Bikram Yoga was started by Bikram Choudhury when he founded the Yoga College of India in Beverly Hills in 1974. Born in 1946 in Calcutta, he and his wife Rajashree were both yoga champions in India before coming to the States and starting the phenomenon that is now Bikram.
What is Bikram Yoga?
Bikram yoga is based on 26 set asanas (poses) done in a precise order and sequencing in a room heated anywhere from 95 degrees up to 105 degrees. Bikram defines its yoga style as one of total wellness and rejuvenation with the heated room aiding in eliminating toxins and creating warm muscles that are more supple and inclined to deeper stretches. Hot Yoga is not Bikram. Bikram is it’s own registered and franchised entity. (See additional information section for more on Hot Yoga vs. Bikram.)
What is the style/class like?
The first thing you notice right when you come into a Bikram studio is the room is HOT! And I like the heat. For women, this is not a class to wear makeup in. Hair is pulled back - bandanas and sweatbands abound. Folks look as if they’re going to the beach and to battle. There is generally no music in the class. The class will start with pranayama (breathwork) and move through 26 postures. These poses are designed to enhance mind and body, relax, strengthen, reshape, and heal all of the body in 90 minutes.
Personal insight and who might benefit from this style:
I have taken Bikram and got deeply into it about 7 years ago. At that time, I was struggling to find my place in the professional world and needed the intense sweating, pushing and contorting of my body that this class offered. I would leave blissfully drained, but unable to do much else than go home and take a shower.
Recently I tried a Bikram class and was left nauseous, exhausted and WET! If you desire a class that’s going to push you and purge your system while doing traditional postures, Bikram’s for you. But, if after a class or 2 and you’re feeling unwell or completely exhausted, it’s time to rethink. Bikram is an “all in” type of yoga, you don’t kinda do Bikram. See how you feel and let your body determine if that environment is for you.
Choudhury is definitely a colorful figure in the yoga world and caused an uproar in 2002 when he was involved in a lawsuit over his attempt to copyright his series of 26 poses done in a hot room. He settled out of court, but for some yogis this has left an indelible stain on his integrity. And note that Hot Yoga is not Bikram. Part of the out-of-court lawsuit settlement as well was that Choudhury agreed not to sue the members of a San Francisco-based collective of Hot Yoga teachers that were teaching his style of yoga and they agreed not to use the Bikram name. Bikram teachers MUST be certified by Bikram’s Yoga College of India. For more information on Bikram yoga, visit www.bikramyoga.com.