Guest Author - Martha McKinnon
Bikram yoga is a copyrighted style of hot yoga developed by Bikram Choudhury, founder of the worldwide Yoga College of India, who began practicing yoga in Calcutta at the age of four and at thirteen won the National India Yoga Championship. As a teenager he seriously injured his knee while weight lifting and was told he would never walk again but by doing yoga prescribed by his teacher, Bishnu Ghosh, his knee healed. He has been on a quest to spread his brand of healing yoga throughout the world ever since.
A Bikram yoga class consists of a series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises done in a room heated to 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity that helps to relax the muscles and heal and detoxify the body. Although physically challenging it is designed to be a complete mind-body workout appropriate for all ages and levels of ability. The 90-minute program was designed by Bikram to deliver total health by balancing and strengthening every system in the body to prevent illness, injury and limit the effects of aging. In addition, the series requires concentration, patience, determination and self-control that can lead to increased mental clarity and reduced effects of stress.
With approximately 300 certified Bikram yoga studios throughout the US, there is a good chance there is a Bikram studio in your neighborhood.
Although I have been doing various forms of yoga for more than ten years, I had never tried Bikram, since I am prone to wilt in excessive heat. But after a summer of too many indulgences and feeling the need for a good detoxification, I decided to give Bikram a go and took a class Friday afternoon. It was everything I expected - challenging, hot, and incredibly sweaty - and more. The environment was friendly, inviting and uplifting. The instructor expertly guided us through each pose, offering encouragement while providing important alignment instructions. Never did I feel pushed to reach beyond my limits.
For 90 minutes we breathed, stretched, balanced, twisted, and strengthened our bodies. At times the heat felt oppressive. I could not hold all the poses as long as required and felt physically depleted by the time we reached final relaxation. I have never sweated so profusely and walking out of the studio was unsure I would ever go back. After getting home and taking a shower I felt a little out of sorts with a slight headache but a couple big glasses of water relieved the symptoms. Saturday I felt invigorated, energized, and focused and by Sunday was ready to head back for another session.
Advice for Your Initial Bikram Class
Are you ready to give Bikram yoga a try? You will need a mat, large towel to cover your mat, a face cloth or towel, and a bottle of water. Many Bikram yoga studios have these available for rent and purchase. It is also best to wear as little clothing as possible to allow your body to sweat effectively.
Be sure to drink lots of water before class and after class and sip it during class to prevent dehydration. If you experience a headache or dizziness it may be a sign that you need to increase your fluid intake.
Try not to eat anything for the two hours preceding class. It is hard to practice any form of yoga with a full stomach and this is especially true of Bikram yoga.
Non-Bikram certified yoga classes and studios usually advertise 'Hot Yoga' so if you want to experience the Bikram method make sure the instructors and studio are certified to teach Bikram yoga.