Bikram yoga

Measuring up

Weight: No change
Chest: No change
Waist: No change
Hips: -- 1 inch
Body fat: No change
BMI: No change

Bikram yoga

Thoughts of the subway in August sprang to mind when I walked into the Yoga Room in Astoria for my first Bikram yoga (a.k.a. "hot yoga") class. I knew the studio would be between 100 and 107 degrees, but you can't really imagine how that feels until you get there—within moments, beads of sweat form on your skin.

For four weeks, I planted myself among the regulars and other beginners opposite a mirrored wall. Thermal panels on the ceiling and humidifiers on the floor radiated moist heat to achieve a tropical climate more suitable to the Amazon than a three-story walk-up in Queens. In this heat, apparently, you burn fat more effectively and your muscles become more elastic, allowing for greater flexibility. The sweating helps detoxification, circulation is enhanced, and your cardiovascular system gets a thorough workout. Not to mention that you build endurance and determination with every pose.

Each 90-minute class begins and ends with deep-breathing exercises; in between is a sequence of standing poses and a floor series. We practiced 26 poses from the hatha series with short rests in between; most were repeated twice. It's common for beginners to get nauseous or dizzy during the class—the floor is hot, your mat is hot, water is an absolute necessity—but I didn't experience any major difficulties. In my third class, the instructor told me he would have to nickname me "the thrasher" if I kept attacking my poses with such vigor. I guess springing into them was not the way to go about it! Along with flexibility and balance, I had to work on slowing things down. By the third week I noticed changes—some of the poses felt easier and my balance had definitely improved. This almost seems more important than the fact that I lost one inch from my hips!
—Rosella Albanese

The Yoga Room, 32-32 Steinway St between 34th Ave and Broadway, second floor, Astoria, Queens (718-274-0255, *5-46 50th Ave at Vernon Blvd, Long Island City, Queens (718-274-0255, $17 per class. Unlimited monthly passes from $150.