Here are some hot facts about Bikram yoga! Bikram is actually the name of a man who invented this style of yoga. But in this article I will focus on the basic facts about this system of yoga to help demystify this popular practice. These ideas are based on my personal experience as a practitioner of this style, as well as my notes and observations as an instructor for the last 13 years.
Bikram, himself, was a competitive body builder and weight lifter in India for most of his late childhood through his adolescent and early adulthood. Due to an accident and thus an injury to his knees, he was drawn to yoga for healing.
Bikram is practiced in a hot room, typically 107 degrees. Most practitioners believe that the use of heat is strictly for detox and cleansing. Actually, the heat’s primary function is to soften strong, hard and sometimes overdeveloped muscles developed through body building originally. “Strength lies in flexibility and one is only as strong as they are flexible”. The sequence of Bikram postures were selected, placed in order and modified for optimal enhancement of spinal alignment.
Bikram yoga is said to be one of the most effective styles of yoga for the spine. The idea that a healthy spine leads to a healthy being is a foundation of Bikram yoga. This has to due with the fact that every nerve in a human being either originates, terminates, or at least passes through the spine. If one improves the alignment of the spine then that information is carried through the entire body/being.
Now that a brief background has been set, let’s get to the nitty-gritty. Bikram yoga is a set sequence of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. For the most part all postures are repeated twice. The first set is to let the body know what the posture is asking and what shape the pose is attempting to create. The second set is designed for muscle memory. It can be used to adjust the body deeper into the pose, increase the intensity, or simply return to the pose where one left off in the first set.
The postures are held for a specific duration for maximum benefit. Bikram yoga is said to be good for beginning students because the standing postures are separated from the floor exercises. A class is typically 90 minutes in duration. For the first 45 to 50 minutes students perform the standing sequence, and during the last 45 to 40 minutes they practice the deep internal strengthening and flexibility postures that are performed on the floor. Since the postures are not connected together, that is there is no flow sequence or transitioning sequences this style can be very accessible to new yogis.
Now for some insider tips for an amazing Bikram yoga class experience!
- Drink lots of water before attending a class.
- Bring plenty of cold water. Iced water is preferable. That way the heated room won’t turn the temperature of drinking water into that of bath water.
- Bring a big towel, bath sheet or beach towel, for your mat and a hand towel or two to wipe your face hands and feet periodically throughout the class.
- Please consult with a physician before attending as this class is held in a room heated to around 107 degrees fahrenheit.
Bikram is an amazing system of yoga that provides many internal benefits for the body, mind and spirit. It’s the first style of yoga I took as a beginning practitioner. It is a type of yoga I will always return to in order for me to counteract the effects of life in the 21st century and to traction my spine back into extension. Come join me on the mat at Bella Prana and see for yourself if Bikram is for you! Hope to see you sweating soon.
By Thom Taylor, Bikram Certified Yoga Instructor