Read these 6 Bikram Yoga Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Yoga tips and hundreds of other topics.
Many hot yoga classes include some variation of a wide-legged forward bend, which has many benefits including strengthening and toning the thighs and calves, and opening the hip joints and the lower back.
Start in mountain pose (tadasana) and step your feet 3.5 to 4 feel apart, depending on your height. Keep the outside edges of the feet parallel, or slightly pigeon-toed. Lift your chest and fold forward from the hips. If you're flexible, you might be able to place the crown of your head on the floor. In the Bikram sequence, you take hold of your big toes with the first two fingers and thumb and bend your elbows to help bring your head closer to the floor. Additional variations used in other hatha yoga classes include place the palms on the floor and keeping the elbows parallel, or clasping the hands behind the back and trying to bring your clasped hands up over your head towards the floor (this version helps release tension in your shoulders, too).
There are several variations on the seated twist (ardha matsyendrasana) but all of them have the benefit of engaging the entire spine, which promotes good circulation. Seated twists also stretch the shoulders and hips.
Start a seated twist by sitting in staff pose with your hands flat on the floor just behind your hips, and your fingers pointing forward. Lean back on your hands for support and bend the right knee, then cross the right leg over the left, placing the right foot flat on the floor on the outside of the left knee. Next, bend the left knee and draw the left foot in so the left foot lies next to the right hip. The left knee may lift off the floor if you have tight hips, but that's OK. Rotate your torso to the right and try to hook the left arm over the right knee, working to get the armpit as close to the knee as you can. Keep your spine tall and think about extending up through the crown of your head as you twist. Gaze straight ahead if you have neck issues. You can look over your right shoulder, but remember that the twist comes from the spine, not the neck.
Camel pose (ustrasana) is part of most hot yoga classes and it can be modified by beginners and advanced yoga practitioners. Start by kneeling on the floor with the tops of your feet pressing into the floor. If this is uncomfortable, curl your toes under your feet. Place your hands on your buttocks and keep your upper thighs vertical and perpendicular to the floor. Slowly lean back, so you feel an opening in the upper chest, and reach your hands towards your heels. If you can't grab your heels, reach as far as you comfortably can and hold the pose. If you can reach your heels, tilt your head back, or if your neck is sensitive, keep your chin tucked towards your chest. Keep your upper chest pointed towards the ceiling and avoid arching your lower back. To exit the pose, engage your upper thighs to help pull your body upward. Your head should come up last. The benefits of camel pose include stretching the front of the body and promoting the abdominal strength and good posture that are among the important foundations for more challenging hatha yoga poses.
The Bikram school of yoga is hot, literally. Also known as “hot yoga,” Bikram yoga was developed by Bikram Choudhury, who introduced it in the
Ideally, the sauna-like environment of a Bikram yoga studio helps the body eliminate toxins through sweat. Also, the extreme heat makes the muscles more flexible. According to Bikram himself, the poses are creating a “tourniquet effect” by putting pressure on the body to flush out toxins. If you are new to Bikram yoga, it's normal to feel dizzy or lightheaded from the heat at first, but if you feel seriously ill, back off and relax and then resume the practice. If you continue to feel unwell, don't continue with the class.
In an action that appears contrary to the unity-oriented principles of yoga, Bikram Choudhury has attempted to copyright the sequence of 26 hatha yoga postures that make up a “Bikram yoga class.” That means, in theory, that if you take a class anywhere that bills itself as “Bikram yoga” it will include these poses in a certain order. Also, instructors who have participated in official Bikram yoga certification have undergone 500 hours of training. If you want to make sure that you're getting the real thing, ask about the teacher's certification. To avoid potential lawsuits, many gyms and yoga studios offer “hot yoga” classes in which hatha poses are done in a heated room, but these poses may differ in order or type from the Bikram 26 poses. Choudhury has, in fact, issued cease and desist orders to instructors who have not taken his certification courses.
If you just want a “hot yoga” class and you're not concerned about the Bikram name, or if you can't find an official Bikram class in your area, you can still reap the benefits of the heat and the poses.
The eagle pose is one of the more challenging postures included in the Bikram yoga sequence and it is often part of other advanced hatha yoga classes. The eagle (garudasana) promotes strength and flexibility in the ankles and calves, and it stretches the thighs, hips, and upper back.
To master the eagle, start by standing in tadasana. Bend both knees slightly, then raise your left foot and cross your left thigh over your right, so you are balancing on your right foot. If you can, hook the top of the left foot behind the right calf. Remember to keep the knee of the standing leg bent. You will feel a stretch in your thighs, hips, and calves.
Next, stretch your arms straight in front of you and cross the right arm over the left. Bend the elbows so your forearms are pointing to the ceiling with the right elbow hooked into the crook of the left elbow. Your palms should face each other as you lift your elbows towards the ceiling. This motion helps stretch the shoulders and the upper back.
Hold the position for several breaths, or as long as you can maintain your balance, then release the pose and repeat on the other side.
Caveat: Avoid the eagle if you suffer from knee problems, or modify it by not hooking your foot around your leg.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|