For many people, Yoga brings to mind an image of a man transformed into the shape of a pretzel. In fact, Yoga is a practice which has been developing for thousands of years, and there are new types of Yoga springing fourth generation after generation. One of the new types of Yoga to emerge recently is Bikram Yoga, and herein we will discuss what sets this Yoga practice apart, and also the many benefits of Bikram Yoga practice.
In Calcutta, 1946, Bikram Choudhury was born. It was quickly evident that he was a Yoga prodigy, and he began the formal study of Yoga at age four with acclaimed instructor Bishnu Ghosh. After several years of study, he won the National India Yoga Contest at the tender age of thirteen. At the age of seventeen an event occurred that transformed his life. While weight lifting, he had an accident and injured his knee badly. He was told that he would never walk again. Not to be deterred, he insisted on being transported back to his childhood teacher. Within six months he was completely healed, and this was the first documentation that Yoga could cure serious physical conditions. In 1974 he moved to California and founded the Yoga College of India in Beverly Hills. It was here that Bikram developed his unique Yoga program.
Before detailing what makes Bikram’s Yoga different, it may be wise to consider the purpose of Yoga. Yoga comes from the same root as the English word “Yoke” and can be translated as “Union”. Hence, Yoga is really about the Union of mind, body, and spirit. Bikram’s Yoga is a type of Hatha Yoga which concentrates on the physical, or “body,” element of this equation.
One difference of Bikram Yoga is that it is performed in a very hot room, usually heated between 95 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It consists of Twenty-Six asanas (poses) that are performed in a specific order. While most Yoga classes differ from session to session, in Bikram Yoga the same asanas are followed in the same order each session. Each asana is held for a particular period of time and all poses are accompanied with Kapalabhati Breath (Breath of Fire). There are also two Pranayama (Breathing) exercises that are performed each session. The combination of the hot room, the special breathing, and the scientific approach to Bikram Yoga bring us to the benefits it can bring to Mind, Body, and Spirit.
If you have ever performed Yoga before, you will know that there is an intense tightness in the muscles in the morning and at the beginning of your session. However, the heat of the Bikram Yoga studio, along with the “Breath of Fire” actually warms the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and allows you to go deeper into a pose. This increased flexibility allows you to try poses you might not normally consider. The exercises are also designed to flush the body with oxygenated blood and increase circulation. The static holds increase muscle tone and bring a sense of vibrance and well-being to the psyche. The sweating cleanses the body of toxins, and for this reason be sure to drink plenty of water and carry your own towel to the class. Bikram actually guarantees that you will be relieved of the symptoms of disease if you follow his program exactly.
In the realm of fitness, there are new fads being developed every day. Every so often, a new system will emerge and everyone you know is discussing it. However, few of these new fads will withstand the test of time. Bikram Yoga is one system which is technically sound and which was developed in Yoga with the assistance of some of the greatest teachers of the 20th century. The benefits of Bikram Yoga are manyfold, and they are based upon its differences. Be sure to check for Bikram Yoga classes in your area and take advantage of this restorative practice.