Bikram, or hot yoga, is one of the hippest, sweatiest workouts there
is. Metro speaks to an instructor on the benefits and drawbacks.
The Basis Of Bikram
The postures combine balance and resistance. Bikram goes beyond flexibility, requiring coordination, focus and stamina through the core. The body builds up strength around flexibility, and not the other way around. Like all other physical exercise, the benefits gained from Bikram Yoga will be heightened for those living a healthy, balanced life in parallel.
Why the heat?
Bikram Yoga is a selected series of 26 hatha yoga postures carried out in a heated room of up to 40 C. Designed by Yogi Bikram Choudhury, the motive was to trigger sweating, ultimately the body’s most natural and effective way of ridding itself of toxins and impurities. Sweating is a natural part of exercise, cooling you down, and people should learn not to be put off by it.
Although exercising at such high temperature is challenging, there are many advantages. Oram, who teaches Bikram Yoga in London, explains how both the heat and sweating cause the blood to thin, clearing the circulation system. Oram says: “40 degrees is a safe temperature to stretch and work out in as the muscles stretch more easily in the heat and the joints work better, allowing you to push deeper into the stretch.”
Heat is a catalyst to sweating, making the body detoxify and cleanse the skin. “You will experience an all-round improvement, from how your body heals, to the circulation of blood around the body over to kidney function,” he explains. The heat also removes some of the lactic acid build up we experience with exercise, reducing feelings of stiffness or pain.
“Remember, heat is a catalyst for everything,” says Oram, “Warm muscles burn more calories and the postures will have you pushing your physical boundaries. Adding heat to the equation will improve the speed of heart and respiration rate, further improving metabolism.” Being more in tune with your body as a whole also reduces the risk of injury.
Being active is very calming for the mind, promoting willpower and mental strength. The challenging nature of Bikram Yoga forces you to focus your mind and whatever your limits are, you are made to face and assess them. Letting your attention switch to your body and senses, from healing into feeling stretching and breathing will help you feel more balanced and calm.
On the other hand, for those who are overactive, Bikram is a healthy medium through which to channel excess energy. The end of each class is like the slate has been wiped clean again, promoting a feeling of lightness of mind.
Breathe And Burn
Breathing is a key element across all forms of yoga and getting it right can be tricky. In Bikram, breathing comes first in the form of pranayama. This particular breathing technique is aimed at improving the circulatory and respiratory system and opening up the chest and the lungs. Over time, the lungs elasticity is increased giving them a greater capacity and ability to take in deeper breaths.
Watch out for
The extreme heat in which Bikram Yoga is carried out can have drawbacks if you are not careful.
Make sure you eat breakfast: Although it is recommended that you do not eat two hours before class, many people take this too far and skip meals altogether. The high temperatures are strenuous and not eating could cause dizzy spells and very rarely, feeling faint.
The heat enables you to push deeper into the stretch: Making sure you don’t push yourself to the point of damaging muscles or causing stress on your body is important.
Ninety minutes of Bikram Yoga makes people sweat profusely: Make sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after the class to keep hydrated.