For those of you who don’t know much about Bikram Yoga, it is a form of Hatha Yoga, which takes place in a room heated to 105 degrees with around 40 percent humidity. The 90 minute class consists of a series of 26 postures, which focus on keeping you completely still in both mind and body.
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Bikram Choudhury himself claims that yoga cannot only save your life; it will help you save your soul. As a yogi myself, I couldn’t think of a better choice of words and I’m sure many a yogi would agree.
The hesitation for many people to try Bikram Yoga lies with the heat. Many healthcare and fitness professionals disagree with the body being put through such a workout in extreme heat, however, it is often overlooked that in India, yoga has been practised for thousands of years in the unescapable heat. The heat prepares the body for reconstruction by warming it up and making it more flexible, hence, why the Indian climate is replicated in Bikram Yoga studios.
Anyone who practices Bikram Yoga will tell you that the benefits are many and endless; in the short term you will sleep better, feel happier, have more energy and a toned body. And in the long term, you will have overall improved physical and mental health.
But Bikram Yoga doesn’t just tone your body, help you lose weight, improve flexibility and flush out toxins, although those benefits are good enough for many people (that’s why I chose to try it!), each pose systematically works every part of your body giving your veins, ligaments and muscles everything they need to maintain optimum health – it’s truly an entire body workout, as Bikram would say « from the bones to the skin and the fingertips to the toes ».
Here are the benefits of each of the 26 postures, 2 breathing exercises and sit-up that you may not have heard about:
Standing Deep Breathing
This deep breathing exercise warms the body up to prepare it for the 26 postures ahead, it also aids to prevent respiratory problems such as bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, and shortness of breath and even improves blood circulation.
This pose increases flexibility of the spine, tones the lower body, strengthens the body’s core muscles as well flexing and strengthening the latissimus dorsi, obliques, deltoids and trapezius muscles. This pose also promotes proper kidney function and can help cure enlargement of the liver and spleen.
2. Hands to Feet
Whilst stretching the spine, this pose also firms and trims the lower body, works the muscles, ligaments and tendons in the legs which improves circulation and strengthens the glutes, upper body and back muscles.
3. Awkward Pose
This three-part pose is an ultimate leg toner (have you seen my legs?!) that increases circulation in the lower body, strengthens balance and concentration and also helps to cure slipped discs and relieve rheumatism and arthritis.
4. Eagle Pose
This pose opens up the 14 largest joints in the skeletal system, and provides fresh blood to the reproductive system, sex organs and kidneys. It also tones the legs and strengthens the upper body.
5. Standing Head to Knee
Flushing out the internal abdominal organs, this pose improves flexibility of the sciatic nerves, strengthens hamstrings and leg muscles and works the back muscles, triceps and biceps.
6. Standing Bow Pose
Strengthening the spine and sending fresh oxygen and blood to all the organs and glands, this mental strength and balance developing pose firms the abdominal wall and upper thighs, tightens upper arms, hips and buttocks.
7. Balancing Stick
This 10-second posture makes your heart race! Sending high-speed blood to the heart, it flushes out the veins and arteries strengthening the heart muscle. It also promotes good posture and improves concentration.
8. Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose
Opening the hips, this pose strengthens and stretches the sciatic nerves and tendons in the legs and massages the internal abdominal organs and the intestines.
9. Triangle Pose
Teachers often say that this pose is what we work towards in all the prior poses. This master posture is where the heart and lungs work together. It improves bones, muscles, joints, tendons and internal organs; it also revitalizes nerves, veins and tissues, tones the oblique and intercostal muscles, improves posture and relieves rheumatism and lower back pain.
10. Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose
Trimming the abdomen, waistline, hips, buttocks and thighs this pose compresses the thyroid gland, which helps to regulate the metabolism and immune system.
11. Tree Pose
Improves posture and balance, whilst also strengthening the internal oblique muscles.
