Bikram / Hot Yoga Part I: Background

Why am I writing about Bikram Yoga? I don’t teach it and we don’t offer it through the Yoga Coach…but we DO offer HOT yoga and I have more than a few clients who are curious about it and on occasion I am asked what I think about Bikram Yoga. So…I decided to take on Bikram Yoga classes twice a week for 4 weeks to get an idea of what it is in comparison to our HOT yoga. I’ll blog my experiences so you’ll know what to expect.  But first, some background.

About me…

On a Hike

I’ve been a fitness enthusiast since high school (too many years ago), taught aerobics and danced in the eighties and 90’s, been a runner, hiker and biker through the years too (still am). You could say I’m a fitness junkie. I’ve been a yoga instructor since the year 2000. My initial 200 hour training in 2001 was in Power Yoga with Dana Baptiste. I have also trained many hours in Anusara, Ashtanga, Restorative, as well as others. I keep up on my stuff. I teach 6 – 8 classes of yoga a week and operate an on-site Corporate Yoga business as well as co-own Lifted Life Yoga Center. It doesn’t make me an expert by a long shot, but I’m not the new kid on the block either. I’ve never done a full Bikram class at a Bikram yoga studio until now.

About Bikram (pronounced BEE-krahm)Yoga…

Named after founder Bikram Chouldury, Bikram Yoga is a set series of 26 yoga postures put together in a unique sequence designed to improve and work the whole body. Together the postures develop balance, strength and flexibility, relieve stress, improve circulation, digestion, and strengthen the nervous system. Bikram Yoga is also said to reverse the aging process, reshape muscles, tendons, manage weight, and rejuvenate tissue. Sounds like a description of every yoga class I’ve come in contact with…nothing new here.

TURN UP THE HEAT: One fundamental difference between Bikram yoga and other types of yoga (besides the set sequence of postures) is the heated room. Bikram yoga is classified as a “Hot” yoga because the room is heated between 95° – 100°. While it’s true that “Bikram” yoga is HOT yoga, not all HOT yoga is Bikram.

Let’s clarify…

HOT Yoga is a series of yoga poses done in a heated room. Anyone can offer hot yoga. We offer HOT yoga 3 days a week at Lifted Life Yoga Center and our clients LOVE it! “Bikram” yoga is a title reserved only for those teachers who are certified by Chouldury’s Yoga College of India and who stick to his prescribed method exactly (including not only the temperature of the room and order of poses, but also the carpet and mirrors in the room, and his approved text).

Who Is Bikram…?

Bikram Chouldury is no slacker when it comes to physical discipline. Born in Calcutta, India in 1946 he began learning hatha yogaposes at age three. At age five he met Bishnu Ghosh. Ghosh shaped champions, and Bikram practiced many hours a day under his mentorship. At age eleven Bikram became the youngest contestant ever to win the coveted Indian national yoga competition. The next two years he repeated this feat. At fourteen no one else wanted to enter. Gosh told Bikram to withdraw from the competition and give a demonstration instead. In less than thirty minutes, Bikram demonstrated all eighty-four postures and five-hundred and fifty variations to physical perfection. He was declared by the head judge, Sivananda, “Yogi Raj” or “King of the Yogis”.

At the age of 17 he destroyed his knee while weight lifting and was told he would never walk again. He went back to his old teacher Bishnu Ghosh and six months later walked out with complete mobility. Bikram went on to become a champion weight lifter and cyclist. During Bikram’s competitive yoga and weightlifting years he also worked with Bishnu Ghosh as a yoga therapist. A yoga therapist is a term given to one who prescribes hatha yoga postures to sick or injured people based on their symptoms, lifestyle, habits and history, similar to the way a medical doctor prescribes medicines.  It was Bikram’s job to teach the patients how to do the postures after Bishnu prescribed them. It was during this time that Bikram developed the present Bikram’s Beginning Hatha Yoga Class based on all of his years of training and studying, all of his experience as a yoga therapist, and his intuition. He went on to test the health benefits of all the postures at many medical research centers. In a three-year research project at Tokyo University Hospital, Bikram helped doctors prove that yoga regenerates tissues and cures chronic ailments.

Bikram Chouldury has been around the block a time or two when it comes to yoga, yoga therapy, discipline and fitness. He is quite a character and stirs controversy in the yoga world. Especially with regards to his patent on his style of yoga. To read more about him and his life, google “Bikram Chouldury”.

The McYoga class…

What’s nice (or not) about Bikram Yoga is the set sequence of postures. The routine never varies so you get to witness improvements in each class as you practice the same routine over and over. It’s also a bit like McDonald’s in that no matter where you are in the world if you are in a Bikram class you know what to expect and you are going to get the same thing just like a Big Mac is a Big Mac whether you are in LA or NYC.

So, just what are the postures and can I do them as a beginner? Answers to that question and more in my next blog…

Comments 3

  1. Pingback: Bikram / Hot Yoga Part V: Final Answer |

  2. Pingback: Bikram / Hot Yoga Part IV: Losing Weight |

  3. Pingback: Bikram / Hot Yoga Part III: Staying Power |

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