Hot Yoga studios are popping up all over the place. The studio I attend practices Bikram Yoga. Hot Yoga is currently one of the fastest growing styles of yoga in the world. Not all Hot Yoga is Bikram yoga. Bikram is a series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises performed twice in a room heated to 105°F.
If you are interested, here’s a more about Bikram. It was started by Bikram Choudhury in 1974 in Beverly Hills. A controversial figure for various reasons, Bikram’s method has both detractors and disciples. His method is loosely called hot yoga, as you do the poses in a room heated to 95-100 degrees.
This sequence takes 90 minutes and can be quite intense. Some folks warn that the heat and the manner of the instruction may cause people to push beyond their actual ability and injure themselves. Of course, like with any exercise regime, you should consult a doctor.
Here are the poses you would see and the order of the poses in a typical Bikram class:
• Standing Deep Breathing
• Half Moon Pose
• Hands to Feet
• Awkward Pose
• Eagle Pose
• Standing Head to Knee
• Standing Bow Pose
• Balancing Stick
• Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose
• Triangle Pose
• Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose
• Tree Pose
• Toe Stand
• Dead Body Pose
• Wind-Removing Pose
• Cobra Pose
• Locust Pose
• Full Locust Pose
• Bow Pose
• Fixed Firm Pose
• Half Tortoise Pose
• Camel Pose
• Rabbit Pose
• Head to Knee Pose and Stretching Pose
• Spine-Twisting Pose
• Blowing in Firm Pose
Why Would Anyone Do This? Who in the World would actually want to subject themselves to these crazy poses while in a room heated to 105 degrees? I say don’t knock it until you try it! There really are benefits to this torturous sounding workout!
Some folks even say, “A Bikram yoga class a day keeps the doctor away.”
1. Weight loss
Bikram Yoga is excellent for weight loss. Your digestive system and metabolism will improve, normalizing your appetite and diminishing unhealthy cravings. Your fat will turn into muscle as you develop muscle tone and strength. Warm muscles burn fat more easily as the heat flushes and detoxifies the body. Bikram yoga is known for burning anywhere from 500 to 1000 calories a session. The harder you work in class the more calories you will burn. Your cardiovascular system is worked and strengthened therefore, the more weight loss benefits you will receive. You may see and feel immediate results. You will naturally begin to start eating less and make better food choices.
Many students experience quick relief from arthritis after only a few classes of Bikram Yoga. A combination of the heat and the moving, twisting, extending and compressing of every joint can alleviate arthritis. A regular practice is necessary for continued relief.
3. Blood Pressure
Unstable high blood pressure can respond very quickly to a regular Bikram Yoga practice. Consult your doctor and don’t push too hard for your first few classes. If you are tested about a week after starting Yoga, you may see a slight rise in pressure. Don’t be alarmed. By the second week, that pressure will be normal or close to normal and will stay there as long as you continue your yoga regimen. Many students who maintain a regular practice are able to stop taking blood pressure medication.
4. Back Pain
Bikram Yoga has helped countless numbers of people with back pain, stiff necks, headaches, scoliosis, herniated disks and many other back problems. The Bikram Yoga series is designed to work the spine in every direction with many beneficial backbends, creating a healthy spine and thus a healthy nervous system. Make sure to tell your instructor what type of back pain you suffer from in case modifications are necessary.
5. Skin and Beauty
Watch your face and skin develop “the Bikram glow” as your eyes become brighter and your skin becomes more clear and soft. As you sweat, your pores are opened and cleaned allowing natural lanolin to release through the pores, softening and preserving your skin’s elasticity. “I feel so CLEAN inside and out, and my skin is so SOFT I don’t need moisturizer anymore!” is a student’s comment. Faces in general change expression from looking disturbed and frustrated to looking full of life and happiness. As your body detoxifies, you may eventually never need deodorant again!
Bikram yoga can be a perfect complement to the lifestyle changes necessary to help keep diabetic symptoms in check. Recent research has found that performing these postures on a regular basis can decrease blood-sugar levels. A dedicated Bikram Yoga student, who lost 50 pounds without dieting, healed his chronic back problems and no longer needed his diabetic medication after practicing Bikram Yoga for 6 months. He tells his story in the book “Diabetic Always, Insulin No More.”
7. Stress & Anxiety Management – Bikram’s guru Bishnu Gosh said “Mental stress and strain is the cause of all diseases, even infectious ones.” When performing the 26 postures and two breathing exercises, the fight-or-flight response is turned off and a feeling of balanced well-being is replaced. A regular practice can lower cortisol levels, calm the mind, increase mental clarity and release and reduce stress and tension.
8. Depression – On those days when you don’t feel like doing anything, going to Bikram Yoga class is key. You just have to show up and the yoga takes care of the rest. After each session your mind will become more balanced and depression will be lifted. The more you practice, the better you will feel. Many students come off antidepressants and other medications after establishing a regular Bikram Yoga practice.
9. Breathing problems – Asthma, Allergies, Respiratory Problems
Bikram Yoga will be good for your breathing problems in several ways. The heat promotes relaxation of the muscles and nerves, and you can work with as much intensity as appropriate for your needs. Bikram Yoga will relax your mind and help let go of tensions, toxins and negativity. It strengthens your heart and lungs, improving your lung function. You will breathe easier and deeper than you ever have before.
10. Balancing Emotions
Bikram Yoga helps balance the emotions in several ways. Physiologically a regular practice harmonizes the nervous and endocrine systems – two systems which play a large part in emotional well-being. Practicing Bikram Yoga cultivates the mental faculties of faith, self-control, concentration, determination, and patience. As we become more aware of our inner life, we notice how events, interactions, and even the atmospheric pressure can affect us. As we become more aware, we exercise better choices in our responses. This helps us balance our emotional life.
Many of our male students here in Memphis have come off their cholesterol medication from a regular Bikram Yoga practice. Your circulation increases allowing blood to flow throughout your body cleansing and clearing your arteries.
12. Thyroid regulation
Many of the postures in Bikram Yoga compress and work the thyroid thus helping to regulate the gland balancing thyroid levels. Along with thyroid regulation comes increased energy, weight loss and better metabolism.
13. Anti-Aging / Preventative Medicine
Bikram Yoga acts as anti-aging and preventative medicine keeping the body young and healthy. “Yoga maintains youth long. It keeps the body full of vitality, immune to diseases, even at old, old age. The Yogi never becomes old”. -Bishnu Ghosh
Many athletes such as Colby Bryant and celebrities such as Lady GaGa swear by Bikram Yoga. “As a preventive medicine, it’s unequaled. I could have never lasted as long as I did in the NBA without it.” Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Professional Basketball Player and Bikram yoga student.
One thing I love about a class is the wide range of folks you see. There are all ages, body types, sizes and types of people. They all look beautiful working themselves in these different poses. I feel like no one is watching me so I don’t feel intimidated if I lose my balance or can’t do a pose as well as my neighbor. I also love that I can actually feel myself getting better and improving. In fact, yesterday was the first time that I actually feel like I did a Dancer’s Pose well. I’ve been working on it forever! It might look easy to you, but it’s taken me a while to get my leg up even with my head!
This is what it’s supposed to look like:
Memphis Health & Fitness Magazine, April 2011; http://www.livestrong.com/article/383592-hot-yoga-benefits/#ixzz2FK6CvRC7