“You don't do yoga, you try –
as long as you try the right way,
you are getting 100% benefit.”
Bikram Yoga is a system of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises put together by Bikram Choudhury practiced in a heated room for 90 minutes
This ancient and holistic system of hatha yoga was developed to help maintain, generate and recover health and youth by stimulating the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The postures are organised in a specific and effective way to help create balance and to increase the flow of energy throughout the entire body. In addition the series of postures combine skills of concentration, patience, determination and self control, which lead to mental clarity, increased ability of deal with stress and has a profound healing power on the mind and body – a unique blend of spiritual inspiration and highly disciplined physical exercise.
The lineage of these postures came from Bishnu Ghosh (Bikram’s Guru), one of the greatest and most influential yoga masters of the past century. He was a celebrated physical culturist and the first to scientifically document Yoga’s ability to cure chronic physical ailments and heal the body. He was the first person to bring the ancient science of Hatha Yoga to the West at the request of his older brother, Paramahansa Yogananda. Yogananda, founder of the Self-Realisation Fellowship (to disseminate worldwide his teachings on India’s ancient practices and philosophy of Yoga and its tradition of meditation) and author of the best seller, Autobiography of a Yogi (on the list of the ‘100 Most Important Spiritual Books of the 20th Century), had a great influence on the direction of Ghosh’s teachings.
During this 90-minute class, you will work every part of your body – inside and out. Bikram Yoga is a great way to help with:
- Weight loss
- Toning and building strength and flexibility in muscles
- Help with healing old injuries and diseases, and also prevent them in the future
- Cardiovascular conditioning and workout
- Purification of the complete body
- Relaxation and alleviation of stress
- Mental focus and discipline
- Overall wellbeing
The postures are very specific, in a set sequence as it works! Much like the alphabet, it cannot be changed, or the series simply does not work. Every class you practice will be different, depending on your state of mind, how you feel, the amount of rest you have, the number of people in the room, the preparations you’ve made for class, the weather, the time of day etc. etc. By practicing the same postures you will instead discover and celebrate the changes you make, as well as refine what you already have.
Bikram Yoga is suitable for all ages and level of ability. The yoga gently allows you to move in and out of the postures with correct alignment, so that you can get the full benefits of the poses. The goal is to learn how to stretch slowly, to relax, and to build suppleness and strength in the ligaments and tendons so they start to heal. Throughout class you will strengthen and tone the muscles, gain flexibility and provide tremendous benefits to the organs and glands in the body. The postures moves the spine in all ranges of motion, improving spine integrity and overall nervous system function, ensuring a healthy spinal column for optimum health.
The room is heated to soften the body, allowing a more relaxed, safer and deeper stretch to occur. The superficial soft tissue structures, including the fascia, ligaments, muscles and tendons will warm up quickly and allow you to move further, safely and more comfortably in all directions. Sweating is the body’s natural cooling mechanism to help the body from overheating and this also allows for detoxification. The heated environment raises the heart rate at controlled intervals in class which provides a natural irrigation of the body through the circulatory system, with the help of the respiratory system, and produces a cardiovascular workout. This allows the blood to pump and circulate throughout the entire body, as well as much needed oxygen to help heal injured areas.
Your body needs a bit of time to get accustomed and acclimatised to the new environment as it begins to work and open up in areas that might have been stagnant for years. At times you might feel a little nauseous as the body begins to flush out toxins but be patient and the feeling will ease in time. Throughout your practice you may also feel discomfort and at times pain, this is also normal as you begin to heal and create change. The ability to stretch the muscles depends a lot on mind relaxation. Over time we learn to convert the agony of the stretch, into the ecstasy of release.
This restorative hatha yoga is kept very simple, with 3 primary principles
- holding postures still
- breathing always normal
- savasana (dead body pose) in between
This environment allows for a mental focus and meditation which strengthens your discipline, determination and concentration. It’s often described as a moving meditation. Many students find that with practice, as they concentration on their breath, postures and self awareness, they find relief from the daily stresses of life and discover peace of mind. That’s one of the biggest draws of Bikram yoga, mental relaxation and letting go.
As this is a therapeutic and restorative style of yoga, don’t force the postures! There’s always another yoga class. Depth is not the end goal, but correct form and alignment is. That’s why you will never look like the person next to you, as everyone is unique and the postures will teach you to respect and gain acceptance of that. As long as you try it the right way, you will get 100% benefits.
Persistence guarantees that results are inevitable.
Rajashree Choudhury was born in Calcutta, India in 1965. She began yoga at the age of four and went on to win the All India Yoga Championships 5 years in a row (1979 – 1983). She earned a degree in Hatha Yoga Therapy for chronic diseases and disorders from Ghosh’s College of Physical Education and Yoga Training Institute.
She has over 40 years of experience on yoga and its effect on the physical and emotional body, and her expertise in therapy is figuring out the pain, where and what in the students life is lacking, not only on a physical and mental level, but spiritual as well.
She is a yoga master in her own right, and holds many accomplishments. She developed the highly acclaimed series – Rajashree’s Pregnancy Yoga. She founded the Labanya Foundation, a worldwide women’s welfare charity organisation and has started the Karma is Action project which is a yoga based fundraising organisation devoted to alleviating the suffering of children. She is also the President of the International Yoga Sports Federation (IYSF), with the sole purpose of promoting, unifying and increasing interest in Yoga Asana globally, with a vision of bringing Yoga to the Olympics.
Rajashree has two children, Laju and Anurag. She developed the pregnancy series in 1990 after going through the emotional and physical highs and lows of her own pregnancy. Her series has made adaptations and modifications to the postures to accommodate the needs of the pregnant and postpartum student. This practice has been developed with maternal health and foetal well-being at its core, and encourages listening to the intuitive nature of your own body and needs.
Studies have suggested that prenatal yoga has many benefits for pregnant women and their babies. It can:
- reduced anxiety and stress
- expel toxins and improve digestion
- regular blood pressure and sugar levels helping to prevent the risk of gestation diabetes and high blood pressure during pregnancy
- regulate hormones and emotions
- reduce mood swings, nausea and morning sickness
- improve blood circulation and minimises the problems of water retention and edema
- improves the posture and easy back pain, which is common in most pregnancies
- improve strength, flexibility and endurance of muscles and joints needed for childbirth
Your practice combined with healthy living and eating habits will help to ensure the best pregnancy period for you. I can vouch for the benefits of practicing the series having carried my daughter to term and experiencing little to no back pain. A lot of my symptoms were alleviated after I practiced class and I felt much more energetic and clear-headed compared to the days that I didn’t practice. I had some complications during birthing due to Estell’s position and the process was quite traumatic, but due to the maintenance of the muscles my healing process was quicker, as well as the recovery period. Several of the teachers in Perth have also practiced during their pregnancies, and have enjoyed the benefits of this gentle series.
The series can put the expectant mother in tune with her changing body, and ease you back into fitness after the baby is born. During the first weeks after giving birth, your body begins to heal and adjust to not being pregnant. It’s easy to get overtired and overwhelmed. It is common to feel very emotional during the postpartum period. After the baby is born, doctors usually recommend six weeks of recovery or longer depending on the birthing and when you have been given the OK from your doctor, you are ready to do yoga again.
The modifications are the same for practicing postpartum yoga. Be very gentle with your body. Three months after giving birth muscles, ligaments and joints are still soft from the pregnancy and birth, which can make new mothers more prone to injury. Yoga helps to maintain a proper body shape after pregnancy, and strengthens the pelvic floor, preventing bladder and urinary problems after giving birth. The yoga is a wonderful way to reconnect with your new body, mind and spirit.