Bikram Yoga: Hot hatha yoga

Bikram Yoga challenges your body and mind to function at maximum potential

Pic courtesy:- True Fitness: Yoga, Spa amd Fitness Center

A well-known form of hatha yoga—Bikram Yoga is a global phenomenon with over 800 studios around the world. People of all ages, races, genders and nationalities have joined in. Many Hollywood celebrities like Elle McPherson, George Clooney, Mathew McConaughey and Madonna practice this form of yoga. Closer home, celebrities like Bappi Lahiri and son Bappa, Sharbani Mukerji, Madhurima Nigam, too have known to subscribe to it.

What it is

Named after its founder, Yoga Guru Bikram Choudhury, the yoga form is a whole system of wellness and rejuvenation. Bikram Yoga aims to create happiness and self-realisation by pushing you beyond your perceived limits.

It is a set sequence of 26 postures and two breathing exercises, practiced in a room heated to 40oC [nicknamed 'Bikram's torture chamber']. Hence, Bikram yoga is also called Hot Yoga and Fire Yoga.

How the heat helps

The heat is important for many different reasons. It warms your muscles so you can stretch with limited risk of injury. Your heart rate increases and you burn more fat. This improves cardiovascular fitness. Mentally, you become stronger and more focused because you learn to remain calm in a challenging environment. In a nut shell, the heat will tone your body and hone your mind.

Bikram yoga basics

Bikram Yoga requires a special setup. Unlike other yoga studios, a Bikram studio is covered wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor with mirrors, allowing students to focus on body alignment. Given its glass covering, this yoga literally forces you to take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror, which for many, can be quite confronting, but ultimately empowering. All in all, the yoga form is intensely challenging and intentionally so, because Bikram believes that there are no boundaries—human potential is limitless.

Bikram Choudhury offers no apologies for driving students to their edge or subjecting them to bouts of 'yoga torture'. "What would you rather do, suffer for 90mins or suffer for 90 years as you live your life without a truly healthy body and without realising your potential?" asks Bikram in his new book, Bikram Yoga.

Body benefits

From a physiological perspective, the cells, glands and organs that function on a daily basis in your body, all produce waste products. Bikram Yoga helps flush out these along with toxins via the skin and breath, thus improving the body's efficiency. Every cell in the body is nourished to function at its maximum capacity. Physically, your skin improves, eyes become brighter, you look younger and your mood improves. "I've been practicing [Bikram Yoga] for a month and have lost four kilos. My knees no longer hurt as they did for the last five years. My health, energy and vitality have increased. After class, I feel wonderful, and my body and mind glow," says Ash, who has been practicing since the studio opened in Mumbai.

When you stretch a part of your body, you stretch the veins and arteries such that their inside diameter becomes smaller. This prevents blood flow through these contracted passageways, so the heart starts pumping harder to deliver the blood.

Different glands and organs are also compressed during each asana. The stretching compresses and tightens the veins outside the organ, cutting off blood flow like a temporary tourniquet. The blood level increases outside the organ until the posture is released, then, like the flood gates of a dam being opened, fresh oxygenated, nutritious rich blood rushes in to saturate the organ or gland being worked.

In this way you re-energise, revitalise and clean out each and every organ, and gland of the body. At the same time, veins and arteries are also cleaned out, toned and strengthened due to the high speed pressure and volume of the blood so any form of bacteria, infection, germ or virus is flushed out.

Performing regular asanas also increases blood circulation to the brain. The breathing exercise—pranayama increases the lungs capacity to oxygenate blood, so the brain gets more energy, needed to function better. The life of brain cells too gets prolonged.

Lastly, repeated stretching of the spine strengthens and develops the muscles of the back and restores the space between each vertebrae of the spine, enabling the nerves that run through it to remain healthy. The repeated stretching stimulates the spine and brain so the biochemical messages directed to the rest of the body work at their optimum level.

Mind matters

"Before Bikram Yoga, I had tried every diet, exercise and health regime in the world and nothing worked. In only one week of practice I've lost weight, I'm a lot calmer, focused and more connected. I feel so much better," says Amit Bokadia a Bikram Yoga follower.

The rigorous, demanding asanas and the challenges of the heat strengthens our mental and physical powers. You learn through practice of faith, self control, determination, concentration, and patience, to control your mind.According to Bikram, without the control of our mind we can do nothing. By strengthening these qualities you learn to make your mind your servant, which ultimately leads you to experience a happier, fulfilling and healthier life in which nothing and no one can steal your peace and happiness away from you. Only then can you really experience true tranquillity of the mind.

So if you want to look good, feel better and live a healthy life, take up the hot Bikram Yoga challenge.

Yogiraj Bikram Choudhury

Bikram Choudhury is the founder of the worldwide Bikram Yoga College of IndiaT. Born in Calcutta in 1946, Bikram began yoga at the age of four. He studied with India's most renowned physical culturist at the time, Bishnu Ghosh, the younger brother of Paramhansa Yogananda [author of The Autobiography of a Yogi and founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship].

Multiple benefits of Bikram Yoga explained

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