It may be snowing, sleeting, or raining outside, but to you, it’s summertime in India. With the temperature rising to 40 degrees Celsius, the sweat is dripping off your body by the bucketful, and winter seems like it’s miles away.
Yoga has been known as a great form of exercise, both physically and mentally, for more than 3,000 years. But in the past 30 years, a man named Bikram Choudhury has brought a series of 26 poses (known as asanas) into the yoga mix and has created millions of followers all over the world.
Heat for Health
Why is it good to be in such a hot yoga studio? According to Bikram yoga instructor and studio owner Tara Montague, “The heat helps the blood flow more. You’re compressing certain organs, and when you release out of a posture, blood is flushing through that organ and helping to carry away the bad toxins and get the blood flowing as it naturally should.” The intense heat also helps the body “sweat to the extreme, where you’re actually balancing out your hormone levels and boosting all the systems of the body,” explains Montague.
Bikram’s website (bikramyoga.com) notes that the hot temperatures allow deeper stretching, improved strength, reorganization of lipids in the muscular structure, and an increased heart rate–this is a cardiovascular workout, not a relaxation session!
So you’re sweating like mad, and you’ve only just stepped into the room, with 90 minutes and 26 poses to get through. Why are you here? What is so enjoyable about hot yoga?
“You might be struggling physically, mentally, or emotionally in class, but when you leave you feel so amazing that you just can’t explain it,” says Montague. “It’s different from any other type of yoga. You really feel the impact that day.” She adds that Bikram yoga is challenging and will keep people from getting bored.
Aside from the challenge, there are many other advantages associated with Bikram yoga. People from all fitness backgrounds and health histories see benefits through regular practice.
“I have been struggling with very tight and sore Achilles tendons and calves for almost a year, seeing specialists of all kinds without much success. After just three Bikram classes, I was virtually pain-free and able to play soccer at 100 percent!” says Bikram student Duane Marino. “It is an unexpectedly difficult workout that tests your balance, concentration, stamina, and strength, and uses every major muscle group.
Montague has seen participants with conditions ranging from back pain to multiple sclerosis and even those recovering from heart bypass surgery come through her doors and never look back. She started Bikram yoga with foot pain from her years of professional dancing. After immersing herself in the classes, she has emerged with no more foot pain and a tremendous amount of energy. “I was feeling a lot older than I should have been, but since I’ve been doing Bikram’s, my cardio is unbelievable–I feel like I could run a marathon. I feel 10 years younger.”
Other participants see benefits in the way they feel, spiritually. Rick Mackenzie has been practising Bikram yoga for six years and finds that it helps him with job stress and other pressures in his life. With the benefits he’s experienced, he says, “I am proof that yoga heals the body, mind, and soul.”
With benefits for all body parts, including increased energy and a renewed spirit, Bikram yoga is a way for anybody to enjoy what the heat has to offer.