by Jeff Chen and Mardy Chen
Bikram Yoga is a specific sequence of 26 poses—also known as asanas—with two breathing exercises, created by Bikram Choudhury with his guru, Bishnu Ghosh, an important physical culturalist and yoga master in Calcutta, India. They used their years of experience teaching students one-on-one to develop a system of poses that would work every part of the body and could be delivered to a large group of students at the same time. For the last 15 years, the public has been misinformed about the methods of this hatha yoga system. Some common misconceptions include:
Myth #1: It’s too dangerous to practice yoga in 105-degree heat.
Several studies have shown that practicing static yoga poses in a 105-degree room raises the body core temperature by 1 to 2 degrees; well within the safe zone for exercising in hot climates. Other studies show great benefit in heat therapy for improving the risk factors of metabolic syndrome. Contrary to popular belief, exercising in heat is good for the body.
Beginning students may experience nausea, dizziness, or headache, which are often signs of chronic dehydration that may be exacerbated by the heated room. In fact, studies show that 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Bikram Yoga will definitely let you know what your state of hydration is.
Every student is different. Practicing with mindfulness and steady breathing, and taking as many breaks as needed, is the most important part of handling the heat and humidity of a Bikram Yoga class.
Myth #2: I am not flexible enough to do these poses. This can’t be a beginner’s class.
Asanas are meant to be held with normal breathing for a given amount of time, requiring both strength and flexibility to create and hold poses in stillness. Most beginning students are generally stronger than they are flexible, thanks to many new fitness regimens available.
Flexibility comes over time with steady practice and the proper use of strength. Many studies have shown a strong correlation between aging and lack of flexibility, so it is important to get on the road to improve flexibility than to continue to lose it.
Bikram Yoga is indeed a beginner’s yoga class. Repetition of the same asanas in the same set sequence each class allows you to see gradual and steady improvement over time. The primary foundation of this class is to strengthen the body and to remove from it any physical imbalances, weaknesses and injuries. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a medieval text written by Yogi Swatmarama, says that asana practice is just the first step in practicing hatha yoga.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika instructs that the science of hatha yoga is the doorway for the aspirant to the heights of raja yoga, complete stillness of the mind. There are numerous pathways to this, but in the beginning there is asana practice.
The repetition of a Bikram Yoga class gives your mind the ability to stay focused and to concentrate in the moment. Regular practice exercises the powers of concentration and determination, a moving meditation where body, mind and breath are in complete harmony. In this state, the body is strong, the mind is calm, the breath is normal, and the student is better prepared for the next steps in the yoga journey.
Bikram Yoga Miracles
Many miraculous stories of physical and mental healing through regular practice of Bikram Yoga are heard all over the world: multiple sclerosis, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, just to name a few. These are some of the most common afflictions in which we’ve seen miraculous improvement:
Metabolic syndrome heart disease and Type 2 diabetes are two of our largest health issues in the United States. Several scientific studies by PURE Action, Inc. have shown promising results in how Bikram Yoga can improve the risk factors associated with these illnesses.
Depression and anxiety – approximately one in four Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder, more often resulting in medication. In fact, many Bikram Yoga practitioners claim reduction or complete elimination of dependencies on pharmaceuticals.
Back pain and knee pain – surgeries, physical therapy and lost productivity cost the U.S. millions of dollars per year. Bikram Yoga often provides immediate relief, as well as long-term structural relief, helping practitioners avoid costly surgeries and lifelong discomfort.
Jeff Chen and his wife Mardy Chen are the owners of PURE Bikram Yoga, with locations in Austin and Cedar Park. For more information, visit PureBikramYoga.com.