Introduced by Indian yoga guru, Bikram Choudhury, in the 1970s, Bikram yoga classes are more methodical than some other yoga styles. During each class, students are guided through a very specific 90-minute series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises, each performed twice. Unlike Vinyasa classes, there is no fluid transition between poses.
Bikram instructors demonstrate postures at times, but they mainly follow a dialogue to talk participants through the class to encourage relaxation of the mind and concentration on each pose. New students are encouraged to position themselves in the back row of class so they can watch the more experienced students in front of them.
The Bikram style utilizes mirrors for proper alignment and as an aid for the balancing postures. For some students, the mirror can be a distraction at first, but eventually students become accustomed to it and realize it helps with alignment, balance and even encourages self-acceptance.
Why the heat?
Bikram studios are heated up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit with high humidity to promote sweating. No, this heat and humidity is not there to torture you, it’s there to help you get more out of the poses and to avoid injury. The heat and humidity warms your muscles and makes them more flexible. It also helps flush toxins and stimulates the respiratory and circulatory systems.
If you’re completely new to Bikram, you may notice that the heat during your first few classes might make you dizzy, lightheaded or slightly nauseated. This is perfectly normal and will subside once your body gets used to this level of heat. However, if this happens, just sit or lie down until it passes.
How will it help me?
Bikram yoga emphasizes meditation and breathing during each pose. This intense series of postures was specifically designed and organized to provide maximum health benefits to each and every joint, organ, muscle and tendon in the body. Bikram also stimulates the flow and delivery of fresh, oxygenated blood to all parts of your body, which in turn revitalizes your overall health.
Some of the many health benefits of a regular Bikram practice include the following:
- Stress relief
- Glowing skin
- Increased flexibility
- Chronic pain relief
- Weight loss
- Improved balance
- Toned muscles
- Feeling of health and well-being
What are these 26 poses anyway?
Twelve poses of Bikram yoga are standing and concentrate on the muscles in the abdomen and lower extremities. The benefits of standing Bikram yoga include arthritis and sciatica relief, opening the pelvic area and improving circulation.
The remaining 14 poses are floor. Floor poses concentrate on stretching and opening the neck and spine. These poses lead to improved function in digestive, reproductive and central nervous systems. Additionally, floor Bikram poses help relieve scoliosis and lower back pain.
I’m a beginner. Can I do this?
Yes, you can! Despite what you may be thinking, Bikram is not just for experienced yogis. In fact, the Bikram sequence is made up of all beginning level poses and is perfect for beginners or people who have a hard time with the shoulder intensity during regular Vinyasa classes. You don’t need to be a natural athlete or have perfect balance to do Bikram, but one thing’s for sure; you will develop focus, dedication and patience, which will allow you to fully appreciate and experience the healing powers and health benefits of Bikram yoga.
How often should I practice?
While Bikram was originally developed as a daily practice, we know that may not be possible or desirable for everyone. You’ll see results quicker if you practice three to four times per week, but remember, some yoga is better than no yoga, so do what you can and don’t worry about the frequency.
Keep in mind that Bikram is the perfect cross-training and core strengthening exercise for people who regularly practice Power Vinyasa or are working toward mastery of a sport. Think of it as a rest for your shoulders and a great way to spice up your workout.
Many athletes swear by Bikram as part of their training programs for other sports such as tennis, running, cycling and swimming. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar practiced Bikram yoga to extend his basketball career, Andy Murray credits Bikram Yoga with helping him to win Wimbledon, and we’ve heard Lady Gaga, who has done Bikram for over ten years, is fully sold on its healing powers.
I’m sold! What do I need to know before my first class?
Because of the heat and strenuous workout, try not to eat less than two hours before class. Our previous blog What to Feed your Downward Facing Dog gives some great suggestions on healthy, effective snacks you can eat earlier in the day.
Bikram involves a lot of sweat. For this reason, come to class well-hydrated. Drink plenty of water during the days leading up to your first practice. It’s also a good idea to add a squeeze of lemon juice or a dash of sea salt to your water to maintain proper electrolytes. After class, grab a sports drink to replace the electrolytes you lost during your workout.
Wear light, breathable clothing and allow yourself to sweat during class. Resist mopping the sweat off your face during class. Sweat is your body’s natural way of regulating your temperature.
What should I expect after class?
Some people walk out of class feeling energetic and revitalized, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself drained and lethargic later in the day. Both reactions are normal and are signs that your Bikram class is working. A little soreness is normal as your body gets used to the routine and even some skin irritation is possible due to the toxins being released through your pores.
Your first class will be challenging both physically and emotionally, but don’t worry, Bikram yoga gets easier the more often you practice. It even becomes fun! We hope you’ll take the plunge and give Bikram yoga a try.
When is Bikram offered at Chagrin Yoga?
Our regular 90 minute Bikram class is offered:
Mon through Thursday evenings: 7:15 – 8:45pm
Wednesday & Saturday mornings: 9 – 10:30am
Our Bikram Basics 60 minute class with less heat is offered:
Friday mornings: 9 – 10am
Sunday mornings: 8 – 9am
Please note: This shortened class contains all the poses from the regular class, but with fewer breaks so we recommend that beginners actually start off with the regular 90 minute class if possible.
Stop by Chagrin Yoga to meet Bikram yoga instructor Brian Paquette (or email him at email@example.com) to ask any questions you may have about this practice.