Yoga has been a popular new trend in the west for a while now, but is has its roots in ancient India. The tranquil practice is regarded as a way of bringing your mind, body and soul together using a series of moves, known as asanas and is a way of getting a bit of ‘you time’ when life gets too much. Bikram Yoga, however, is not something for the faint-hearted newbie and we’re going to take a look at why.
Bikram yoga is so named after Bengalese yoga pioneer Bikram Choudrey who’s theory on ‘hot yoga’ has redefined the way a lot of people now practice the art. He has dedicated his life to his practice and has become a notable figure, founding the Yoga College of India and retiring unbeaten after an illustrious career as the All-India National Yoga Champion. He is still an active member of the scene and in this article we will be looking at how hot yoga has influenced people for over twenty years.
Bikram Yoga is a form of hot yoga, which is exactly as it sounds. The technique involves twenty-six specially designed poses practised in a room with a temperature of 105 degrees and a 40% humidity rate. This might not sound like a lot of fun but the heat has an effect on the body that’s hard to argue with. The heat relaxes the muscles and the lungs letting you take longer breaths and allowing your body to achieve the poses Bikram has planned. It can be extremely beneficial to everyone from the newcomer to the professional sportsmen. But it’s not for the weak!
Moreover, Bikram’s technique has some dangers. The body’s reaction to unnatural heat levels during exercise can be unpredictable and as such, some people have experienced severe dehydration due to sweating. It is advised to keep oneself hydrated and sip on water during the ninety-minute classes. It can also cause hypothermia, the overheating of the body, and can lead to heatstroke so it is not to be practiced by anyone who suffers from high blood pressure or heart problems. While it’s potentially negative effects cannot be ignored neither, it seems, can it’s positives.
Classes are typically ninety minutes and each position is designed to follow one another, allowing the body to be fluid when changing. The relaxed muscles are easier to move and the increased lung capacity makes it harder to get out of breath. It has been brought to the west fairly recently but is gaining notoriety as one of the must-try yoga techniques.
Choudrey himself has a slightly different idea from other yoga fans. While the practice has been universally seen as a tranquil and unifying art for attaining a sense of peace with oneself, Choudrey has been prevalent in competitions for years and says – Competition is the foundation for all democratic societies. For without ‘Competition’, there is no democracy. This seems to be the polar opposite to what many Westerners have been taught to believe however yoga competitions have been held in India for over a century with competitors saying it is a chance for both newcomers and professionals to sharpen their skills, the added influence of rivalry also trains the mind to become more devoted to attaining perfection.
Bikram’s technique is now so well known in the west it’s being practiced by Lady Gaga, David Beckham and Ashton Kutcher among others. It seems to be a craze that won’t let up and perhaps that’s a good thing. Anything that can relax and calm us down at the end of the day is a good thing, but why always take it easy? Why not turn up the heat and face a challenge? Perhaps it’s not for everybody but it’s being talked about everywhere in the yoga world and it seems to be catching on!