Discipline is key. 95% of a practice is simply getting to the studio. A consistent practice is the biggest contributor to a deep practice.
How does Bikram Yoga work?
By the tourniquet effect: stretching, balancing (using gravity), and creating pressure all at the same time. The blood supply in arteries and veins is being cut off, creating pressure.
When released, a lock gate effect is created, causing blood to rush through veins and arteries, flushing them out. Also, pressure is applied to the heart by its relative position to the rest of the body.
What is is happening to my body during Bikram Yoga?
Muscles are contracted and stretched at a cellular, biochemical level. Lipids and proteins reorganize optimally in such stretching, allowing for better circulation. Joint mobility and range of motion is increased, and strength is built by the use of gravity. Muscles and joints are balanced.
Blood and calcium are brought to the bones. Working against gravity strengthens the bones. The organs of the immune system within the bones (red marrow) are boosted.
The lymph nodes are massaged, lymph is pumped throughout the body, and white blood cells are distributed throughout the body as the lymphatic system works more efficiently.
There is compression and extension to the thymus, spleen, appendix and intestines; lungs are stretched and flushed out by increased blood circulation. The endocrine glands are encouraged to secrete appropriate hormones, and the communication between hormones and various glands and systems of the body is perfected. Toxins and waste are eliminated through the organs of elimination.
The nerves are stimulated by compression and extension, improving communication within the systems of the body and supplying fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout. The brain is stimulated by improved circulation and by varying blood pressure.
Why the heat?
- Enhances vasodilatation so that more blood is delivered to the muscles. This means that the capillaries that weave around the muscles respond to the heat by dilation. This brings more oxygen to the muscles and helps in the removal of waste products such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid.
- Allows oxygen in the blood to detach from the hemoglobin more easily. When blood passes through warm muscles, oxygen releases more easily from the hemoglobin. Blood passing through cold muscles release less oxygen.
- Speeds up the breakdown of glucose and fatty acids
- Makes muscles more elastic and less susceptible to injury
- Improves coordination.
- Reduces heart irregularities associated with sudden exercise.
- Burns fat more easily. Warmed muscles burn fat more easily than cold ones. Fat is released during stress. The stress of intense exercise causes a deluge of fatty acids into the blood stream. If you exercise with cold muscles, they can’t use the fatty acids and they end up in places where they aren’t wanted, such as in the lining of your arteries.
Note: Muscles aren’t the only beneficiaries of the heat. Higher temperatures improve the function of the nervous system, meaning that messages are carried more rapidly to and from the brain or spinal cord. Warm muscles are more elastic and are less susceptible to injury. Warmer temperatures produce a more fluid stretch, allowing for a greater range of motion. Cold muscles don’t absorb shock and impact as well and do not stretch as easily, so cold muscles get injured more readily. (Excerpt from ‘Smart Exercise’ by Covert Bailey)
Do I have to be flexible to take class?
NO! Bikram Yoga combines strength, balance, concentration and breath; the flexibility comes with time. As long as you are feeling the stretch, no matter how inflexible, you are receiving the intended benefit of the posture.
I feel dizzy and nauseous during class, why is that?
It is not unusual to feel nauseous or dizzy during your first class. Practicing yoga in a heated room reveals to us our present condition, and inspires us take much better care of ourselves.
Usually the problem is that we do not drink enough water for daily living, let alone for exercising in a heated room. Nutritionists tell us that we need 64-80 ounces of water a day to help the body function properly. In the heated yoga room, your body needs adequate fund of water to allow perspiration to release heat from the body as you practice. So we estimate you need another 64-80 ounces (sometime during the day) to allow for your 90 minutes in the room. Once you are drinking enough water your body will tolerate the heat better and you will actually enjoy the heat.
If you feel disoriented or like you need a good nap after your first few classes, this is likely because your body has begun to cleanse itself as a result of the yoga practice. Don't be scared. After the first few classes this sensation will pass. The more you can relax as you give your 110% honest effort during class, the more energized you will feel throughout the class and throughout the rest of your day.
What should I expect after my first class?
- You might feel very tired after class. This is absolutely normal and a good sign that your body is cleansing. Your energy levels should be restored to normal within several classes.
- You might find yourself feeling extremely energetic and experience difficulty sleeping. Don't worry--this is a good sign that the yoga is truly filling you up with energy. You don't have insomnia. You just have more time to do the things you enjoy.
- You might feel sore or stiff the day after your first class. Come back to class as soon as possible! Your body is waking up and coming alive and you want to keep the process going!
- You might feel nauseous, dizzy or have a headache after class. This could be a sign that you are dehydrated. Please drink lots of water before returning to class. Or it could be a sign that you were trying so hard that you weren't breathing normally. Please breathe normally during every posture.
- You might experience some skin irritation. This too is normal. It means that the skin is releasing toxins. Showering directly after class will wash the toxins away. It will also help normalize the body temperature.
