, but I found myself pushing harder and harder. I was in love with this new flexibility I always warned people I don’t possess and wanted to make the most of my new super powers. I sailed through what I had convinced myself were the most difficult poses, worthy only of the best and most dedicated yogis. I maintained stability through my eagle pose, transitioned my tree pose into a toe stand and kicked my bow pose so high I could see over the heads of the students in front of me. Though we moved from position to position in unison — Bikram students practice the same 26 positions every class — the class surprisingly felt less cult-like than I had expected. That was until we reached the end of our 90 minute class, when Kari led us into the last breathing exercise, and I was surrounded by what sounded like mass hyperventilation. Nevertheless, I was sincerely pleased to be a part of the class and very much enjoyed my time at Bikram Yoga Marina del Rey. By the end of class, I was drenched from head to toe in my own sweat but felt a newfound confidence I didn’t think was possible.
Created by Bikram Choudhury and popularized in the early 1970s, each Bikram class follows the same format, running for 90 minutes, with students practicing the same 26 positions and two breathing exercises every class. Kari was very diligent in explaining the health benefits of each pose as we did them, from flushing out toxins through sweat, to colon regulation and stress release. The average Bikram student can expect to lose one to three pounds of water weight per class.
Bikram Yoga Marina del Rey holds classes as early as 5:30 a.m., and as late as 8:30 p.m., seven days a week. The studio is currently providing a special introductory offer at $50 for 30 days, in addition to their membership packages for unlimited one month, three months and the whole year, at $199, $499 and $1499, respectively. For those not quite certain of their schedule or commitment to Bikram, the studio provides class cards, which students can use for classes on a more sporadic basis. A single class is $25, while the 10, 30 and 60 class cards run at $175, $450 and $750 each. The studio also rents yoga mats and towels for those who don’t have their own for $2 each, and has water, sports drinks and apparel available for purchase.