Held in a room heated to 45 degrees, Bikram Yoga is a 90 minute class which consists of 26 asanas and breathing exercises repeated twice. Humidity is 40% – that’s right – so if you’re thinking you’re going to sweat buckets, you are right! In other words, if you didn’t know your shins and elbows had sweat glands, you’re about to find out.
The sequence is constant, designed to be a rejuvenating exercise to strengthen the entire body, from head to toe, to improve general health, and the heated room will help drive a deeper stretch while preventing injury.
Founder Bikram Choudhury synthesized the practice from basic Hatha style techniques and it started gaining popularity in the 1970s. Born in Calcutta in 1946, he started practicing yoga from the tender age of four under Bishnu Ghosh.
At 17, Choudhury suffered a knee injury that led doctors to believe that he would never walk again, but yoga helped heal his knee and inspired him to establish Bikram Yoga and introduce it to communities across the world.
If you’re wondering why so much fuss is being made about profuse sweating in a sauna-like conditioned room for 90 minutes, it’s because you haven’t yet realised the benefits you are to reap if you should sign up for that very same class. It is a great place for beginners to push themselves.
The heat will be intense, yes, but after a few classes, you will learn to adapt to and even welcome it. Some of the benefits of Bikram Yoga include enhanced flexibility, successful recovery from injuries (due to deep stretching), and the endless flushing of toxins due to increased perspiration.
People usually tend to think that in order to be able to do yoga, one must have the flexibility of a professional gymnast, which is entirely not true! So have no worries – you will not be forced into contortionist positions.
The heat will allow you to safely reach your new levels of personal flexibility in beginner’s positions, which is therapeutic for your body. Also, what’s not to gain from a having a little more flexibility than before?
Bikram yoga is a low impact workout which uses muscles you probably didn’t know you had! Also, a prime focus is on spine strength, which means your back gets the attention it needs and your posture will also be improved.
Not to forget, this form of yoga is based on Hatha techniques, defined as stillness in a posture while breathing normally. With the added element of heat, you won’t make it far if you don’t breathe deeply. It is not yoga if the breathing is not proper. If you find it difficult in the first class, worry not; in no time you will be able to breathe in a full and controlled manner.
The heated room helps you to stretch more and get you your cardio, but it also helps you sweat like never before. The postures themselves are detoxifying for your muscles, organs, and glands. Perspiration furthers that.
A 90-minute class can burn up to 1000 calories. The way you stretch and compress your internal organs and glands also stimulates metabolism so you keep burning off calories even long after you’ve left the mat!
Bikram Yoga is also known to reduce symptoms of conditions and illnesses like diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, depression, arthritis, and obesity.