Bikram Yoga – sweaty mess or cosy warm pleasure?

Do you like to feel that you had an amazing workout? Do you still want to connect to your body and your soul? Do you look for alternative ways of burning a tons of calories without having to exercise for two or three hours at your local gym?

Try Bikram Yoga! Bikram Yoga was created out of the 24 traditional Hatha yoga asanas plus two breathing exercises by Bikram Choudhury in the 1970s. It is now popular all around the yoga community although there are some discrepancies concerning health benefits of the style. The style is performed in a hot room with a room temperature of 40 degrees and a relative humidity of 40 percent. Nearly all exercises are performed two times in a row and asanas are held between 6 to 60 seconds. The teacher normally doesn’t demonstrate any of the poses and rather explains them and constantly speaks about the asana performed at the very moment. That means if you are new to the style, you have to move your mat a little bit more to the back of the room in order to look at your fellow experienced yogis for guidance. The reason why the teacher is constantly and rapidly speaking about the performed asanas is that this promotes to stay present in the moment. The student shall experience a meditative state of mind by focusing on themselves. Therefore there are many rules to follow:

  1. Only drink after the warm up and try not to drink too much (the teacher will tell you when to drink)
  2. Come to class early but at least on time. (otherwise in most studios you cannot enter the room anymore)
  3. Do not constantly wipe away the sweat that drips down your face (it will distract you and come back anyways)
  4. Focus on yourself only! (okay that is true for nearly every yoga style)
  5. Follow exactly what the teacher tells you to do – no own variations of the poses
  6. Don’t lie down in case you feel sick! ( the teacher will tell you which pose to go into in that case)
  7. Don’t leave the room.
  8. Don’t eat anything too heavy up to three hours before this class.
  9. Always bring a towel! (Especially if you borrow the mat from the studio)
  10. Always bring water (You will need a little bit of it during class and a lot of it afterwards)
  11. Don’t come to class if you are sick! (Your fellow yogis don’t want to get sick as well.)

So why should you go through the hassle of getting sweaty? Here are some benefits of this yoga style. Please note that any benefit can always be viewed in different ways, so for some people it might be more of a drawback.

  1. Your muscles are warmed up more quickly by the room just like the rest of your body. That might lead to less injuries. (Although some people do argue that sometimes people overestimate themselves and overdo it flexibility wise far too early in the process.)
  2. Sweating is a cleansing mechanism for the body. (Therefore proper hygiene is really important!)
  3. This yoga style burns lots of calories compared to other more passive yoga styles. (However don’t forget that lots of weight lost might actually just be water weight.)
  4. Come into a meditative state of mind by listening to the instructor. (Of course this only works if you can actually concentrate on what you are doing while someone is talking.)
  5. Heat helps dealing with great discomfort. (This might lessen your level of enjoyment of this yoga style especially in the beginning.)

All in all I enjoyed the yoga style although I am not sure which season is the best to practice this style. With winter you run into the risk to catch a cold due to the temperature differences between indoors and outdoors. In summer the idea of going from a hot weather into an even hotter room is quite dreadful. Maybe spring and autumn are better then. I also loved the structure, so you always know what to expect and what you get out of your yogic workout. Therefore I guess I would recommend it to anyone who searches for a yogic challenge.

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