Bikram Hot Yoga is one of today’s fastest growing fitness trends. It provides a full-body 90-minute workout that improves cardiovascular health, and increases flexibility, strength and balance – all in a studio above 40 degrees Celsius. Making it a little bit like doing yoga in sauna. Make that extreme yoga in a sauna.
Besides the addition of heat, what makes Bikram Yoga different from other styles of yoga is its regimented structure. Every class has the same routine consisting of 26 poses, done in the same sequence, with each pose held for the same amount of time. If it sounds repetitive, that’s because it is. If you think it sounds easy, think again.
Created by a man from India named Bikram Choudhury, the yoga was first introduced to the US in 1971. The story goes that Bikram began doing yoga at the age of four with India’s most renowned yogi. He practiced four to six hours a day, and at age 13 and for the next three years won India’s national yoga championship.
At 17, after suffering a debilitating knee injury, it was predicted he would never walk again. Not willing to accept that reality, he returned to yoga with the intent of healing his body. His determination resulted in the series of poses currently practiced in Bikram Yoga studios around the world – including the Canadian prairies.
Bikram Yoga Winnipeg opened a few years ago, and since then has been attracting increasing numbers to the specially designed studio. Three to four classes take place daily, seven days per week. Both beginners and advanced participants take the same class, each working to their own limits while doing the same routine.
Even if you did this particular yoga every day for the rest of your life, each pose is designed to allow you to push, pull or twist yourself just a little bit more. You’ll never quite master it, which is one of the things that make Bikram Yoga so challenging.
Another challenging aspect is the discipline it takes to tough it out for the entire 90-minutes. Not just physical discipline, but also mental. Once you become familiar with the routine, knowing what lies ahead can be challenging unto itself, especially if it’s a pose you don’t like, or one that is exceptionally hard for you.
Having done the yoga countless times myself, I’ve come to realize the poses I dread the most are the ones that tend to be most beneficial to me. Over time I learn to accept them, and stop struggling over them in my mind. Once that happens, they tend to become easier. Consequently, this makes me feel like I’ve gained a little bit of mental strength along with the physical.
Shutting your mind off to the outside world and allowing yourself to stay in that awfully hot studio for an hour-and-a-half can also be challenging. At times like this, I try to stay focused on the benefits that yoga gives me, such as supplying oxygen and nutrients to blocked or stagnant body parts, eliminating toxins, flushing the lymphatic system, lubricating joints, and balancing endocrine glands.
Bikram Yoga works every inch of your body from the inside out, stretches and tones every muscle group, and promotes weight loss by burning hundreds of calories each session. Over time, regular participants not only lose weight, but also find improvements in spinal health, lung capacity, flexibility, strength and endurance.
For athletes who train at other sports, Bikram Yoga is a great complimentary activity for cross-training and serious stretching. For those who don’t currently workout but want to start a fitness program, doing this yoga on its own, a few times a week, is all you need for full-body conditioning.
If it all sounds too good to be true, try it and see for yourself. I guarantee you it will be the best most torturous - and beneficial - 90-minutes you ever spend in your life. At the end of the class, you’ll emerge from the hot studio feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and happy to have survived.
The next day, don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to go back and do it all over again. Because it definitely has a lure to it – for body, mind and spirit.