Looking for a unique workout experience? Ready for a challenge? How does a vigorous series of 26 yoga postures as well as two pranayama (breathing) exercises, each performed twice and over a 90 minute period in a room heated to 105 degrees with 40% humidity sound? Pretty crazy you might say, but to thousands of loyal practitioners, Bikram Yoga, or hot yoga, as it is sometimes referred to, is not only the best workout in town but a complete life changing experience.
Living yoga master Bikram Choudhury, born in 1946, is the Bikram Yoga innovator. He designed the twenty-six asana (posture) series to warm and stretch muscles, ligaments and tendons, in a very specific order. The twenty six postures are performed in the same order and held for a specific amount of time during each class. According to Bikram, doing the postures in this order in this particular sequence will systematically move fresh, oxygenated blood to one hundred percent of the body, to every fiber and organ. As a result, all body systems will be restored to a healthy state and this will allow for proper weight management, excellent muscle tone and an overall sense of well being. The heated room allows for profuse sweating which is also believed to rid the body of toxins as well as keep the body more flexible.
According to Bikram: Blood circulation is affected immensely during Bikram Yoga. While performing a specific asana, the body is stretching or compressing a certain part of the body; thus, cutting off circulation to some or all of the major joints of the body temporarily. This restriction of circulation causes the heart to pump more blood. Once the asana is complete, and the you come out of the posture, new oxygenated blood is able to rejuvenate the arteries that were being compressed. It is said that because of the volume change and influx of fresh blood, any infection, bacteria, or toxin can be released.
According to some, a regular practice also works to balance the emotions, allow us to become more patient and focused, notice at a greater depth how certain events effect us, exercise greater self control, concentration and detemination.
It is important to note that some gyms and yoga studios may offer a class called ‘hot yoga’ but this does not necessarily mean the class is a traditional Bikram Yoga class. In order to teach an official Bikram Yoga class, instructors must be trained by Bikram himself at his Yoga College of India located in Southern California and must complete a rigorous 500 hour intensive nine week course of study. In the past, Bikram has taken legal action against yoga studios or gyms which have taught his method without the appropriate training from him. In addition he has attempted to copyright his specific series. This has made him a rather controversial figure in the yoga community in spite of his world wide success.
That being said, it is still possible to get a ‘hot yoga’ experience without taking an official Bikram class. In fact, many people prefer to try ‘hot yoga’ in a less strict environment with a little more variety, a few degrees cooler temperature or a shorter duration of time – 60 minutes rather than 90 minutes.
One recommendation I can give, after 3 years of a regular Bikram Yoga practice (even throughout my pregnancy), is to stick with it. Even if you hate it at first,(as I did my first time), even if you feel nauseous, dizzy, light headed or simply ill during class,(as is normal as the toxins are flushed from the system) don’t bust out the door never to return again. Go back and in time, the heat will cease to bother you. Not only will you find flexibility and strength, but a deeper mind body connection, a stillness of mind and a place for forgiveness and acceptance of yourself.