Bikram is a form of Hatha Yoga that is practiced in a room heated to 104°F with a humidity of 40%. Each class runs for 90 minutes and consists of 26 postures, including two breathing exercises. Bikram was developed Bikram Choudhury – a Calcutta born Yogi – hence the name Bikram.
I first tried Bikram at the advice of my colleague, who has been practicing for over two years. I had no idea what to expect and was concerned that I might feel nauseous or dizzy – and at times I did. Every minute of the class was complete and utter torture. I was dripping with sweat and I felt like vomiting. I thought to myself “how stupid are we to follow this ridiculous trend – we are just so dumb!”
But once class was over and I finished showering, I felt completely invigorated. And the next day, I felt even better. When I woke up, I felt absolutely perfect. I had not one ache or pain – and after a lifetime of athletics, I usually limp out of bed every morning with ailments and injuries. But after Bikram, I felt none of the usual pain. It was truly amazing. Not so dumb after all!
So I found a studio near my apartment and started going to class once a week. The more I went, the better I became at each posture, which increased the intensity level. Once I was able to properly do each posture, I was able to achieve the optimal effect, which is healing.
The healing effect of Bikram comes from the idea to stretch and compress your internal organs and glands. This is done by briefly depriving them of oxygen and then suddenly flooding those areas with highly oxygenate blood in order stimulate them and promote healing. It’s almost orgasmic.
I was so amazed by the dramatic effects of Bikram that I took some time to research its benefits. And although I believe that Bikram is awesome, I do challenge some of the proclaimed benefits. Outlined below is a list of these benefits and my take on them, based on my own body knowledge.
- Flexibility: True. The heat allows you to safely push yourself beyond your level of flexibility.
- Strength: True. The postures of Bikram push you to use muscles that you ordinarily don’t use with a prime focus is on spine strength. I am definitely stronger since I started taking Bikram and am lifting heavier weights during weight training.
- Breath: True. A good part of the class involves breathing exercises that are so deep that they help expel the stale air that sits at the bottom of your lungs. As someone who has been diagnosed with below average lung capacity, I find these exercises to be particularly painful. I also find that they have been instrumental in strengthening my lungs and increasing their capacity in cardiovascular workouts.
- Cardio: Myth – A 90-minute class can burns up to 1,000 calories. I have to call bullshit on this one. I don’t believe your heart rate increases enough to get any real cardiovascular and weight-loss benefits. Independent research finds that Bikram only burns about 460 calories in men and 330 calories in women – that feels about right to me.
- Detox: True – In room heated to 104° it doesn’t take very long before you start sweating and after 90 minutes you sweat pretty much all the toxins out of your body. This is my second favorite benefit of Bikram after healing – the next day my skin is looks and feels amazing. I actually glow!
- Healing: Hell yeh – True! With regular practice, these postures can help to heal old injuries and also prevent them in the future. This is especially true for, back pain. Bikram has been known to reduce symptoms of conditions and illnesses including diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, depression, arthritis and obesity.
- Focus: Hmm, True, I suppose – but not for me. They say that as you advance, you gain tremendous focus and determination – however, I am so miserable during the class that my only focus is on class ending.