Bikram Yoga 101 –What is it?
So I have been referring to my new addiction–Bikram Yoga for a while now. I had not really cared too much for Bikram or any kind of yoga until I ruptured a disc in my back last year. Sure, I had dabbled a bit here and there, but for me, it was something boring and not my cup of tea. I found myself laid up in bed unable to move and the effects of that still trouble me. The specialist I saw told me I should cut out extreme exercises (i.e running) if I wanted to live a pain-free life. He also told me I needed to take physical therapy. Physical therapy? forget it. I didn’t have time for that as I was running back and forth at the time from England to the US every 2-3 weeks.
Then came a trip to Chennai. And there I found Vinod. Vinod was the guy who taught me how to be almost pain-free from Artistic Yoga (also called Power Yoga by Bharat Thakur). More on that later. Coming back to the US, I didn’t have Vinod to help me out. Thinking of going to regular yoga seemed painful for me…..painful in my mind. Boring! I had done a bunch of hot yoga classes with a fabulous yoga teacher at home– Rebecca. Now that I was on the road, Rebecca was not there either. No Vinod…No Rebecca. Now what?
After some google.com research I decided to try this phenomenon called Bikram Yoga.
Bikram Yoga is a series of 26 Hatha Yoga poses put together in a deliberate order to give the health benefits to every part of your inner body. It is not the same as Hot Yoga. Each pose is done two times. The first time, they make you hold it for about a minute. The second set is a shorter amount of time, but the encouragement is there to go beyond your limit and push yourself a tad more. And the best part of it? It is done in a heated room of 105 degrees with 50%+ humidity for 90 min! Phew!
The classes are always the same 26 poses in the same order. However, what the instructor at the studio said my first day was absolutely right. You can take the class 100 times and you will have a different experience with the same poses in the same room with the same instructor every single time. It’s true. There are days when about 30 minutes in, I feel the entire concept is just suicidal and I vow never to do it again. Then, there are days when I get through the whole class without any issues. There are days when one pose is a piece of cake but the next day it is so hard I cannot imagine doing a second set.
The class is broken up into what I see as 3-4 parts. Within each part I see myself dividing it into subparts.
Part 1: Pranayama breathing and warm up (25 min). The rule here is no water for the first 25 minutes to warm the body up.
Part 2: Standing Series. This whole part is up on the feet and although the full body is worked here, I feel the concentration is on the lower body.
Part 2a. Balance poses
Part 2b. Forward bending compression poses
Part 2c: A cooldown of the standing series
Part 3: Laying down series
Part 3a. Spinal Series
Part 3b. Lower back bends, seated compressions, streching hamstrings and lower back related poses
Part 3c. Spinal Twists and Kapalbhatti
This is just how I break it up in my mind. I have to say there are so many health benefits we learn about as we are doing the poses. For example, there is a pose called the half tortoise that is great for people with hormonal imbalances. There are poses where you tuck your chin against your throat to “choke your throat” which helps in healing the thyroid gland. Other poses include helping the liver, spleen, kidneys, etc. It is amazing what goes on internally. Another benefit is after doing some of the poses, they make you stay very still for 20-30 seconds. It allows for new blood to rush deep inside the body to refresh the body and heal muscles that sometimes are very dry of fresh blood.
I have started feeling mentally..and physically light since I started this. The Bikram Yoga calculator claims one would burn about 500 -800 calories a session! Not sure about that..nor do I really care. I sleep like a baby those nights and my worries are left with me in the studio. I call it “therapy” because it really is!
The link below gives more info on what Bikram is and the poses that go along with it. Artistic Yoga is just as fun, it is just a different fun. More on that in an upcoming post! (clicking on each pose shows the health benefits of that pose!)
Take a class and try it out! I swear by it lately! Namaste!