Everyone has heard of yoga and knows of it as a series of postures to stretch and rejuvenate your body. What is Bikram yoga and what differentiates it from other forms of yoga?
Bikram yoga is a specific style of yoga founded by Bikram Choudhury. Otherwise known as “hot yoga”, Bikram yoga, named after it’s founder, is fairly advanced yoga moves done in a one hundred and five degree room with humidity at fifty percent, so you will most definitely be sopping wet when leaving.
The origin of this type of yoga is spiritually derived from Hinduism and regionally from Yoga College of India. Bikram yoga consists of 26 asanas or postures and two breathing exercises.
The word asana translates to the word “seat” which refers to the spirit in relation to the divine. Asanas are intended to lead back to sitting in meditation. Asanas are meant to improve your muscle flexibility and strength.
These moves, called asanas, are supposed to be practiced together with pranayama, or slow breath work for maximum benefit. Your breaths should be through the nose, not the mouth, and should be slow, not forced, and totally natural. To receive maximum benefit from practicing asanas, all tension and tightness in the body should consciously be let go.
A glass of water before practicing asanas enhances the experience and asanas should not be done on a full stomach. The practice of Bikram yoga is meant not only to improve muscle strength and flexibility, but also to establish a balance of our physical beings in relation to the divine.
Yoga is a path to attain a balance of the body, mind and spirit. Yoga can, if done correctly, be a means to control the ongoing complaint in all of our lives, stress. Optimum health is the ultimate goal for everyone of us. Health does not just refer to our physical beings but also to our mental attitudes and spiritual growth.
Bikram or hot yoga addresses emotional as well as physical well being and flexibility. When I visited my daughter in California, she signed me up for my first experience with hot yoga. Being in my fifties, I was a little concerned about the prospect of being a complete amateur at any kind of yoga and the possibility of being the oldest participant in the class.
When I entered the flaming hot classroom, it was clear to me that, to my relief I was not the “oldest one” in the class room. I was happily surprised at my ability to do so many of the postures. My self realization during the hot yoga class was my need to “stress” or hurry up at all times.
Constant focus on slowing down the breath and only breathing through my nose was a challenge for me. The heated room was something I thought I would not be able to tolerate. It did add to the yoga session and is probably one of the reasons I did not have aching muscles or pulled tendons the next day.
During some of the postures, I was keenly aware of my need to improve my balance and my sense of my physical position in space. For ongoing achievement of balance, I have been practicing the art of yoga via an instructional DVD in my home.
Particularly useful to me, in addition to the improvement of balance is the yoga reminds me to slow down and relax the tension in my body. The concept of the heated room in Bikram yoga is to diminish the risk of injuries and to allow you to go deeper into each posture.
The perspiration experienced during hot yoga enhances the release of toxins. The postures consist of warm up poses that can be done prior to a yoga class. There are standing poses and seated poses. The twist yoga poses have the purpose of strengthening your back, toning the abdomen and helping with digestion.