Bikram yoga retreat – A popular form of yoga, Bikram Yoga (Hot Yoga) created to cleanse both body and mind, uses external heat. No warm up is needed as the scantily dressed participants go through the 26-poses.
Heating the Body Externally vs. Heating from within by Warm-up Exercise
Choudhury Bikram created this form of yoga to detoxify the body and discover well-being. Ideally, injury is prevented by enabling the body to heat immediately. The hot room is the warm up. The increased fluidity of movement that develops within the body heated internally by warm-up exercises such as calisthenics and running prior to playing football or the plies at the barre prior to a ballet performance are bypassed in Bikram yoga. Bikram students quickly experience increased suppleness in otherwise stiff joints and muscles. There is a false sense of looseness in both the beginner and experienced yogi. Overstretching muscles by sitting back on knees and lying back in a pose such as suptavarasana (reclining hero) can risk cartilage tears. The full locust pose incorrectly done in an improperly warmed up body can cause neck or shoulder strain.
Weight Loss Yoga vs. Dehydration
The extreme sweaty workout has evolved into weight loss yoga as droplets of perspiration permeate both the air and the sticky mats it is practiced on.
Fat burns when the body is warm. The exercises increase the metabolism so pounds seem to disappear. Without proper preparation prior to class, dehydration is a risk for the novice yogi.
Sweat is a Body Fluid with its Inherent Risk of Disease
Bikram theory is the increased sweating detoxifies the body. Shared body fluids in the case of flying droplets or unclean mats are an unwelcome side effect of hot yoga. Hepatitis B has been found in sweat but that extreme contact isn’t usually present in yoga unless partnering. Moist heat invites fungal infections and athlete’s foot, or prickly heat. Infection of the sweat glands (hidrandenitis suppurativa) can be an unanticipated aspect of Bikram yoga. Germs spread more easily in the warm moist heat.
Breathing Difficulties in Hot Rooms
Those with breathing difficulties such as asthma, COPD, bronchitis, or early influenza, may find shortness of breath a side effect of the hot overheated room. Those with respiratory problems breathe easier in cool air. Obesity can cause breathing difficulties in extreme heat.
Safe Bikram Practice
Hydrate before class
Dress in non-binding cotton or natural fabric
Listen to cues from own body
Poses can be modified for each body’s potential
Use footwear in all areas outside yoga room and in showers
Discuss this type of yoga with health care provider when there is a history of any breathing problem such as COPD, asthma, or an immune deficiency disease
Do not practice if pregnant
Don’t take class on a full stomach
Hydrate after class but not ice water
Do not compare self to others but to one’s own personal best
Take a break if there is pain or shortness of breath
Personal towels and mats are a must
Maintain a balanced diet
Begin Where You Are
Most practitioners push their bodies slightly beyond what they can do but some attempt to push up to or beyond what their neighbor on the next mat can do, risking injury. With the further incentive of weight loss, the drive to improve may override a warning of a slight pull or pain. Normally, the body gives painful cues of its limits. Hot yoga silences some of those cues. A good teacher watches the students and creates and modifies. Each yoga practitioner must become his/her own best teacher of his/her own body in order to achieve that body’s personal best but not beyond.
Bikram Yoga Retreat, Pros and Cons
Bikram yoga retreat is among the most marketable and attended forms of hatha yoga today. That said, before you jump into the hottest studio in town (both literally and figuratively) get a little background on this yogic formula and weigh the pros and cons for yourself.
Hive Hot Yoga
Bikram yoga retreat is the quintessential hive hot yoga, performed in studios heated to a minimum of 105 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity around 40%. While some find this invigorating, be selective about the studio at which you choose to practice. Some studios pump recycled air rather than fresh pre-heated air into their rooms; this actually depletes oxygen levels and increases air toxicity. As most yogis know, oxygen is our primary source of prana. Oxygen deprivation and carbon dioxide poisoning may be the cause of that invigorating, giddy, energized feeling you experience after a hive hot yoga class. This is not the case for every hot yoga studio. Find out how your local studios are heated and question the air quality.
Bikram yoga retreat is a series of 24 asanas (poses), bookended by two pranayama, or breathing, exercises. Each asana is repeated twice and held for 30 seconds a round. Depending on what type of person you are, this may be a pro or a con. On the plus side, once you’ve mastered the series, you will a) look like a fabulous pro in class and b) be able to do the series out of the studio (though many Bikram students go specifically for the hot studio experience). Some students of yoga, however, find the series restrictive and monotonous and prefer the discovery and exploration of an open hatha yoga practice. To each his or her own; the absence of inversions in the series is a frequent complaint for some. However, the Bikram system is classical hatha and pranayama yoga. It does work the entire body. It is “effective,” but it may not be the mind-body-spirit experience you’d like to cultivate.
A Company or a Community?
The system was developed over 30 years ago by Bikram Choudhury from Calcutta, India. A four-time champion of the National India Yoga Contest, Bikram was also a marathon runner and Olympic weightlifter.
After sustaining a serious knee injury in weightlifting, Bikram returned to India and his guru, Bishnu Charan Ghosh, and underwent six months of yoga therapy. He based his system of yoga on his rehabilitation experience.
All Bikram teachers are required to complete a two-month intensive certification process through Bikram’s Yoga College of India (based in Los Angeles) in order to teach the system. Critics of Bikram claim that this monopolizes the market and does not create an open, sharing network of practitioners, which is contrary to the central tenets of the philosophy of yoga. Indeed, Bikram yoga has proven to be a very lucrative business venture for its creator. However, it should be noted that this training is thorough and comprehensive in all aspects of yoga, includes the “84 classical asanas” beyond Bikram’s standard series, and includes yoga’s applications in various forms of therapy. You can trust that your Bikram instructor is well qualified and well trained.
Because Bikram yoga retreat is based on rehabilitation, he has close ties to the international medical community and works with a variety of patients looking for alternative therapies. The popular culture of the west, however, has also discovered that the physical benefits of his system include weight loss and muscle tone; for many, it is the perfect path to the coveted “yoga body.” Because of the lack of meditation, mantra, and other aspects of yoga in Bikram’s system, Bikram studios tend to be more oriented toward physical rather than holistic health. This is wonderful for a strictly hatha yoga practitioner, but may not be suited to students looking for more of a community feel in their yoga studios.
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