Bikram Yoga: A Guide to the Hot Yoga Experience
You’ve been curious about Bikram Yoga and have decided to take the plunge. You step into a well-heated studio space – 105°F (40.6°C) to be exact. You roll out your yoga mat and you’re already beginning to feel the beads of sweat form on your forehead. You question your decision to try a hot yoga class, but you remain committed. You’re ready to endure the experience. This is, perhaps, how many have begun their Bikram Yoga journey. An opportunity to partake in a style of yoga that has been known to build physical and emotional strength, gain mental clarity, to develop a strong mind-body connection, all while leaving a puddle of sweat on the yoga mat. This article is designed to be a hot yoga guide. We intend to answer the questions you may have about this unique form of yoga practice so you can decide whether or not it is the type of yoga for you. It will provide the following if you, too, are curious about the world of Bikram Yoga: If this has begun to pique your interest and you’re curious about the world of Bikram Yoga, then let’s get started!
What Is Bikram Yoga?
It’s always a good idea to start with a definition of this style of yoga: What IS Bikram Yoga? Where did it come from? First of all, it isn’t the stereotypical form of yoga that many conjure in their minds when they think about practicing yoga. Don’t expect to sit quietly in a dimly candlelit room with incense burning while chanting to the sound of crystal bowls. Quite the contrary. This is an immersive yoga experience in which you will endure 26 fixed yoga postures and practice specific breathing techniques. This is all done, of course, in a heated yoga studio, so be prepared to move and sweat. Each yoga pose has a purpose: you are in class to target and challenge many aspects of your physical and mental well-being. The heat of the room only represents the environmental component of the yoga space. It is what you do with your mind and body during the heated class that allows for potential growth along with a myriad of other benefits.
Before we dive deeper into the nuances of Bikram Yoga, let’s take a journey to India to discover its history and origin.
The History & Origin of Bikram Yoga: From Calcutta to Hollywood
Let’s step back in time to the mid-20th century – the late 1940’s to be more precise. A boy by the name of Bikram Choudhry was born and raised in the town of Calcutta (now called Kolkata). At a young age, Bikram struggled with some physical issues; he had suffered a knee injury which resulted in chronic pain. He was determined to find healing so he could feel relief from this excruciating pain. He first turned to conventional medical options to find relief but was met with a host of shortcomings and no long-term relief.
Bikram was also a student of yoga. He turned to his teacher, Bishnu Charan Ghosh, to find further education and guidance. Bikram was determined to find complete healing from his physical pain through the philosophy of yoga. He devoted his studies to the yogic texts and ancient teachings related to yoga. He discovered the inner workings of how the body, mind, and spirit are all connected. Rather than just focusing on the physical body to find healing, he gained insight into the fusion of all these elements to experience true healing. In addition to his knowledge about the traditions of yoga, like The Eight Limbs, he incorporated scientific research to compose a more relevant form of overall health and well-being.
Now with his knowledge of philosophy and science, Bikram weaved together yoga postures, breathwork, and meditation (aspects of The Eight Limbs of Yoga) to form what we now know as the 26 fixed posture series of the Bikram Yoga practice. He did not make up the poses himself. No, he designed a logical yoga sequence from a list of more than 500 already existing yoga poses to create his now-famous healing practice. When one takes a Bikram Yoga class, the signature series takes about 90 minutes to complete. The 26 posture series, accompanied by two Pranayama (breathing) exercises, systematically engages the muscles, joints, and organs of the entire body.
By the late 1960s, not only had Bikram Choudhry found personal relief and healing in his own body, but had crafted a fine-tuned yoga practice that he later marketed to the world. His classes, of course, were not like any other. There was something certainly different about this series of movements and breath – the heat!
Why is Bikram Yoga practiced in a hot studio?
The heat and humidity in a Bikram Yoga studio are intentional. It is designed to warm up the muscles of the body and enhance the elasticity of the ligaments to release bond-up connective tissue. A yogi performing asanas (yoga postures) in a 105°F (40.6°C) room experiences greater flexibility throughout their body for improved mobility, strength, and detoxification. The intention is to create physical relief and healing. But Bikram’s deeper goal was to help people not only find physical health, but mindful, emotional, and spiritual healing through this form of yoga practice.
In the 1970s Bikram brought his new style of yoga to the United States. It rapidly stole the hearts, minds, and bodies of the Hollywood elite. Beverly Hills became the landmark for The Bikram Yoga American debut. It attracted celebrities and athletes from all over. Early well-known individuals like Raquel Welch and Shirley MacLaine took to their yoga mats to sweat it out the Bikram way. In more recent times, the likes of Lady Gaga and David Beckham could be seen entering a Bikram Yoga studio. Although Bikram Yoga attracted the star-studded crowd, this form of yoga was designed for everyone to practice. Bikram’s intention was to create a practice for those willing to embrace a physical and mental journey towards well-being.
In conclusion, Bikram Yoga is a unique style of yoga practice that combines specific postures, breathwork, and meditation in a heated studio. It was developed by Bikram Choudhry, who sought healing for his own physical pain and used his knowledge of yoga philosophy and scientific research to create a comprehensive practice. The heat in the studio is intentional, providing physical relief and enhancing flexibility. Bikram Yoga has gained popularity among celebrities but is accessible to everyone. So, if you’re ready to embrace the challenge and sweat it out, Bikram Yoga may be the practice for you.