- You might feel very hungry after class for a while, or you might lose your appetite completely. Both reactions are normal. If you are concerned about your weight, don't worry too much either way. Once you get into a regular practice pattern, your appetite and your weight will normalize. You'll find yourself feeling and looking leaner and younger.
How many times a week is it recommended to practice?
In the beginning, do the Full Class religiously each day for two months until you are performing all but the very difficult poses such as the Standing Bow Pulling and Stretching Pose eighty percent correctly. If you are restricted by any medical condition or have any chronic disease, you should continue daily until your condition is resolved.
Even when your progress is measured in fractions of inches that add excellence to what is already good, rather than in bold strokes, like being able to balance on one leg for ten seconds, you should continue your Yoga practice daily.
When you are performing ninety percent of the postures ninety percent correctly, you should still not feel complacent about doing your Yoga. Doing this Hatha Yoga class every day is like everything else you do in your life that is good for maintaining life. You don't plan to give up doing those things because of the daily benefit you receive.
Practice while following Bikarm's Beginning Yoga Class CD or cassette tape is an ideal method to practice the postures, as best as possible without being in an actual Bikram Yoga class.
Some tips: Set aside a special time of the day to create a regular daily practice. Set aside a regular practice area in your home, and if possible, equip it with a mirror and an extra heater or two. Wear clothing that does not restrict your movement. Do not eat within 2-3 hours of practice.
How good is this Yoga habit? Look at someone who has been doing this yoga for over twenty or thirty years. Don't ask their ages. They have become timeless.
What is the recommended room temperature for Bikram Yoga?
The recommended temperature is minimum 105F degrees and about 40% humidity.
The room is kept at this temperature or more for the following:
- Keeping the body from overheating (contrary to popular misconception)
- Protecting the muscles to allow for deeper stretching
- Detoxifying the body (open pores to let toxins out)
- Thinning the blood to clear the circulatory system
- Increasing heart rate for better cardiovascular workout
- Improving strength by putting muscle tissue in optimal state for reorganization
- Reorganize the lipids (fat) in the muscular structure
Yoga changes the construction of the body from the inside out, from bones to skin and from fingertips to toes. So before you change it, you have to heat it up to soften it, because a warm body is a flexible body. Then you can reshape the body any way you want.
Hatha Yoga flushes away the waste products, the toxins of all the glands and organs of your body. It provides a natural irrigation of the body through the circulatory system, with the help of the respiratory system. It brings nourishments to every cell of your body so that each one can perform its function and keep your body healthy. Bikram Yoga also employs heat to further that cleaning process: When you sweat, impurities are flushed out of the body through the skin.
Practicing yoga not only increases our supplies of oxygen, but it also teaches us how to use that oxygen properly – we learn to control the breath through pranayama.
Is Bikram Yoga aerobic?
YES, absolutely! Bikram's Yoga System is as good or better than any other aerobic workout you will find! It raises your heart rate for 90 minutes, moving fresh, oxygenated blood to every cell in your body.
The word aerobic literally means "with oxygen" or "in the presence of oxygen, involving or improving oxygen consumption by the body ." Aerobic activity trains the heart, lungs and cardiovascular system to process and deliver oxygen more quickly and efficiently to every part of the body by elevating the heart rate during exercise to its target level. As the heart muscle becomes stronger and more efficient, a larger amount of blood can be pumped with each stroke. Fewer strokes are then required to rapidly transport oxygen to all parts of the body.
You can derive these benefits from practicing Bikram yoga. Due to the nature of the asanas, your heart rate and respiration become elevated to your target level.
Does Bikram Yoga help with balancing emotions?
Bikram Yoga helps balance the emotions in several ways. Physiologically, regular practice harmonizes the nervous and endocrine systems, two systems which figure heavily in emotional well-being.
In addition, practicing Bikram Yoga cultivates the mental faculties of faith, self-control, concentration, determination, and patience. As we become more aware of our inner life, we notice how events, interactions, and even the atmospheric pressure effect us. When we are aware, we can exercise choice in our response. This helps us balance our emotional life.
With a proper diet, is Bikram Yoga good for weight loss?
A minimum of 10 classes per month is recommended to get the benefits of Bikram Yoga, among which is weight normalization. As a beginner, It takes three classes for your body to understand the proper approach to the posture, and ten classes for your body to begin to work with postures. You will realize optimization of all your body systems.
Digestion and respiration, as well as endocrine, lymphatic and elimination systems will begin to work harmoniously. Your appetite will normalize, and your unhealthy cravings will diminish. All of these results will help to normalize your weight if you devote yourself to regular practice, at least, but preferably more than 3 times per week.
Can I do Bikram if I've never done Yoga before?
YES! Bikram Method Yoga is designed for beginners. It is simple but challenging.
Can I still do other exercise if I practice Bikram Yoga?
