The history of Bikram Yoga begins with Bikram Chodhury. He created the unique practice in the 1970s and since then Bikram has amassed a strong following with studios located globally. What is Bikram Yoga? It is a unique and strict, ninety-minute sequence of twenty-six poses that are held in a room heated up to 108 degrees.
The Creator of Bikram Yoga
Bikram Choudhury was born in Calcutta, India in 1946. He started practicing yoga at the age of four with famous yogi, Bishnu Ghosh.
Bikram practiced with Ghosh for four to six hours a day, and at thirteen years old, won the National India Yoga Championship. The two were pioneers of the health and fitness in India and promoted both yoga and weightlifting. At the age of seventeen, Bikram suffered a bad weightlifting injury that impacted his knee. Doctors told him that he would never walk again. Refusing to believe their diagnosis, Bikram continued his yoga practice with Ghosh and made a full recovery in six months.
Birkam’s learning’s from Ghosh and his own dedication to the practice of yoga led him to develop what we know today as Bikram Yoga. The practice is often considered an extension of Hatha Yoga, combining physical exercises with breath control.
According to Bikram Choudhury, “the twenty-six postures systematically work every part of the body, to give all the internal organs, all the veins, all the ligaments, and all the muscles everything they need to maintain optimum health and maximum function.”
What is Bikram Yoga?
Bikram Yoga is a strict sequence of twenty-six postures that connect with the breath. Classes are always held in a room heated to about 108 degrees and last ninety minutes. The practice is physically and mentally demanding given the external element of heat.
Benefits include detoxifying the body, reducing stress, and healing chronic pain including arthritis and joint pain.
The Twenty-Six Postures:
The postures of Bikram Yoga are always practiced in the same sequence; this sequence was scientifically designed to stretch muscles, ligaments, and tendons in a precise manner.
- Pranayama – Deep Standing Breathing
- Ardha-Chandrasana with Pada-Hastasana – Half Moon Pose with Hands to Feet Pose
- Utkatasana – Awkward Pose
- Garurasana – Eagle Pose
- Dandayamana-Janushirasana – Standing Head to Knee Posture
- Dandayamana-Dhanurasana – Standing Bow
- Tuladandasana – Balancing Stick
- Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Paschimotthanasana – Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose
- Trikanasana – Triangle
- Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Janushirasana -Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose
- Tadasana – Tree Pose
- Padangustasana – Toe Stand Pose
- Savasana – Corpse Pose
- Pavanmuktasana – Wind-Removing Pose
- Pada – Hasthasana – Sit Up
- Bhujangasana – Cobra
- Salabhasana – Locust Pose
- Poorna-Salabhasana – Full Locust Pose
- Dhanurasana – Bow Pose
- Supta-Vajdrasana – Fixed Firm Pose
- Ardha-Kurmasana – Half Tortoise Pose
- Ustrasana – Camel
- Sasangasana – Rabbit Pose
- Janushirasana with Paschimotthanasana – Head to Knee Pose with Stretching Pose
- Ardha-Matsyendrasana – Spine Twisting Pose
- Kapalbhati in Vajrasana – Blowing in Firm Pose
Preparing for a Bikram Yoga Class
Now that you know the twenty-six sequences involved in a Bikram class, there are a few things you can do to prepare to get the most out of your practice.
Hydrate: Classes are heated up to 108 degrees with 40% humidity. Magnify this with the rigors of yoga and most people are going to sweat, sweat, sweat. Hydrate a full twenty-four hours before your class and try to avoid eating anything one to two hours before. Pack a small energy bar or apple with you to have after class, as you will need to replenish the sugars you just depleted from your system.
Dress to Sweat: Get ready to shed layers of sweat and clothing. While your go-to yoga outfit might include leggings and a t-shirt, you will want to adjust this for a Bikram class. Most students wear yoga shorts (think bikini bottoms or briefs) or spandex and women usually wear a sports bra on top. You want a fabric that can move with you when it is soaking wet because trust us, it will be.
Pack a Water Bottle: Bring a bottle of water (we recommend at least a liter) into class with you. While you should be hydrated before entering a class, it is always comforting to have water right next to you when the practice really heats up (see what we did there?). Avoid chugging water during your practice, as it this can fill your belly with water and make you nauseous. Instead, take small sips.
Consider Bringing Your Own Mat: While most yoga studios rent out yoga mats (which are cleaned after each class), the sheer amount of sweat coming off of previous mat-users might cause some to be more-conscious about germs. If you are averse to sharing a mat that has been soaked in the sweat of others, be sure to bring your own. You will also want to bring a towel with you. While yoga towels are designed to lie perfectly over your yoga mat, a regular face towel or body towel will do just fine. The towel will not only mop up your sweat but will also prevent you from slipping all over your mat.
Ignore Your Neighbors: As with any yoga practice, the journey is an individual one that connects your mind and body. You might end up next to an experienced yogi in your class who, despite the heat, is not breathing heavily and seems perfectly content sweating buckets. If this is not you, pay him or her no mind. Focus on your own body and mind as they adjust to the heat and the sequence of movements. Be sure to take breaks when you need to, and keep an open mind.
While Bikram Yoga is an experience, and one that we encourage all lovers of yoga to try at least once. Not sure if it is time to start Bikram yoga? Check out this handy guide on how to find which yoga studio is best for you.