12. Toe Stand
The entire Bikram series helps develop mental strength but this pose certainly challenges your concentration and balance. It strengthens knees, and is therapeutic for rheumatism of the knees ankles and feet.
13. Dead Body Pose
Lying completely still is probably the most challenging pose for most people. By laying still your body creates internal cleansing thorough powerful blood flow and rejuvenates you for the second half of the series.
14. Wind Removing Pose
Whilst compressing and massaging the entire digestive system, this pose will also strengthen your arms, prevent flatulence and firm your abdomen and thighs.
Sit-up The sit-up strengthens and tones the abdomen and also energizes the body for the next posture.
15. Cobra Pose
Improving digestion, appetite, liver and spleen function, cobra will increase low blood pressure, strengthen the lumbar spine, deltoids, trapezius and triceps, relieves menstrual disorders, and combat slipped or herniated discs, scoliosis and arthritis.
16. Locust Pose
With the same benefits at Cobra, Locust Pose is even better for slipped discs and sciatica. It strengthens the upper spine and also helps with varicose veins in the legs.
17. Full Locust Pose
Strengthening the middle spine, this posture is good for scoliosis, kyphosis, spondylosis and slipped discs. It also increases rib cage elasticity and firms’ abdominal muscles, upper arms, hips and thighs.
18. Bow Pose
Improving function of the spleen, liver, kidneys and intestines, this 360-degree spine flexion will strengthen the spine, aid digestion, and counters constipation, bronchitis and diabetes.
19. Fixed Firm Pose
This pose strengthens the entire immune system, relieves back pain, sciatica, rheumatism, and varicose veins, and also promotes good function of the spleen and liver.
20. Half Tortoise Pose
Known to relieve headaches, this calming pose relieves tension in the neck and shoulders, increases blood flow to the brain and stretches the lower part of the lungs, which is therapeutic for asthma. In addition it combats indigestion, flatulence, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.
21. Camel Pose
My absolutely favourite pose but disliked by many (from what I see in class this one is often sat out!) Camel Pose stimulates the nervous system, relieves back pain, and helps degenerative spinal problems such as kyphoscoliotic deformities and cervical spondylosis. It also stretches the abdominal organs, throat and thyroid and parathyroid and even firms and slims the abdomen and waistline.
22. Rabbit Pose
Sending fresh blood and oxygen to the nervous system, rabbit post relieves tension in the neck, back and shoulders and even helps alleviate colds, sinus problems, and chronic tonsillitis. In addition, it also rejuvenates the thyroid and parathyroid and can be therapeutic for insomnia, diabetes and depression.
23. and 24. Head to Knee Post and Stretching Pose
Increasing circulation to the liver, spleen, pancreas, thyroid, thymus and intestines, this pose promotes healthy immune and lymphatic systems and improves digestion and circulation to the bowels.
25. Spine Twisting Pose
Calming the nervous system and increasing circulation to the spinal nerves, veins and tissues, spine twisting also improves elasticity of the spine, relieves lower back pain and helps prevent slipped discs, rheumatism of the spine, kyphosis, cervical spondylosis and arthritis.
26. Blowing in Firm Pose and Dead Body Pose
This final breathing exercise improves digestion and circulation, increases elasticity of the lungs whilst also strengthening the abdominal organs and increasing circulation to them whilst also stimulating the digestive system, the final dead body pose allows your body to rest, relax, recover and absorb the effects of the practice.
Sources for this article came from the book Bikram Yoga: The Guru Behind Hot Yoga Shows the Way to Radiant Health and Personal Fulfilment by Bikram Choudhury and I highly recommend it to anyone considering practising Bikram Yoga.
About the Author
Marina Daniell is the founder of staple life, an inspiring blog for women about simple living (doing less, so you can live more). A dedicated Bikram Yogi, lover of fashion, beauty and food. When she isn’t in the hot yoga room she can be found rolling fresh gnocchi or pasta for her family, or whipping up beauty products with items from her fridge.
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