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What Is Bikram Yoga?
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There may be a lot of you out there who know what yoga is. Maybe you’ve practiced it…taken a class even. Some of you may be able to bend yourselves into pretzels, which is a common misconception of what yoga is all about. Yes, there are some very demanding poses, but yoga, in general, is as much about learning to listen to your body as it is about gently pushing your limits to increase flexibility and health.

Still, how many of you have heard terms like “hot yoga” or “Bikram yoga”? Perhaps some of you. The terms are not necessarily interchangeable. While Bikram yoga is a form of hot yoga, all hot yoga is not necessarily Bikram yoga. Bikram yoga is a specific pattern of practicing poses in a room heated to about 105 degrees, with 40% humidity. It was developed by its namesake, Bikram Choudhury, an Indian yoga master who started teaching his method in California after being invited to the United States by then-president Richard Nixon, and at the urging of actress, Shirley MacLaine. Bikram suffered a weightlifting accident when he was 20, and he was told he would never be able to walk again. With the help of his yoga guru, Bishnu Ghosh, Bikram fully recovered from his injury in 6 months. It was with the help of Ghosh that Bikram developed his method of 26 hatha yoga poses (the yoga term for a pose is “asana”), which restored his health. He has been teaching this very specific routine for decades now, and his method has become a favorite of celebrities and athletes around the world.

A Bikram class takes exactly 90 minutes. All instructors who teach these classes go through a rigorous certification course (I’ll talk about the course in another article) before they are allowed to represent the Bikram method. The poses start with movements designed to help stretch your lungs and diaphragm so that you can learn to breathe deeper. From there, there are several standing poses that help to strengthen your legs and better your balance as well as warm up the spine for poses further into the routine that will deepen the stretch.

And that is what it’s all about, really – stretching the spine. When your spine is warm and able to move, it allows you to go deeper into poses that will take advantage of another concept of yoga, extension and compression. Every pose has its counter so that the body becomes balanced, both in strength and flexibility. There is anecdotal evidence that circulation and cardiovascular fitness will be greatly enhanced, and with the increased blood flow to internal organs, detoxification of the body will be accelerated. NASA even did a study that showed that Bikram yoga was able to reduce or even reverse osteoporosis. A paper could not be written about it, because they were not able to scientifically determine how this effect came about.

In short, Bikram yoga, yoga in general for that matter, is known to have a very positive effect on health and can be incredibly therapeutic. Give it a try. You’ll have to judge for yourself if it’s right for you.


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