Bikram Yoga is one type of Hatha Yoga – which is the physical form of yoga (other branches of yoga focus on breathing, meditation, and morality…). It was developed by Bikram Choudhury, and has been growing in popularity since the first Bikram studio was opened, in Houston Texas, in 1995.
What Differentiates Bikram Yoga
If you’ve ever heard anything about Bikram yoga, then you’re already aware of its nickname – ‘hot yoga’. This is because studios teaching Bikram yoga classes are heated to 104 degrees (40.5C), with a relative humidity of roughly 40%. Yes, you will sweat! Copiously, starting within a few minutes of the beginning of class.
Each class is exactly the same, starting out with a breathing exercise, followed by 26 postures – always in the same order – done twice, and finishing with a second breathing exercise. That said, even though the class will be the same from one time to the next, you will be different, and what seemed difficult one time may seem easy the next, and vice versa.
How You’ll Benefit from Bikram Yoga
One key benefit of Bikram yoga is that, because your body is warm throughout the class, your muscles and joints will be less tight, and you will be able to move more easily and more deeply through the poses.
A second benefit is the natural flushing out of impurities through the skin that accompanies all that sweating.
How You Should Prepare for Bikram Yoga
Attending a Bikram Yoga class will make you sweat. A lot! If you don’t t want to collapse part way through the class (and if you do, you won’t be the first person this has happened to), or just give up and walk out when it starts getting uncomfortable, then you’ll want to go in well-prepared.
Among other things, you should increase your hydration level well before the class. Most people, especially in winter, go through life at least somewhat dehydrated, without ever noticing it. This simply won’t do if you’re planning to attend a Bikram yoga class. Several days before the class, increase your water intake – aim for one ounce of water for every two pounds of body weight (if you weigh 150 lbs, then drink 75 ounces (9 cups) of water each day.
You should also make a point of dressing properly, which in this case means minimally. For men, a pair of lightweight shorts is all you’ll need; for women, lycra shorts and a bra top are ideal. As much bare skin as possible will help you to avoid overheating.
Bring a yoga mat, and two large cotton towels – one to spread over the yoga mat, which will be dripping wet by the end of class anyways.
And bring two large bottles of water – as a beginner, plan to drink at least one quart (1L) of water during the class, and a second one immediately afterward.
Don’t push yourself too hard during the class – and ease up a little if your heart starts pounding too hard. You can do it!
If you’re interested in fine-tuning your Bikram yoga practice, consider picking up a copy of Bikram’s ‘blue book’ – it provides detailed analysis and photos of the various poses.