I must admit when I first started practicing Bikram Yoga many moons ago it was purely for vanity reasons – my body shaped up so quickly I thought I had found the perfect exercise. In those days that was all I was interested in I’m embarrassed to say. Although it appears to be more physically based, having practiced hatha yoga for over 40 years I must say the benefits are far more reaching.
So what makes Bikram Yoga so different?
Firstly, it is a scientifically designed system founded by one of the yoga world’s most famous gurus – Bikram Choudhury. Each 90 minute class consists of the same 26 postures designed to work out every single part of the body, both inside and out and much more. The pace is fairly fast compared to most other yoga classes and there is no meditation time. Bikram declares when you are truly concentrating on your practice, THAT in itself is the equivalent to a meditation – a moving, open eyed meditation. Certainly, you don’t have chance to think about anything else when you learn to be fully IN THE MOMENT.
Whilst the gyms and aerobic classes turn on the air conditioning Bikram teachers are doing the opposite – they are turning the heat up! There is method to this madness – warmed muscles are much less likely to suffer injury, toxins are released very quickly, the body rejuvenates, tones and shapes up at a much faster level. The challenge of working out in heat also trains the mind to detach from the environment which can be very useful in our daily lives. There are also many other benefits but the length of this article prevents me from giving too much detail.
Instruction of the postures is very exact by way of a continual dialogue and aims to motivate and correctly align the student preventing bad habits from occurring. It is this precision that I believe sets Bikram yoga apart from any other hatha yoga that I have practiced.
Repetition is the Mother of Success
You may have heard the saying “Repetition is the mother of success” and this is a perfect example. By hearing the same instructions class after class the mind starts to understand the postures and then the body begins to be able to perform them. As Bikram says, your body is capable of much more than your mind lets it do.
Progress can therefore be extremely fast and in my experience after a few classes even total beginners can look as if they have been practicing yoga for years. It is so rewarding to encourage people and see them surpass their own expectations in a relatively short period of time. There is no competition in class as everyone simply performs the postures to their own ability.
Another thing that makes Bikram Yoga unique is that it attracts people from all walks of life. From athletes to city workers, from spiritual adepts to the body conscious – everyone gets what they need out of their practice. Even a few confirmed couch potatoes have been converted!
Contrary to popular opinion, sport can actually wear out the body tissues but this can be counteracted by additionally practicing yoga as it actually rebuilds the body by encouraging new cell growth and is ideal for stretching out. It can also give a leading edge in competition sports with increased concentration, determination, as well as the necessary strength and flexibility. Removal of toxins and the thorough cleansing of the emotional and mental bodies helps to eliminates stress and provide clarity and peace of mind. For myself, after class the feeling of a clear body and well-being is second to none.
Bikram is very definite in his belief that the way to the spiritual is through the physical. Consequently every posture works the spine in some way and by the end of each class the spine has moved in every direction encouraging the free flow of Universal energy with which we are continually provided every moment of our lives. On a physical level this energy basically keeps us alive by feeding our energy centres known as chakras. These in turn direct the energy to the internal organs for their proper functioning via the endocrine glands. If the energy gets blocked along the way, ageing, stiffness, disease and illness result. Again this subject is enormous but for the purposes of this article it is sufficient to say that the free flow of this powerful energy keeps the body and mind healthy and helps prevent problems.
You may have guessed I love this subject and I have continued studying the body for many years and from a number of different angles. I am qualified in many energy based therapies including various types of massage but my first love is teaching yoga and how our consciousness has an immediate effect on the body.