YES, of course. Bikram Yoga is the perfect compliment to any exercise program.
Can I practice Bikram Yoga if I have high blood pressure?
YES! Bikram Yoga reduces high blood pressure and balances your metabolism.
Can I do Bikram Yoga while pregnant?
YES! Rajashree's Pregnancy Yoga series can be practiced in a Bikram Hot Yoga class. This series features a combination of Bikram Yoga postures and modified postures that are safe for pregnancy. Anybody experiencing a healthy pregnancy can practice Rajashree's Pregnancy Yoga, regardless of age, experience, or ability. Practicing yoga during pregnancy is one of the healthiest ways to nurture yourself and your baby. You will learn to become more patient and gentle with yourself and gain confidence in the beautiful mother that you are becoming.
Regarding the heat be cautious, but not afraid. It is still healthy for your body to sweat allowing your muscles to loosen and relax. The heat also helps toxins in the body to be released. Ask the teacher where the coolest part of the room is, and don't be afraid to sit out any poses your body (or your baby) tells you to.
Can I do Bikram Yoga with back problems?
Picture your spine as a series of ball bearings (vertebrae) one on top of the other, each separated from the next by a cushion (a cartilage disc). When the spine in shiny and new, all the ball bearings are smooth and round, moving freely in all directions, and the cushions are strong and thick. Now picture your daily activities. In one position after another, probably ninety-five percent of the time, that spine is leaning forward.
What is happening, then, is that each vertebra of your back is compressing its cushion in a front wise direction. This goes on year after year until there is no resiliency left in the front of the cushions, while the two sides and back have grown weak and slack from disuse. In addition, lack of movement has made the bearings rusty and barnacles have developed. The result: backache, stiff neck, headache, and countless other complaints.
The cure: exercise! Make the spine work so that resiliency and strength are restored to each cushion, so that the rust and barnacles are worn off the ball bearings, so that an X ray would show them smooth and round, sitting snugly on their fat, renewed cushions.
Beginning with Half Moon, Bikram Yoga is designed to make your shocked and shriveled spine work to both sides, to the back, and then to the front. Only by exercising in all directions can your spine be healthy; and only with a healthy spine can you have a healthy nervous system.
If your chronic problem is something such as sciatic pain, lumbago, sore back muscles, whiplash, vertebrae out of line, shoulder trouble, radiating pains down the arms, tension headaches, swayback, spinal curvature, pinched nerves, or "something not quite right that the doctor said I ought to watch," stop watching. Act! Get to work on these exercises. Even those who have had spinal surgery should get to work--with their doctor's okay and a qualified teacher who can lead them in a particular series of exercises.
People with slipped disc are often in such pain that Bikram Yoga seems further torture. However, in numerous slipped disc cases, determined Yoga can save the day. So endure the pain.
As you can see, the best thing is to adopt a Bikram Yoga regimen before any of these troubles develop--for if you do, they probably won't develop.
I experience chronic knee pain. Can Bikram Yoga help me?
Whether the knees are arthritic or injured, Bikram Yoga will definitely help. Bikram actually healed his knee, which was crushed by a 300 pound weight, with his guru's help doing yoga. You must move the knees to get circulation to them, and Bikram's Yoga helps you do both.
So how should you proceed? Make sure to listen carefully to the alignment instructions in each posture. When you are told to keep your feet parallel in standing postures, please do so. A half inch in either direction away from parallel has its effects all the way up the knees and into the hips.
In standing balancing postures, it is also important to keep the standing foot straight and the standing knee pointing straight ahead. If your knee bows back (hyperextension) you should bring the weight forwards towards the toes so as to engage the quadriceps muscle ("lock the knee") and lift the kneecap upwards. This action brings the leg into one line and brings true strength to the knees.
When you are bending your knees in any of the standing postures, keep the knees pointed over the toes. This will ensure that the knees and hips are strengthened evenly inside and out.
In triangle, when you are told to push your hips forward as you bend your front knee, this will keep your hip in line with your knee in line with your foot. This is also good for even strengthening of hip and knee joints.
In some of the standing postures, it might be very difficult to bend your knee to a 90 degree angle. So do the best you can without creating pain. Better to keep proper alignment bending 1% than to go 100% in poor alignment.
In the floor poses, notably fixed firm, half tortoise and perhaps rabbit, it might be difficult for you to bend your knees enough that the hips sit on the heels. To test your knee flexibility, keep lots of weight in your hands and bend the knees gradually to the point (but not past) of pain. You must be able to relax and breathe in the posture, holding it steady, for anything to happen. As the pain decreases and you start feeling more comfortable, you can gradually take the weight out of your hands and allow more pressure on the knees. Eventually you'll be able to go all the way into the posture, and you won't even remember the time when you couldn't even sit down!
You'll find that little by little your knee pain goes away and soon you'll realize that you can walk, climb up and go down stairs, even run a little without pain!