Bikram yoga also goes by the misnomer of “hot yoga” although the two methods are performed differently yet both conducted in very high temperatures. Bikram yoga is performed with the strict 26 “asana” series of postures established by Bikram Choudhury while “hot yoga” uses the “vinyasa” technique that transitions the poses between breaths.
After suffering a debilitating knee injury in his teens, Bikram Choudhury, India’s ranking yoga champion, developed a program with guidance from his mentor, yogi Bishnu Ghosh, to resolve chronic pain and restore function to musculature. Bikram yoga is an ideal way to recover from sports injuries during the off season and promote healing and blood flow to chronic, aching areas of the body. Bikram yoga has a devoted following; and since 1974, yogi Choudhury’s studio in Beverly Hills has spawned a wave of certified practitioners of his method.
Although deceptively simple, the 26 poses of Bikram yoga challenge even the most physically fit students. Bikram yoga begins with the standing “pranayama” pose, which is actually a breathing exercise, and gradually transitions to the toe stand over a series of 12 intervening positions. The later poses focus on the body’s core, as well as the head to knee position familiar to runners and gymnasts to stretch the hamstrings. The final kneeling pose and breathing exercise rounds out the routine with a consummate stretch of the quadriceps.
The concept behind Bikram yoga’s hot studio environment, with an optimum temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit, is that the body flushes out toxins during the session. The temperature also promotes a more intense stretch by loosening warm muscles. This also prevents participants from injuring themselves. The mind-body component of Bikram yoga is also a factor; concentrating on a pose, while covered in sweat, gives you instant feedback in terms of how hard you’re working.
A few things to keep in mind, before participating in a Bikram yoga session, is your overall health and comfort level. Since the classes are conducted in a hot room, you will need to be well hydrated before the session and have water on hand immediately afterward. Wear loose-fitting clothes, preferably made of cotton or a wicking material that dissipates heat. Definitely bring an absorbent towel and a yoga mat and consult with your doctor if you are pregnant or on any medication for a chronic condition before engaging in Bikram yoga.