Samui Wining & Dining
Making your body stretch like toffee with Bikram Yoga.


Yoga is like a secret service, it works in the background without you even knowing. And suddenly when you least expect it, you suddenly find you’re stronger and more flexible, and realise that your body was working out the whole time.

        The ultimate goal of yoga differs depending on who you ask, but the same underlying theme is the quietening of the mind in order to see the true self or spirit. But apart from the spiritual aspect of yoga, it is now widely HEAT accepted that the physical postures of yoga can help alleviate many health problems, reduce stress and keep the joints, especially the spine, supple. The postures, called ‘asanas’, stretch or work on certain parts of the body. The stretching allows for better blood flow, and with continued practice, increases the body’s flexibility.

        Bikram yoga is a special type of yoga which is conducted in a heated room. A set of 26 different yoga postures, along with two breathing exercises, are repeated twice every class. The heat warms your body through and allows you to work deeper into your muscles, tendons and ligaments.

        And there is a Bikram yoga studio right here on Samui, located on Chaweng Beach Road just above Dr Fish. Celebrating its fifth anniversary this year and called simply ‘Bikram Yoga Koh Samui’, it is owned by Lola Lavaud, and her husband, Alex Prestwich,. While the business is jointly owned, they split their time between two businesses, Lola pursues her passion of teaching yoga and Alex runs the popular Dr. Fish downstairs.

         The benefits of Bikram yoga are numerous: increased flexibility, toning and lengthening of the muscles, stretching and strengthening the spine, relieving and preventing back pain, releasing stress, ridding your body of toxins; improving your skin, breathing and respiratory system; improving your focus and patience, weight loss, improving your balance and coordination, balancing your metabolism and stimulating your auto-immune system, increasing your energy and stamina, sleeping better and basically enjoying an overall improvement in the quality of your life. The heat allows for a deeper and safer stretch, it increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients into the body’s cells, which in turn generate more energy. It burns calories (hence the weight loss) and builds endurance.

          If this all sounds too good to be true, why not stop by the studio and talk to Lola, or take a class and feel the benefits yourself. The classes are a whopping 90 minutes long (which is great value for money) and they certainly deliver. Class sizes vary between ten and 25 and the large studio is more than capable of holding larger classes throughout the high season. But beware, it’s a vigorous, cardio workout which will have you sweating out toxins in no time, so make sure you’re well-hydrated before taking part. Make sure you wear fitted clothing like shorts and sports bras/T-shirts, because anything baggy combined with sweat, is going to get tricky.

          Anyone can take part; you don’t have to be experienced, supple or even flexible. Yoga is a very personal thing, everyone’s bodies are different and you only need to do as much as your body is able. The large mirrored wall enables you to see your form, and Lola is always on hand to help and spends the entire class talking everyone through the postures. What to look out for, what to be careful of, how to breathe and, the most important, how to motivate yourself to keep going.

          But fear not, just because the same postures are repeated every class, doesn’t mean boredom sets in. Each class you attend will find you in a different frame of mind, and you’ll find your body reacting differently each time, with Lola always on hand to help. You’ll be able to see and feel your body getting stronger and you’ll be able to work that little bit harder each time.

          The first 55 minutes are standing postures and after doing some warm up breathing exercises, you complete a few warm up postures, move on to some challenging balance postures, some forward stretches and triangle pose, to tree pose and toe stand before relaxing back in corpse pose to prepare for the next 35 minutes of floor postures. Some hip-opening, then spine strengthening, then back stretches and finally some breathing exercises to get rid of any toxins in the lungs. It truly is a full body work out.

          Because it’s a full body cardiovascular workout, Bikram yoga attracts a lot of men, but this workout appeals to everyone. Lola even has a 73 year old woman who attends regularly! Bikram yoga concentrates on the workout itself, there is no focus on the spiritual side of yoga - you won’t find burning incense or statues of Hindu deities here.

          Classes are available Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 9:30 am and 5:00 pm (note, this has changed from 6:00 pm), and Saturdays and Sundays at 11:00 am and 5:00 pm.

          Bikram Yoga also offer two yoga retreats per year at Kalyana Villa in the south of the island. A total of 14 classes are offered in a custom heated studio, one in the morning and one in the evening. Personal corrections and guidance are offered to improve your yoga practice and all meals are prepared by a private chef. Afternoons are free for you to relax by the pool, on the beach or go out and explore the island.

          They also offer a range of yoga clothing at their studio called ‘Mad for Yoga’ so if you find local supermarkets lacking, this is the place to stock up on some suitable yoga outfits.

          So come on, give Bikram Yoga a try. Maybe it’s just what your body needs.


 Colleen Setchell


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