Sweat, stretch, smile with Bikram Yoga

By Shilpa Raina, IANS
Tuesday, October 19, 2010

MUMBAI - Stretching and balancing exercises are common in yoga. But how about sweating it out in a room at a temperature of 41 degrees Celsius?

Tortuous as it may sound, there is no dearth of celebrities who swear by the benefits of Bikram Yoga.

Bikram Yoga, also known as Hot Yoga, is a style developed by yoga guru Bikram Choudhury who holds a US copyright on his yoga that comprises 26 ‘asanas’ or postures and two breathing exercises. Celebrities in the West like Madonna, Richard Nixon, Brooke Shields and Raquel Welch practise it.

Bikram Yoga can be learnt at fitness chain True Fitness, which opened its spacious 60,000-square-foot fitness club in Mumbai in 2008 - the only place in India where it is taught.

Born in Kolkata, Los Angeles-based Bikram opened his first US school in San Francisco in 1972.

What sets it apart from normal yoga is that it is done in a hot chamber which instructors pleasantly call “Torture Chamber” where one pays to undergo the heat and sweat.

According to Joseph Encinia, instructor of Bikram Yoga, the session aids in building a connection between the mind and body.

“It makes muscles more flexible. The sweat helps in detoxification and the yoga helps in blood circulation, muscle-toning and internal body healing,” Encinia told IANS.

“We are not trying to teach meditation here. We want people to focus and concentrate on ‘asanas’. That is why Bikram Yoga instructors all over the world talk in a dialogue format, which is the method of teaching,” he said.

“The dialogue helps in focussing because after attending a few classes you get used to them and focus more on poses and stretching,” he added.

During the session, the practitioners have to get their water bottles and wear the bare minimum because one sweats a lot in the hot chamber.

Newcomers are advised to keep their mats near the door so that in case of dizziness or nausea, they can leave the class.

The warming up starts with breathing exercise. Then come the standing poses which are the most difficult ones in terms of balancing.

Such is the impact of these exercises that one can hear the thumping of the heart and see a rush of blood to the face, making it red with radiance.

Then there is a set of floor-exercises, which are popular because they are relaxing and are easier than the standing exercises.

The instructor tries to pep up the session with witty lines like, “Do you think you are having a heart attack? Don’t worry, no one is so lucky to die in a Bikram Yoga class. It just shows that you are doing it the right way.” Or else, “Keep your issues in tissues during the class.”

At the end of the session, while you relax in ’shavaasan’ or the dead posture, the minute the instructor opens the door, a whiff of cool air comes into contact with the sweaty body and an amazing calm seeps in, giving the mind and body a positive feel for the rest of the day.

Tip: Avoid eating two to three hours before the session and don’t wear green clothes or carry green coloured items in the class as Bikram dislikes the colour. Also, make it a point to reach on time as late-comers are not allowed to enter the class.

(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at shilpa.r@ians.in)

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