Bikram Yoga became popular first in the seventies, and got its name from Bikram Choudhury, a guru who claimed his system of hot yoga could cure basically any disease. We can’t get much solid evidence for that, but there are a number of health benefits that the Bikram system can offer.
Bikram hot yoga is a set of breathing exercises done in 26 different body positions (Choudhury claims that two of these positions restored his ability to walk after a weight-lifting accident). The process, conducted in a room that is kept at a constantly sizzling temperature of 105, creates sweating and perspiration like no other method; the participant is well advised to hydrate thoroughly before and after each class (they are each an endurance-testing 90 minutes long). In short, the Bikram Yoga system is not for sissies.
Choudhury claims that the heat gives more flexibility to muscles and reduces tension: the result is health flowing to every organ.
A typical session means wearing very little clothing and bringing your own exercise mat (for obvious reasons); the studio is usually small, and there are even regulation size mats to be used (made of rubber or jute, or a less expensive synthetic). Cotton clothing is preferred for absorption of perspiration.
Somewhere between 500 and 1300 calories get burned in a Bikram sessionre burned per session, and, in addition to having water available, participants are told not to eat two hours before a class.
We won’t go over all 26 positions of Bikram yoga; however, they are not difficult nor are they maintained for long periods of time (they may be a bit wearing to someone new to the process).
Here are some of the positions, and the benefits, that Choudhury claims append to each position.
The session has ten beginning or novice moves. Here are the first seven:
•Pranayama: you raise your arms above your head, lower forearms to create a “V” shape, cup your chin and deep breathe. This is supposed to clear the respiratory system, and relieve symptoms of high blood pressure.
•Ardha Chandrasana with Pada Hasatasana: you stand and bend your torso into a “half-moon.” (an ancient Yoga position). This helps circulation and bone structure, lower back pain and possibly obesity; it also gives muscle tone and assists digestion.
•Utkatasana: crouching with arms out, like you’re about to dive into a pool. This helps body strength, leg muscles, arthritis, menstruation and joint pain.
•Garuruasana, AKA the “Eagle”: you twist the left leg around the right leg and left arm around the right arm; then stand on one foot (yeah, yeah, it’s tough). This works all major joints of the body and “corrects” the nervous and immune systems.
•Dandayamama Janushirasana: you extend the left and then the right leg, lower the chin to the knee, hands on the toes. This improves concentration (assuming you can hold it for long) and “unifies” major muscle groups. It strengthens the lower back muscles as well; Choudhury say it cures diabetes.
•Dandayama Dhanurasana: the “standing bow”: you extend an arm forward, raise a leg and grab it with the other hand, pulling it towards the body. This helps cardiovascular systems and shoulder joints. Choudhury claims it cures all prostate problems.
•Tulandandasana, the balancing stick pose: Keep one foot on the floor and raise the other while lowering the body in a straight line (another tough one). It helps cardiovascular systems, stretches the spin and relieves, says its founder, varicose veins.
That’s a little bit of what this technique puts you through. Bikram Yoga is not for everyone, but for those who can take the classes, the adherents consider it the ideal workout.