Bikram differs from other forms of yoga because of two key areas. Firstly, the heat is an overriding factor. The 26 postures or asanas are practised in a room heated to 105°F (40°C) and 60% humidity. Secondly, during the standing sequence students of Bikram yoga must keep their knee ‘locked out’.
This increasingly popular form of yoga was founded by Bikram Choudhury. As a 17 year-old Indian national yoga champion, Bikram sustained a serious injury to his knee during a weight-lifting accident. Under the guidance of Guru Bishnu Ghosh, he created a sequence that would build strength in his knee and prevented him from having surgery.
Bikram recognised the importance of introducing heat and humidity when he was work- ing on a United Nations-sponsored project at Tokyo University. Having relocated from Calcutta, the colder climate made Bikram realise the importance of having heat and hu- midity when practising yoga, and he set about recreating those ideal conditions.
The Hot Bikram Yoga studios employ highly sophisticated heating and ven- tilation equipment to maintain a steady temperature. Stretching into the asa- nas effectively remoulds the body and it is much easier and most importantly safer to be in a room that is close to body temperature. A person can expect to burn over 600 calories at each session and as the heat promotes sweating, it is an ideal way to flush out toxins.
Bikram yoga provides the perfect foundation for lots of other sports, especial- ly high-impact ones. Many elite athletes, including players from Fulham FC, international runner Justina Heslop and Olympic gold medallist Andy Mur- ray, regularly practise Bikram yoga as it helps prevents injuries. It also builds strength and improves performance so many sports people incorporate it as a vital part of their conditioning. This also explains why the gap between the male-to-female ratio (currently at 40%) is closing all the time.
The asanas combine strength, flexibility and balance to provide a total body workout. It is impossible to have strength without flexibility so stretching is very important. Bikram yoga works every area of the body including some hard-to-reach muscle groups and this in turn improves alignment.
Like other forms of yoga, it challenges students to hold a posture and these slow, controlled movements are actually more demanding than using mo- mentum. It also helps improve strength and balance. Many of the poses cre- ate a tourniquet effect and this helps push fresh, oxygenated blood to joints, muscles and organs which nourishes them and rejuvenates them further aid- ing and preventing injury.
Many people, irrespective of their fitness levels, find Bikram challenging and this only encourages them to come back for more. Bikram yoga is also perfect for beginners as sessions follow the same format and are led by experienced Bikram-certified instructors who provide safe and enjoyable classes.
It is not uncommon for new students to struggle with the heat during their first few sessions. Initially the heat can make them feel slightly nauseous or light- headed but it is important for people to pace themselves. By coming three to four times in the first 20 days, students gradually acclimatise and within a month, they are certain to feel and see a difference in their fitness levels.