There are many types of yoga available to us today, and it is no secret that Bikram method yoga is relatively rigid. The order of the sequence and duration of the class are not subject to the whims of the instructors. Instead, we adhere to the prescription we know to work: the same 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises in the same order every time.
This sequence is designed to build each posture upon the last, preparing your body for the asanas that come next. You start with pranayama breathing to invigorate yourself and set your intention, then gradually wake your body up to its maximum flexibility, circulation, endurance, and oxygenation over the course of the class. The more you come, the more you can see and feel how the poses work together—increasing your heart rate through balancing stick so that you receive even more circulatory benefits from the inversion of separate leg stretching; strengthening and warming up your spine in the belly-down series so that you can reach your fullest potential in camel and rabbit, the two deepest bends in class. Posture by posture you target each part of your body for a revitalizing, therapeutic practice.
Ninety minutes gives you time to be present with yourself, learn something new, give all of your effort, and rest fully within each class. In 90 minutes you get the chance not only to push yourself, but also to explore stillness, an integral part of the balance of a hatha yoga class.
And it works. Studies are just starting to be completed that prove with western science what yogis have known for a long time (and what you might already know in your body): Bikram yoga in particular improves lower body strength, lower and upper body range of motion, and balance. Other studies suggest that it also improve glucose tolerance, bone mineral density, blood lipid profile, arterial stiffness, mindfulness, and perceived stress.
But you don't need to take our word for it. Come to class and find out exactly what this yoga does for yourself.
Photo Credit: Evan Villavaso at The Foundry Paradise Valley
Sources: US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bikram Yoga of Corvallis,