The One-Month Itch


Bikram studios are promising to change your life in 30 days.

By Chantal Martineau

Think practicing yoga for 90 minutes in temperatures that rival a Delhi summer is crazy? Yogis of all levels are signing up to brave the heat for a month straight in Bikram Yoga’s 30-Day Challenge. Centers all over Manhattan and Brooklyn—including the new Upper East Side location opening this October—are participating in the program. Signing up costs the same as a regular month of yoga (usually $175), but involves attending classes every day, and students can start the program whenever they like; those who cross the finish line at most studios receive a free-month pass. The concept originated several years ago at Bikram’s San Francisco studio as a 90-day yogathon to raise money for kids with cancer and is now being used in many Bikram centers to inspire budding yogis. “Most people go into [the challenge] with a goal, like wanting to lose weight,” says Tricia Donegan, who runs Bikram Yoga Lower East Side. “But they come out realizing what yoga is: a daily practice.” Donegan says she’s seen dramatic changes in those who complete the program.

In my case, Donegan was right. I finished the month with a different perspective—and not just on yoga. As a 29-year-old writer, my greatest fear was the commitment. A busy and unpredictable schedule had previously only allowed me to practice yoga a few times per week, so 30 days felt like a major obligation. But by the second week, class was part of my daily routine. Not to say that it was routine—every class was different. Some days I had joint pain. Others, it was emotional pain. Episodes from my past bubbled to the surface and I realized I was experiencing what the gurus always tout: a union of mind, body and spirit. When my challenge was over, I had a stronger, leaner body and increased peace of mind.

But everyone seeks something different. Since the challenge is about getting out what you put in, I spoke with two of my fellow challengers about their own goals and epiphanies:

Xiomara Laugart:
The Singer, 46

I was preparing to go on tour with my band, Yerba Buena, and to release my first solo album, so I wanted to get in shape. I liked the idea of forced attendance because I’m so lazy when it comes to exercise. The first week I was sore. Then there were days when my brain wanted to stay home. But after a while, my body began craving the class. By the end I felt like a new person, inside and out. On tour, I took all that yoga goodness with me. I shared it with the fans and my fellow bandmates. Sometimes pain can give you pleasure.

Lisa Chamberlain:
The Smoker, 37

I started smoking when I was 13 under pressure from my peers, although I was the only one addicted from the get-go. I’ve smoked on and off through marriage, divorce, the patch, pneumonia, a robbery and innumerable hangovers. The day I took my first Bikram class, I realized that, unlike jogging or playing tennis, I couldn’t do this and light up afterward. I signed up for the challenge and quit cigarettes from day one. There was something about sweating it out of my system. By the end of the 30 days, I knew I would never smoke again—I had found a new addiction.

To find a Bikram class near you, visit

Photo: Roxana Marroquin