Bikram Yoga®

Bikram Yoga® is probably the most wholeness-promoting exercise on the planet! Taken from the Hatha Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a proven yoga tradition 5,000 years old, this program of physical yoga exercise is done in a room at 106-110 degrees F. Bikram Yoga® is a set of 26 postures plus two breathing exercises. The asanas (postures) have been scientifically and medically confirmed repeatedly, over the centuries and in modern times, for their benefits to wellness and whole being. This is an outstanding support tool for building wholeness!

In bringing Hatha Yoga to the world and the West, Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram Yoga®, remained true to the ancient methods of Hatha, and thus preserved a centuries-old tradition of developing vitality, immunity to disease, and “supernatural power” – our birthright if we will but embrace it. Bikram’s guru was Bishnu Ghosh, the brother of Paramahansa Yogananda, and Bikram was well versed in yoga’s true classic traditions.

No matter how old or young, how healthy, injured, or diseased, how rich or poor, Bikram Yoga® is designed for everyone. No study or knowledge of Eastern ways is necessary; yoga is about being and experiencing, and then from that knowing. One only needs to try, as best as one can at any one time, to do the postures the right way to receive the full benefit and progress toward well being. To succeed, one need only listen and follow the instructor’s input, and try.

Some say that Hatha Yoga was designed as a companion to and in preparation for other forms of Yoga, such as Raja Yoga that focuses on developing awareness and Self-realization through meditation. Be that as it may, Hatha Yoga aims to open all the senses and positively effect all levels of ones being, including consciousness, by placing the body into each of these postures in the right way.
Bikram Yoga® is executed in a warm room (106-110 F). Warmth avoids injury and, in combo with the postures, provides an excellent detoxification and rejuvenation that cannot be had otherwise. While other forms of exercise can cause injury, Bikram will not cause anything negative that was not already “lying in wait” for a place and time to happen. When carried out with the proper effort and direction, without forcing (or other exercises of the ego), Bikram Yoga® will always result in wellness.

Comparing other forms of Hatha Yoga in the West, Bikram notes:

“Unfortunately Hatha Yoga has been badly abused in the West. A number of yogis came to the West to teach Hatha Yoga. They and their disciples destroyed the Hatha Yoga system as it has been known for thousands of years. These yogis knew true Hatha Yoga, but because of their lack of faith in the Hatha Yoga system and the Western people, they have ruined Hatha Yoga in the West. Ruined it even down to the three basic principles of freezing the body in the posture for the prescribed number of seconds, proper control of the breath while in the posture…, and following the posture with the minimum 20 seconds in savasana, complete relaxation.
“These yogi’s and their disciples failed to recognize that because of the cultural differences between East and West, teaching methods that worked in the East could not work in the West. Rather than change the method…, they changed what they knew to be true into something that merely resembles Hatha Yoga, but does not deliver the goods. The damage that these yogis did by not holding to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras has caused damage far beyond those they taught. They led their disciples to believe they had learned Hatha Yoga. Of course, they had not. To compound the problem further, their disciples were taught with a total disregard to the Hatha Yoga system, which is grounded in discipline. Then these disciples felt they could do the same as their teachers.
“Americans are very inventive, even if what they invent is wrong. They invent posture after posture, making up names for them. Then they sell their wares to innocent, uninitiated people who do not know they are getting ripped off, even getting hurt…. Most of these so-called Yoga systems are not Yoga at all….” (Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class, B. Choudhury & B. Reynolds, 2000).

Since “wholeness” by definition means all levels of ones being, the physical cannot be ignored. But this exercise does not merely stop at the physical but extends into the mind (thought and emotion) and subtle energy (prana), affecting even the practitioner’s consciousness as they stay present in the postures. The affect of this exercise on ones SelfQuesting™ process, in aiding fragmented consciousness to rise and become accessible for connection and release, can’t be overstated.
But even once relatively whole, the support this yoga offers as far as strength, energy, flexibility, detoxification and general well being is invaluable, especially in today’s world of high environmental toxins and personal stresses. No other form of physical exercise will give you what these 26 postures and two breathing exercises offer – at any age or level of wellness – in moving you toward wholeness and supporting your SelfQuesting™.

Keep in mind that in Bikram Yoga, as with most things, the improvement and consciousness is in the details. Pay attention to the details of form and you will see improvement. Avoiding proper form blocks improvement. At differing times in your practice you’ll become aware of this importance on deeper and deeper levels.

To support you through the challenge that Bikram Yoga® will pose, I recommend using essential oils, raw foods (fruits and vegetables), and the Chi Machine®. When used as advised, the Chi Machine® will oxygenate your system (blood lymph, organs), opening the lymph valves and moving lymph like nothing you’ve experienced. Professionals who work with the lymphatic system are profoundly impressed with this device’s ability to move lymph. The Chi Machine® will ease the tiredness, aches, and pains provided initially by the Yoga, and prepare you for the next class, oxygenating and detoxifying your system.

Some say that in Bikram Yoga® everyone goes through the same amount of effort and pain, apparently believing that all people have the same genetics, toxins, emotional history, etc., and thus experience Bikram equally. Don’t you believe it! For some just “hanging out in a warm room” is a major challenge initially that requires considerable effort, discomfort, and time to work through. While for others, heat offers a considerably lesser challenge. The fact is that in Bikram, like in life generally, some sail through comparatively unchallenged, while others work hard to earn every little achievement. Just remember not to compare yourself with others (even with yourself and what you did yesterday), stay out of the ego – be the tortoise not the hare (recalling the story from your childhood of the race between the tortoise and the rabbit?). In so doing you will see and appreciate your improvements in and outside the Bikram class.

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[Note: Prior to starting Bikram Yoga, for those new to yoga or strenuous physical exercise, or those with physical challenges, it might help to begin more gently with a program like Kali Ray TriYoga (the Hip-Opener DVD is great and can be done at your own pace in the privacy of your home!). Once a certain tolerance and flexibility are built up with this gentler program (and the syndrome described elsewhere here involving adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism is dealt with), then joining the heat and stress of Bikram Yoga class can be best utilized.

For those who tend to be “wasted” by the stress of the Bikram program, or who have difficulty with exacerbation of low-back and hip pain from this kind of exercise, please see the note here regarding what I call the “triumvirate syndrome” of hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue. Once one gets past the effects of this syndrome on the thyroid (metabolism, thermostat), adrenals (energy), and pancreas (blood sugar), then detoxification through “hot” yoga is not nearly so traumatizing or draining. In fact it becomes “energizing,” as Bikram himself notes.]


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