Singapore took one look at us with the gym equipment we brought over from Australia and laughed! We reluctantly agreed. Given the contrasting environment, we were never going to manage our own fitness routine here without some divine intervention. Firm believers in keeping active and healthy to manage stress and resilience, we searched for a solution.

While my husband likes intense physical work-outs, I enjoy more sustained exercise. So we sought something that allowed two extremely different physiques to benefit; presenting enough challenge to keep us interested over the longer term, within an environment where we felt okay about our current state of ‘flabby-chic’. Enter Bikram yoga! One year down the track, Bikram yoga has been utterly life-changing for us and the benefits continue to grow.

Genuine ‘Bikram yoga’ is a unique sequence comprised of 26 postures derived from Hatha yoga, developed by founder Bikram Choudhury, to systematically exercise, detox, heal and energise your entire body, making you physically stronger and more flexible. It encourages mental focus and clarity by providing stress relief for your mind.

This set routine is conducted over 90 minutes in a large, heated, humid room (41˙C) where your Bikram-qualified instructor stands at the front of your group class verbally articulating how to perform each posture. By the time you leave this room, dripping in sweat, your body and mind will have undergone a euphoric transformation – and you will be so proud of yourself!

The first time… Wearing your yoga gear, equipped with towels (provided) and BYO water bottle, you enter the intentionally quiet Studio to choose ‘the mat’ where you will spend your session. Initially, you may feel a slight sense of panic…I’ve just entered a really warm room and have no idea what is going to happen next. What have I got myself into here? Where should I go?

For starters, select a central area towards the back of the room so you can watch others while you find your feet (so to speak!) Arrange your towel over your mat and give yourself some time to adjust to your surroundings. The instructor then enters the room, collects class tickets from everyone and asks ‘is anyone doing Bikram for the first time?’ then encourages first-timers to ‘try to stay in the room for the entire session, try to limit drinking water during class and please fold your mat when you leave the room after class.’

Class begins with instruction for a simple breathing exercise, progressing into the various postures (2 sets of each) and so begins your new physical journey, ultimately ending with another breathing exercise at the end of the session. After you leave the classroom you can ask the helpful instructors for guidance if needed.

When you first start, it really is: – essential to be well hydrated by drinking plenty of water earlier in the day – important to leave your ego, make-up and conversation outside the studio – challenging to stay in the room for the entire session – overwhelming to attempt new postures while listening to verbal instruction – confronting to realize how messy and uncoordinated you feel – frustrating to try to maintain regular breathing through your nose – necessary to rest, listen and watch while you restore your breathing and composure  wise not to evaluate yourself against anyone else in the classroom

After your first and subsequent sessions you will find: – you do survive and will be proud that you didn’t leave the room – every time you attend a class, you hear the verbal instructions a little more clearly – your breathing will become more controlled over time – you feel completely re-energised and empowered after showering in the on-site facilities – you ache the next day but the aching reduces after your recommended follow-up class, 24-48 hrs later – like everyone, some days you can hold a posture well, other days you can’t – attending regular sessions when you first start will fast-track your learning curve and coping mechanisms  for the longer term you can vary your maintenance from once or twice a week to every day, according to what suits your schedule

Each class provides a new personal experience – some invaluable ‘me-time’, which helps you tackle everything else with renewed energy and a calmer demeanor. Your stiff muscles and tired mind are re-awakened and refreshed. Your body thanks you!

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Catherine Flanagan is an ANZA Member and a new contributor to the ANZA Guide to Singapore.