Friday, June 09, 2006

Hot Yoga (Bikram Yoga)

I would like to post here a description and review of Hot Yoga for those of you who may be looking for such.

Hot Yoga was started by a East Indian guy named something-Bikram (picture above, he trained with the brother of something-Yogananda, founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship) who thought it would be neat to do yoga in a super-hot room (105F) and figured out some specific poses that are done in a specific order which he claims is good for you in a variety of ways. You can find a basic description and links to lots of articles at their official website.

The class is 90 minutes, about half standing and half on the floor, and is 26 poses designed such that you stretch and strengthen pretty much every muscle and joint in your body. The heat allows much deeper stretching and also elevates your heart rate making this much more of an aerobic challenge than a regular yoga class.

Here's a newcomer's perspective: the heat is hard to take, but also kind of welcome to a stiff (or injured) body. You get a little used to it, but have to drink an enormous amount of water to make up for it - I can only take it once a week or less although a lot of people do it every day and must just drink loads of water. The teachers are extremely well-trained and walk around the room correcting people and making sure nobody is doing anything wrong, so it is actually pretty good for beginners. The poses also have several versions that go from easy to very hard so everyone can take it at their own pace - although the studio I go to (Bikram College of India Minneapolis) is very intense, and the teachers constantly encorage you to try harder so a beginner has to take care to not push too far.

I went in with a stiff and injured hip from teaching too many spin classes and came out feeling much better - the deep heated stretching was just what it needed. My flexibility also increased tremendously with only a few classes, and my strength and posture improved also. I love the intensity and longer class format but can see how it's not for everyone. Most studios allow you to pay for just one class so if you're curious I encourage you to try it - you can easily sit down and take a break if it gets to be too much for you (many people in the class sit out poses due to injuries or simply because they need a break). If you do start going regularly I have found that just one class per week (or less) makes a tremendous difference in my health so honestly it doesn't take much. And if you love it you can go every day and then I can call YOU crazy!

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