Monday, August 17, 2009

Bikram Yoga Experience

Have you ever tried the controversial yoga practice of Bikram Yoga? It's hot! As in 105 degrees Farenheit, 40% humidity hot. Imagine a huge Sauna room packed full of fellow yogis exerting energy through stretch, pose and breath. The best way I can sum up the experience is that it feels like the skin is surrounded by fire from the inside out. Naturally, the body perspires profusely through pores you never thought you had from the first breath until 90 minutes and 26 yoga poses are completed. For most, especially first timers, a 'timeout' from the flow of poses is necessary to gain control of the heart rate.

Developed by Bikram Choudhury who emigrated here from Calcutta, India and now resides in Los Angeles. He holds a copyright on his yoga and has developed a very successful business with over 500 locations throughout the United States. This has created much controversy as many feel the practice of yoga should not be used for personal profit. Regardless, the philosophy behind this yoga practice intrigues me....... and many, many others who have literally become addicted to it.

According to maestro Choudhury, the heat aids in speeding up the heart rate thus increasing the blood flow throughout the whole body. The blood circulation is affected in two different ways, extension and compression. Each pose (asana) extends one part of the body and compresses another forcing the heart to pump more fresh oxygenated blood to the area that was just being compressed.

When practicing, the challenge quickly becomes as much mental as it is physical. Personally, I had to focus like a samurai to control my breathing in order to slow my heart rate. The constant circulation of blood warms the inside of the body which could explain the fiery sensation in and outside of the largest organ, the skin. Supposedly, this practice becomes less difficult and more enjoyable with each class, soon leading to the healthiest addiction one could ask for. I will continue to go and study the effects it has on mind and body. From my first experience in the Bikram Yoga world, I felt physically drained and mentally still. Sitting outside of the class for 20 minutes afterwards catching my breath and drinking water, a rare zen-like state consumed me. I had no energy to stress or think much, my attention focused on my heart rate and blood flow. Physical euphoria and mental utopia consumed the rest of my evening. Therefore, I don't recommend beginning your Bikram yoga experience as a morning ritual, you may be walking on too many clouds in slow motion throughout the rest of the day, unless that's what you're looking for in daily activity.

It is recommended to take the first few classes slowly and bring adequate amount of water.... And a towel!!! I literally had to ring out my shorts after the class as if I had just jumped into the Pacific, quite intriguing eh? You can literally wring out the stress from your clothes afterwards ;)

Al fin, Bikram yoga, love it or hate it.. Don't knock it til you try it. Just remember to bring an open mind, a towel, water and your smile. Enjoy!