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Bikram Yoga and its Many Benefits: Healthy Body and Mind!
Discovering Bikram Yoga
By now, mostly everyone has at least heard of Bikram Yoga, even if they don't know much about it. I discovered Bikram Yoga a few years ago. A studio had opened not far from where I live. Less than a mile, in fact. I was starting to put on a few pounds, nothing serious, but enough that I wanted to do something about it before my weight got out of hand. After all, I have heard that Bikram Yoga can burn an overabundance of calories. Some websites claim that you can burn over 1,000 calories per session (more on that later). Western culture has an obsession with dieting and losing weight. Yoga is so much more than that, as I was about to find out.
What is Bikram Yoga?
Bikram Yoga was developed in the 1970s by Bikram Choudhury and based off of Hatha Yoga. It was his idea to put together a series of yoga postures that would alleviate stress, heal the body and prevent disease. His type of yoga became popular quickly and today there are nearly 2,000 Bikram Yoga studios around the world.
Bikram yoga is a series of 26 asanas (postures) and two breathing exercises that is done in a studio with the temperature cranked up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit or 40.5 Celsius and the humidity at 40%. There are a few reasons for the high temperature and humidity, such as increased flexibility and the detoxifying effects from excessive sweating.
The class lasts 90 minutes and to get full benefits, you should go to class at least three times per week.
Weight loss was my primary reason for trying Bikram Yoga. Yes, I did lose a few pounds but there are people who don't lose anything at all. Bikram Yoga is great for maintaining weight and it will increase your metabolism. You will burn calories, maybe not 1,000 (more like 350 - 500 calories depending on your metabolism). Many people see this as a free pass to eat whatever they want or increase their calorie intake without realizing it. It's important to always be mindful of your diet. If you come to class at least three times a week, watch your calorie intake and incorporate even very low impact exercises (such as walking), you will see the weight melt right off.
There are many other benefits of Bikram Yoga. After a lifelong battle with depression, I started to feel better, happier and at peace with where I was at in my life. My stress levels at work decreased and my carpel tunnel syndrome is gone. I also have clear skin and rarely get headaches. My cravings for sugar, caffeine and alcohol are also gone. Most of all, I am more in touch with my mind and body.
Yoga, all types of yoga in fact, is a spiritual experience. It is meant to prepare you for meditation. Keeping your mind in the present will help you through some of the more difficult poses. Sometimes, this is easier said than done. Your mind will wander. Acknowledge that and let it go. It's normal.
There are many benefits, these are just some you will see with regular practice.
- Stress levels will decrease
- Weight management
- Gain a better control of emotions
- Helps fight off depression, anxiety and PTSD
- Better Posture
- Quicker recovery time from injuries and sickness
- Lessens symptoms of many ailments, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, hormonal imbalances, headaches and back pains.
- Injury prevention
- Disease prevention
- Tones muscles
- Clearer skin and a more youthful appearance
- Diminished cravings
- Strengthens lungs and great for asthmatics and allergy sufferers
- Detoxification (through sweating)
Sounds too good to be true? I thought so too. People tend to think that Yoga is relaxing and easy but you will work hard in class and if you stick with it, you will reap all the benefits.
Getting Started and What to Expect
First class is always the worst class! Know what to expect and be prepared.
You will need a yoga mat, a towel and a bottle of water. Come on an empty stomach. Do not eat for at least three hours before class and drink plenty of water before hand.
Wear light clothes and no cotton, long sleeves or sweats. The less you wear, the better. I can't stress this enough. Many people will object because they are uncomfortable wearing little clothing but the truth is, nobody will care. There is no judgment in the room and you will find people of all shapes and sizes in class. Bikram likes to call his studio a 'torture chamber' and for good reason. You will sweat buckets. Dress appropriately for it.
There is absolutely no talking in class. The only person allowed to talk is the instructor. If you are new, find a place in back. Newbies are always in back and the more advanced students are in the front. Let the instructor and the advanced students guide you. In class, your body should warm up before sipping water. Everyone takes their first sip of water together after Eagle Pose (the third asana). We call this water break 'Party Time'. After that, you can sip water as much as you like in between poses.
Listen to your body. If you are feeling dizzy or nausea, it's okay to stop and take a break. Just lie down on your back facing the back of the room until you are ready to join the class again. It is recommended that you do not leave the room during class. It would disrupt the class, but most importantly, if you are feeling dizzy, it will only make you feel worse. The best thing to do is stay lying on your mat until your heart rate goes back to normal.
It's all Normal
Speaking of normal, you will feel a lot of different things during yoga class. Every emotion and thought you experience during class is normal. You may want to run out of the room, you may feel dizzy or faint, you may be off balance one day but have perfect balance the next, it is all normal. You may even get emotional. The instructors will warn you often that you may feel some strong emotions during class. You may even cry. When I cried the first time, my instructor became giddy and called it a 'breakthrough'. Indeed, I had changed. I began looking forward to classes and could hardly wait until the next class. I became more self aware and stronger, both physically and mentally.
In Bikram yoga, everything is normal.