Earlier today I just completed my first Bikram yoga class. I have always enjoyed a hot yoga session accompanied by good flows, poses, and centering. In the past if I am struggling with muscle tension or a sharp headache, these classes often help to bring down those types of pains. So what is the difference between those classes and a Bikram style class?
Bikram yoga is a system of yoga that Bikram Choudhury synthesized from traditional hatha yoga techniques and popularized beginning in the early 1970’s. All Bikram Yoga classes run for 90 minutes and consist of the same series of 26 postures, including two breathing exercises.Bikram Yoga is ideally practiced in a room heated to 40 °C (104 °F) with a humidity of 40%. All Bikram classes are officially only taught by Bikram certified teachers, who have completed nine weeks of intensive training endorsed by Bikram. Bikram certified teachers are taught a standardized dialogue to run the class, but are encouraged to develop their teaching skills the longer they teach. This results in varying deliveries and distinct teaching styles.–wikipedia.com
I love a good sweat! Personally I am not one to exercise in front of fans, nor do prefer air conditioning in the summer heat for my workouts- but to each their own! However, walking into the Bikram studio took my breath away. Before even beginning the practice, I was extremely hot and uncomfortable. As some time passed, I began to adapt. With that said, if you decide to try one of these classes, know that you will sweat a lot! A LOT! Be sure to bring a water bottle and stay hydrated. The instructor encouraged me to take breaks seated if and when needed- and I did. There were a few times, especially when transitioning from one pose to a change position as the instructor called it, that I felt light-headed. I simply sat out for a few breaths- breaths that you are encouraged to breath in and our through your nose in order to keep your body calm. I often had to resist breathing in and out through my mouth…panting like a dog. I will say that the nasal breathing did help me to recover and to stay calm.
The benefits of any type of yoga tend to be good ones! Low impact exercise and flexibility work is a nice complement to any fitness routine. And the more you practice, the stronger and more flexible you will become!
Heated environments increase your pulse rate and metabolism and allow your blood vessels to become more flexible. That makes circulation easier and increases blood flow to the limbs. Cold muscles become injured more easily than warmed-up ones, so the heat of a Bikram yoga class allows your body to move more freely. Although you will get hot, the act of sweating helps control your internal body temperature.– livestrong.com
I did miss flowing in my practice, or moving through vinyasas-but in Bikram there is no need to flow to keep the body warm due to the temperature of the room. The instructor’s cuing was amazing and a huge help to get me to push my body closer to the full expression of the poses. However, I did not like how in many of the standing poses you were instructed to lock your knees. This can be potentially harmful and is concerning to have people doing that in this environment especially. The biggest thing I must note is the mental challenge this workout brought. It was a 90 minute class and I thought about nothing but what I was presently engaged in. I had an awareness of my body and space around it that was focused and heightened. When I left, I felt a little dehydrated and woozy…but after a sit and some water, I actually felt fine.
The verdict is still out if I am pro Bikram Yoga. I like to try new things and to be challenged, so if you appreciate those things as well, please give it a try and let me know what you think.