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An Introduction to Bikram Yoga

Posted Aug 26 2011 4:39am

Hey hey all!

Today a big, juicy post dedicated to Bikram Yoga; my lover, my everything. I have recently introduced some close friends to Bikram yoga who all liked it very much from the beginning- and most of them are continuing to practice too! I also receive comments and emails practically daily of people who are either long-time Bikram enthusiasts, or total n00bs wanting to get started. So here a post to celebrate Bikram Yoga, learn about it’s roots and get deeper into all of the benefits. Enjoy!

The Origins of Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga originated in the 70S in India. Bikram Choudhury started practicing yoga for hours on end at the young age of 4 and soon became the national champion. He was undefeated for three years straight and then went off to train for marathons and weight lifting championships. It was during his weight training he injured his knee badly- the doctors told him he would never walk again.

Bikram returned to India to his guru Bishnu Ghosh, the younger brother of well renown yogi Paramahansa Yogananda, where Ghosh aided him in his recovery. After just 6 months of diligent Hatha Yoga practice, Bikram healed himself and could walk once again.

When word got out, the people of India lined up to be healed by Bikram and his master. When Bikram and Ghosh couldn’t keep up with the demand for their yoga therapy, Ghosh send Bikram off to open schools and teach other Yogi’s their particular Yoga series, so that more and more people could benefit from it. Today, hundreds of schools worldwide have opened their doors and are officially trained by Bikram Yoga’s Teacher Training.

What is Bikram Yoga?

Bikram Yoga is a series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises derived from the traditional Hatha yoga, and created to prevent and treat physical ailments of all kinds. Each of the 26 postures has a distinct purpose for being included in the 90 minute series. Bikram Yoga is practiced in a room that is heated to 105F (~40C) and very moist. This because it warms up your body and enables you to stretch much deeper than you normally would.

Bikram Yoga is more about the physical body than it is about spirituality, although it can be a very enlighting experience, to say the least.

The 26 postures, or asanas, together work every aspect of your body. Bikram claims that if you practice Bikram yoga consistently and several times a week, your risk of getting injuries or chronic disease are slim to none.

Even though the postures are relatively simple and always the same, Bikram yoga is never boring. Because of the heat, it is a challenge both mentally and physically. I see more men because of this at Bikram than at any other form of Yoga. The same postures, the same routine, over and over again might seem a bit dull at first glance, but you’ll soon discover the greatness behind this. Because each class follows the same routine, you can really get into a nice flow and and quiet your mind. Because every posture returns every time, it is very easy to spot your own small -and big- progresses very easily. And the heat of ‘the torture chamber’ creates a bond between you and all the other people that come out that day to break out a sweat, they go through the same you are and still drag their asses into the hot room every time.

Because the postures are fairly simple and adjustable to any level, Bikram yoga is accessible for everyone, young and old. thin and thick, limber or not. Remember, it’s called yoga practice, not yoga perfect!

“It’s never too late, it’s never too bad,

you’re never too old, you’re never too sick

to start from scratch once again,

to be born once again.”

- Bikram Choudhury

Bikram Yoga Benefits

Trust me, while you’re sweating and grunting away in the hot room, you can feel it’s doing at least something for your body. And some badass teachers will even inform you with many of the poses exactly what it is you’re getting out of it (wind removing pose; what’s in a name?). But here’s a cool overview of some of the benefits of Bikram Yoga as a whole:

  • Bikram yoga stimulates every organ, muscle, gland and nerve in the whole body, every class
  • Moves freshly oxygenated blood to 100% of the body (good for circulation and collecting toxins so they can be expelled)
  • Tremendous detox by pushing out ~1 to 1.5 liters sweat (which carries toxins) each time!
  • Restores all bodily systems to a healthy working order, back to their natural state
  • Bikram can bring vast improvements to: alignment, flexibility, muscle strength, rheumathoid arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, insomnia, asthma, chronic indigestion
  • Weight loss and body toning
  • Stress reduction
  • Increased energy and vitality
  • Increased mental clarity
  • Prevents injury and may prevent chronic illness
  • Teaches you how to breathe deeply and fully (deep breathing is imperative for a healthy body)
  • Improves the healing powers of your body
  • Improvement of the immune system by improving T-cell function
  • Massages the lymph system (cleanses the body!)
  • Improves digestive system and metabolism (by means of massaging the entire colon and the thyroid gland)
  • Improved heart and lung function
  • Hormone regulation (yay!) (by means of stimulating the thyroid gland)
  • Bikram yoga is a cardio ánd strength workout, without the risks and wearing out the body
  • Builds mental strength by teaching you to not throw in the towel (ha ha) when times get tough
  • In conclusion: Bikram yoga builds (or restores) a strong physical and mental foundation

Yowza! Now you get why Bikram can become quite addictive! Bikram is really on of the most cleansing things you can do for your body. I have heard many a story where the detox would transfer from the physical to the emotional body (and I’ve experienced this to some extend myself as well). The life transformations brought upon by Bikram yoga are nothing short of amazing. What stands out to me is that I read a lot of stories of people sturggling with depression and/or addiction that turn to Bikram yoga and heal themselves of these destructive mindsets.

