Well as promised I will give some more info on the postures. Because of timing and the already detailed instruction there is not much time to add in more in the class so I hope these blogs will help!
Every Bikram class starts with Pranayama Breathing – 10 sets done twice. Bikram always told us that this actually was the most important posture of all! Why? Because it gets the heart and lungs to work together properly providing a smooth flow of life force through the body (prana = life force) via a deep breathing technique. And life force is exactly that – you need life force to keep the body alive! We can go weeks without food, days without water but only a few minutes without air!
The breathing will also prepare the body for the following postures as it allows for deeper concentration by working on the nervous system and therefore is great to alleviate irritability. (Remember the old saying – “take a deep breath and count to 10…”) – now you know why!
You may have heard the expression that we only use 10% of our brains – same goes for the lungs. This technique helps us to learn to use the other 90%! It can be a little bit hard to master so if you are new or fairly new you may wish to watch a couple of breaths before you join in. It takes a bit of coordination – well it did for me anyway!
You inhale by the nose and exhale by the mouth but both through the back of the throat so it should sound like a “HAH” sound. (It is also best to inhale through the nose inbetween postures throughout the whole class by the way – a tip I learnt from another teacher as it really keeps you much more centred, strong and calm). Take the full six seconds for each inhale and each exhale instead of taking a big gasp in one go and letting it out in one big blast too! “Low slow flow” as Bikram would say!
All ten fingers need to be interlocked and always maintain contact with the underside of the chin another time for the”full grip” as you so often hear in the dialogue throughout the class. When you inhale you need to open the elbows out so you can take in more air as you expand the lungs and bring your elbows up as high as you can and as close to the side of the head as possible. The stomach should be sucked in and you should be able to see the rib cage in the mirror as your lungs expand. (Open chest and sucked in stomach is mentioned in many of the postures and after 18 years I finally noticed that – sometimes it takes a while for the penny to drop!)
When the head goes back (slowly – not a jerk back) on the exhale, remember to relax that neck again (let go!) and bring your elbows gradually to the front so they meet on the 6th second as high as you can i.e. level with the shoulders and as far away as you can from the chest. Make sure you exhale open mouthed to expel toxins.
It is a must to keep your eyes open so you are totally present in the body and not floating off to some other universe. Now you may feel a little dizzy – that is quite normal as this deep breathing is not your normal type of day to day breathing. One great adjustment which I noticed I needed to do was to stop straining my neck and consciously relax the neck and shoulders and that relieved the tension I often felt in my arms and shoulders. Again I believe tension and indeed some pain we feel can be a resistance to just let go and it manifests as tension and ache. This is a big subject and I will explain more in later posts but I can tell you being aware of when I was tensing up really worked for me.
Bikram dialogue has a lot of detail but you will find a consistency throughout the postures once you get more acquainted with them. Toes and heels together – feet going straight forward not splayed out at “ten to two”! The weight is also on the heels. The detail makes all the difference. Keeping your body straight (don’t lean back) and in alignment is also necessary to keep that energy flowing properly and as the dialogue says “hip muscles solid, concrete” and a little bit forward on the exhale – forever opening up those pesky hip joints!
So to summarise the key points:
- Maintain the connection between the knuckles and chin throughout the posture
- Use the nose and mouth only as a passage way as both inhale and exhale should be through the throat
- Toes and heels together, feet straight forward, weight on the heels
- Relax the neck and shoulders
- Low slow flow by synchronising your head and arm movement – its like a cycle – no jerky movements
- Take the full six seconds for each inhale and exhale
- Expand the lungs and suck in the stomach and hold it in during the inhale until you can see the rib cage visible in the mirror
- Keep your eyes open all the time or you will feel dizzier
- Exhale as much as possible – elbows meet on the 6th second
- Bring your elbows as high as the shoulders and as far away from the chest as possible when the elbows meet
- Try not to collapse the chest as you start the next round
- Know you are now well prepared for the class!
I hope this helps! Half moon posture is next!)
PS. If you are an athlete try a few rounds of this breathing technique before you start – it could just give you the edge!