If you picture a yoga class and see relaxed, calm bodies, gracefully poised in a tranquil posture, then you haven’t been to Bikram Yoga. Here you’ll find hot, sweaty bodies, getting a great cardiac yoga workout in a purpose-built, heated room. Bikram Yoga is taking off around Australia due in part to the celebrity followers like Madonna, plus the reported health benefits. Let’s take a closer look.
Who is Bikram?
Bikram Choudhury is an internationally renowned yoga teacher from India who took his system to the United States in the early 1970s at the invitation of the American Medical Association. Born in Calcutta, Bikram began studying yoga at the age of four and at the age of 13, he won the National India Yoga contest. As a young man he was a top cyclist, marathon runner and international weight-lifter, competing in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. At the age of 20, Bikram severely injured his knee in a weight-lifting accident and was told by doctors he would never walk again. Not accepting this, Bikram went back to his yoga teacher and an intensive, but slow, successful rehabilitation process using yoga. Bikram has worked since then to spread his style of yoga around the world and completed research with scientists at Tokyo University Hospital.
What happens in a class?
Bikram’s yoga is a series of 26 postures conducted over 90 minutes, beginning with a breathing exercise to warm up, progressing through 24 asanas (postures) and finishing with a toxin-eliminating breathing posture. Mirrors in the room help you have better body awareness as you work through the postures. All Bikram teachers attend a full training course conducted by Bikram in Los Angeles.
Why the heated room?
The heated room is reported to allow for greater flexibility as muscles ‘warm up’ quicker, thus minimising muscle strain and the chance of injury. Sweating is thought to provide greater ‘cleansing’ of the body and working in the heat builds stamina, concentration and endurance.
So, if you’re looking for a great mind and body workout, check out a class. However, if you can’t stand the heat, still get out of the kitchen but stick to a regular Hatha or Ashtanga yoga class.