Bikram Yoga is very popular in the United States and most of the West. This form of yoga consists of heating the body in a very hot room and performing asanas, or poses. Those practicing have found major benefits in the releasing of toxins, in overall physical health, and lifestyle. It was designed to stretch the body and encourage increased flexibility. Many students and teachers tout the benefits of Bikram Yoga, and the success of the program is evident by all the studios that now offer it. As a workout, it offers so much to the practitioner beyond a normal hatha class, and although it is not right for everyone, it’s a fun way to add variety into a fitness regime.
Bikram Yoga was originally founded by Bikram Choudhury of Calcutta, India. His yoga career began young, and as an adult he went on to open yoga schools in both Japan and India. In the early 1970s he started his first US school in San Francisco, California. He and his wife, Rajashree (founder of the United States Yoga Association), work with many doctors and scientists to discover how their system works for the body, and how to incorporate yoga into therapeutic treatments. Bikram Yoga can be used to heal sports injuries, develop good breathing habits, and tone the body’s muscles preventing future injury.
He and his wife have also worked together to create and organize the Teacher Training Program that is used today to expand the Bikram school. They are passionate about their method and have inspired many yogis and yoginis to learn and teach heated yoga. The message is positive, and the aim is general health and promotes fitness. Through modern methods, they have spread the lesson of heated yoga to the world.
The Bikram system is based off of hatha yoga asanas and breathing techniques. It is appropriate for all ages above 18 as most studios have age restrictions. This exercise is not acceptable for children as the physiological differences may lead to complications. The course was designed for adults, and therefore has not been tested on the bodies of children. Safety must come first in the classroom.
A traditional Bikram yoga class is a series of 26 standing and sitting asanas performed in a 105°F room at 40% humidity for 90 minutes. It is a specialized type of yoga that encourages blood oxygenation through breath and heart-pumping postures. Bikram, or hot, yoga is a challenging course and not recommended for those who are not already in good health or beginners. The exercises themselves are also of an advanced nature. However, the benefits of working in a hot, humid environment means being able to experience body flexibility that is beyond what you have achieved before.
Practitioners of Bikram yoga find that the main benefit is improving of the body’s joints, flexibility, and weight changes through sweat loss. Having a class or community of people to practice with means sharing ideas, learning new things, enjoying the workout with others, working with classmates to achieve balance, and beginning a great exercise training practice that could improve health in years to come.
Due to the environmental factors that play into this class, it can not be performed at home. One, however, can practice the balancing and postures that are done in the class in the comfort of their own home.
The pace of a Bikram class is slow. The rate at which poses are performed and held is much slower than a traditional hatha class and MUCH slower and deliberate than an ashtanga class. The reason for this is, in part, to relax deeply into poses and feel for signs of discomfort. The mind’s ability to become more aware of the body is heightened.
The asanas performed are meant to compress arteries and veins in order to uncompress them, leading to a rush of renewed blood. Thus, rejuvenation occurs. Some of the poses naturally massage the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system of the body is vital to the immune health of the human body. Consisting of hundreds of nodes throughout the body – including the thymus, tonsils, spleen and adenoids – these tissues carry the clear fluid known as lymph through the body. They play a major role in waste, bacteria, and virus removal. Self and partner lymph massage is encouraged. Bikram Yoga is just one amazing way to access these hidden parts of the body.
After a Bikram workout, the body is very relaxed. You feel as though you have just had a great massage – and you really have! All the stretching, pulling, and pressure have rendered your muscles renewed and relaxed. The heat has allowed students to access parts of their muscles and joints that do not get much attention outside a spa. Throughout the practice, water should be sipped. Afterward, even more should be imbibed. It’s time to replace all the lost water and assist the body in the removal of the toxins that have been disturbed from inaccessible parts of the body.
Obviously, Bikram Yoga is considered a safe style of yoga to practice on a regular basis, given its popularity and success. Common sense, however must be applied. Due to the heated nature of this type of yoga, one must practice some self-policing. If you feel at all weak, overheated, thirsty, light-headed, or are experiencing nausea, immediately leave the room and begin hydrating. Athletes and dancers with hyperextended knees should be mindful of injuring themselves.
A Final Note
Although a very new school of yoga, Bikram offers so much to its practitioners. However, if you have health problems or concerns, contact a healthcare professional. Be sure to get the “all clear” from someone who is qualified and that you can trust. If you still are not sure, get a second opinion. Yoga as therapy is becoming more and more prevalent in Western medicine. Doctors and scientists are beginning to discover and see evidence of its ability to make sick people feel better and improve their overall health.