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Bikram yoga is a form of hot yoga consisting of 26 postures, including two breathing exercises. The room is heated to 104 degrees, intended to create a better work out. Typically, classes are 90 minutes. Each time you practice, anywhere in the world, these postures are the same. I like to imagine that if I ever make it to India or Bali, I will be able to practice yoga without speaking the language. It brings people together in this unique way. When you enter the yoga studio there is a sense of peace, and nobody speaks inside the room, except the instructor.
Before finding Bikram yoga, I tried yoga several times and concluded that it was not for me. Yoga always seemed a little too slow and boring for me. Bikram is different because it requires strength and balance to hold the postures. The fact that it is practiced in the heat also makes it more challenging. During your first class, the heat will most likely feel very uncomfortable, you might feel dizzy and lightheaded, but you are building your endurance to the heat. You will be encouraged to remain in the room, and just sit down and drink some water, and likely you will feel better after a few minutes of sitting down. After a few classes, you will barely notice it at all.
The heat causes your muscles to relax and therefore seems to allow you to be more flexible. It also increases circulation. Dermcidin, a natural antibiotic released when you sweat, also improves your immune system. In yoga you will be told, do not wipe the sweat away; allow it to be there. Adjusting to heat will increase your endurance for exercise, I have noticed this in my practice, and it has been proven.
During the class, the instructor will tell you the benefits of each posture, such as “this posture is good for your immune system,” and I always think, is that really possible? That putting your head onto your knee can really improve your immune system, but even if it is not true, it is gratifying to imagine that these postures have more benefits than just stretching out your muscles. After class, your muscles will feel so relaxed and the all tension you felt before will be gone. I would recommend Bikram to anyone who would like to build muscle or relieve stress.
What I like about this type of yoga is that because these postures are challenging and require all my focus and attention, I tend to empty my mind when I enter the yoga studio. In order to remain focused enough to hold my balance, I need to clear my mind of all my worries and focus on what I am doing physically. During my yoga practice is the only time when I feel the benefits of meditation, without intending to. It is important to give your mind an escape for a while; it feels like I am hitting reset. At the beginning and end of class, you will do a breathing exercise, you will be instructed to breathe only through your nose throughout the class. This allows you to slow and control your breathing, and helps you to relax.
I also enjoy the challenge of the poses; it makes me want to keep working to achieve them. You will not be able to achieve these poses after a few weeks or months of practicing, as you might be able to do with different forms of yoga. If I achieved them already, I likely would have lost interest in the practice. It is a full body workout that will strengthen your arms, legs, core, and back. By strengthening the back muscles, you will notice decreased back pain, caused by tension or slouching. After class, you will feel like you just got a massage. One day while driving to class, I had a back spasm; my muscles tensed up and I was unable to move my back. I was unsure if I should drive back home, but decided to try the class anyway, and a few minutes in, my back pain melted away.