If you are new to the world of yoga, and are exploring the various styles and methods used, you may find yourself asking: "What is Bikram Yoga?" Praised for a unique take on traditional yoga and myriad health benefits, many people now know Bikram yoga as simply "hot yoga." The fact is that Bikram yoga, although performed in a heated room, is actually just one of the many forms of hot yoga. Consisting of various poses chosen from the Hatha school of yoga and developed by its founder, Bikram Choudhury, Bikram yoga exercises the mind and body through a strenuous and invigorating workout. Read on to learn more about this innovative approach to an ancient practice.
Because yoga is such an intense and strenuous exercise and use of the body, it is best to seek a doctor's counsel before you sign up for a class. Yoga utilizes many muscles that you may not have used in quite a while, so having the go ahead from your physician is important. If you are a yoga veteran, and familiar with the various poses and the demands that it places on your body, Bikram yoga shouldn't come as too much of a shock to your body. You'll find many familiar poses and positions during the Bikram routine. If you are brand new to the world of yoga, however, you may not know what to expect. Simply put, Bikram yoga consists of a series of 26 individual yoga poses, which include two different breathing exercises. The nature of these poses is nothing new to advanced yoga practicioners. With Bikram yoga, however, these poses and breathing exercises are performed in a room heated to approximately 105 degrees, and with a humidity of around 40 percent; in other words, Bikram yoga is performed in a type of sauna. Since a Bikram routine lasts about 90 minutes, you can see why this program is so intense. Because of the heated environment, it is much easier for your muscles to achieve several particularly challenging poses, as your muscles are actually rendered more flexible by the heat and humidity; as a result, stretches that seem impossible in regular temperatures are suddenly easier.
The founder of Bikram yoga, Bikram Choudhury, is extremely careful about who gets to teach the program and the environment in which they teach it. Developed as a precise yoga routine, Bikram studios must adhere to strict regulations regarding temperature, humidity and layout. There are several benefits to having a heated room during a Bikram routine, and they aren't just related to the ease of muscle movement. In addition to providing an intense, calorie burning workout, the prolonged exposure to elevated temperatures and the subsequent sweating caused by said workout helps to flush toxins from your body. The practice of Bikram can also help to reduce stress levels and promote an increased blood circulation.
As noted above, Bikram yoga is practiced in precise conditions and with extreme adherence to the routine. The 26 individual poses in the routine are laid out in a specific order specially designed to offer increasing flexibility and intensity. Starting with a standing deep breathing pose, the "Pranayama," the routine then goes onto twelve different standing poses, including the Half Moon Pose, Eagle Pose and Triangle Pose, which is used to increase the flexibility of the spine and improve posture and digestion. After the standing poses, 12 different floor poses are undertaken, including the Corpse Pose, which has the participant lying down on the floor on their back and their arms spread. The Corpse Pose is a great opportunity for exhausted participants to spend some time relaxing and focusing on their breathing. The Cobra Pose is also included in this set of positions, where the participant lies with their lower torso firmly pressed to the ground while their upper body and head is arched upwards and hands are flat on the ground. This pose is said to relieve back tension and foster a stronger core. This pose is followed by the Locust Pose, where the legs are held high in the air with the toes pointing outward and the head facing down. After these 12 poses are complete, one final breathing exercise is included, the "Blowing In Firm" pose. Because of the length of time allotted to the routine, most of these poses are actually done twice. This increases their effectiveness, all while fostering flexibility for you.
Before you attend a Bikram Yoga class, it's important to remember to bring plenty of hydration. Most Bikram instructors will specify water specifically, since you will be losing so much of it by sweating.