I bow deep for powers of Bikram.

Bikram Practice Tips

Your first class

I’m  not gonna repeat here the standard talk you’ll get when it’s your first time (get there early, try to stay in the room for the whole 90 minutes, sit down when you feel you need to, etc). Instead, I’ll give you some juicy insider trading!

  • Don’t let yourself get worked up by horror stories. Yes, some people get nauseous, dizzy, faint, whatever. Others don’t. It varies per person and per class. Especially for your first class, don’t focus on the possibility of not feeling so well. I know a lot of people, including myself, who felt just fine :)
  • Drink plenty of water troughout the day (if you take an AM class, get up earlier so you can hydrate). Don’t guzzle down too much right before class (a full bladder during cobra is not sexy).
  • Eat nourishing foods that don’t weigh you down (fruit, juices and smoothies are great, as they are rich in water, rich in sugars, and digest easily). Smoothies and juices can be consumed pretty close to a class, but stop eating solids well before. An empty-ish stomach is best.
  • Try and not bring a water bottle in class. This will only distract you. If you hydrate before class you won’t need it either. Focusing on your breath is more important and effective anyways.
  • If you have long(ish) hair, make a bun that is neither too high nor too low. Too high and it will get in the way during some of the floor series. Too low and you won’t be able to lie down comfortably.
  • Wear a skimpy outfit. Really, nothing that’s covering up whole parts of your body or is loose-fitting. Don’t be shy, no-one os focusing on you (let alone your shorts) and you’ll thank me later.
  • Lay your mat in a spot where you can see yourself in the mirror.
  • Don’t compare, don’t judge. If you feel you need to sit down for a bit. Do so. Even hardcore, long-time Bikranites do so.
  • Listen. To. The. Dialogue. Please. Don’t figure you sorta know what they mean. Don’t assume the person in front of you is doing it the right way (although peeking is adviced). Really closely follow the dialogue. And for the love of Ghandi: don’t kick out during standing forehead to knee!!!! (lol, this is my biggest pet peeve. newbies kicking out …)
  • Afterwards: keep drinking like a camel (preferably some coconut water as well, water after that) and eat some fruit not too long after (bananas are best).
  • Get back in there as soon as you can :)

Two important lessons we learn from Lady Gaga: wear comfortable clothes, and don’t kick out if your standing leg is bending or wobbling…

For everyone

  • Get there early so you can spend 10-15 minutes relaxing or meditating on your mat before class
  • Don’t fidget. Exercise stillness between postures, and instead focus on your breathing. Don’t play with your outfit, correct your hair or, gasp, whipe away your sweat. Just, don’t. You really think wiping your sweat is gonna help if you’re trapped in that room for 90 minutes performing some pretty intense activity? Non.
  • Even if you have been coming for weeks, months, years perhaps, keep listening to the dialogue! You may discover something new every class. Something you hadn’t paid attention to before, but that will help you with your alignment. Also, every teacher brings something of his or her own to the dialogue, so look for hidden treasures!
  • This also means actually staying with the dialogue. Don’t move to and from postures too fast or too slow, and only if you feel you will die if you don’t is it ok to change before that magical everything-is-going-to-be-ok-now ‘CHANGE’
  • Suck in your stomach and contract your abs, always. Seriously, flexing your core will not only give you nicely defined abs after some time, it also helps in many ways with your postures. It strengthens your core, which helps you with stability. It also protects your lower back from injury.
  • During the floor series, make it a sport to get into savasana (dead body pose) as soon as possible every time. Don’t drink, fidget or stall, just turn around and lay down in savasana! You will gain a lot of extra rest by doing so.
  • Stay in final savasana, also know as full body climax for insiders, until the lights go on. These minutes are very efficient minutes. Take this time to get your geart rate down, slow down your breath, and let your body cleanse. Your blood is pumpin though your body at an accelerated pace, meaning it can pick up far more toxins than under normal circumstances. It’s also a perfect time to practice stillness of the body and mind.
  • Add a little lemon juice and/or salt (himalayan or celtic sea salt, no dead, processed salt please) to your post-Bikram water. This will help with getting your electrolytes back in balance
  • If you practice Bikram multiple times a week, always stay on top of your water intake, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Also, you might want to look into either upgrading your diet (more fruit, whole grains, juices & smoothies) or adding a B-vitamin complex. You are sweating out a lot of potassium and B vitamins every.single.day, and it is vital that these get adequately replaced. A vitamin B deficiency will rob you of energy.

Now that’s hot.

Have you ever tried Bikram yoga? If so, what do you love most about it? What’s your favorite posture, and least favorite? (My fav: camel. Least favorite: locust. I just don’t see the point :p).

Q: which posture would you rather hold for 2 full minutes: awkward, triangle or camel?

GO!

Namaste!*

*I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells, I honor the place in you which is of Love, of Truth, of Light and of Peace, When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are One.

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