Bikram Yoga Explained

Yoga has been practiced for many centuries because of its mental and physical benefits. Today, there are many different styles of that practice, can be used for specific reasons – one of them is Bikram.

Bikram yoga is often enjoyed by beginners of all shapes, sizes, ages and health conditions to help lose weight. It is a challenging form of hatha yoga, systematically designed to work the entire body for an hour and thirty minutes. Its target is to create maximum function and optimum health.

Bikram consists of 26 posture sequences that are performed in a heated room at 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat is applied to help accelerate the body’s rate of change, thereby allowing your body to safely cleanse, detox and stretch. This practice does not need any props, equipment or specific clothing.

The series of postures used in this type of yoga stimulates healing and tissue regeneration targeting chronic illnesses. It can overall improve your strength, flexibility and mental well being, which will then translate into a better and more fulfilling life.

For Beginners

One common misconception about attending a yoga class is that you need to be flexible. Yoga is not just about flexibility, but rather about strengthening your spine, back, core and other parts of your body.

You may be stiff at the beginning but as you move further along, flexibility will follow through. Bikram is also a form of hatha (a simpler style of yoga) which makes it a class that everybody can try.

No matter what your fitness level is, Bikram will be challenging at the beginning. But with patience, persistence and dedication, you will develop muscle tone and strength. It helps regulate your metabolism, curb your appetite and normalize your weight. In the end, consistent Bikram yogis enjoy the benefits of a slimmer figure.

The Importance of Heat

Bikram is not bikram unless there is some heat. It is intentionally used to warm up the muscles and allow you to stretch and work more deeply and safely in the 26 posture sequences in a class. Furthermore, the heat helps flush out the body’s toxins through sweating.

The heart rate also helps stimulate better blood and lymph circulation and promotes the softening of fascia and muscle tissues which help the muscles loosen up. The heat helps elevate your heart rate which makes it a great cardio workout for people who are trying to lose weight.

Getting Used To The Hot Room

On top of the poses, the presence of heat can be overwhelming at times. Instructors discourage anyone who struggles with the poses to push through, especially when the breathing is affected. You can simply sit through a pose or take a break if you need to. It is also encouraged that you continue to sit in the heated room while taking a break so that you become acclimated to the temperature.

It takes some time to get used to such a hot room. Some people need to take several classes before their bodies start to cooperate. Many teachers will suggest that you take at least 6 Bikram yoga classes per week, as this is the ideal frequency for your body to get used to the heated environment.

Here are a few more tips you can follow when taking your first Bikram class.

Do Not Be Late

The golden rule is never be late.

Always try to get to the class at least 10 to 20 minutes early. This gives you time to sign up, get dressed and find a spot where you can settle your mat down. Take the time to talk to your instructor if you are dealing with an injury, so that you can be guided in performing the poses without exacerbating any problem.

Strategize Snack Time

A full stomach while performing the poses in Bikram can be uncomfortable and inhibiting. Try not to eat at least two hours prior to taking a class so that your muscles can expand and reach full range. But make sure that you do not attend a class hungry either. For a pre-workout energy boost, you can eat a banana 20 minutes before the class.

Drink Water

It is recommended that you drink two liters of water throughout the day, but do not chug water before taking the class or this might leave your nauseous. If you wish to drink water while taking the class, you can simply take little sips.

Drinking water before attending a Bikram class will also help you stay hydrated for the 90-minute session. This means you will not need to drink as much water within the session.

If you wish to try this style of yoga, make sure that you find one close to you. This way you can easily attend the class at your most convenient time. You can search yoga studios that offer Bikram classes and talk to the instructor if it is still your first time. Hence you can be properly guided on how to introduce Bikram to your body.

Hatha Yoga Explained

Hatha is a broad term that encompasses any of the physical practices of yoga and it could mean a lot of things. Most group of yoga classes including the contemporary types could be categorized as Hatha.

To put things in a clearer perspective, Hatha is an endless and adaptable practice usually tailored by the instructors for the specific needs of their students. For this reason, it can be difficult to give a clear and definitive description of what it really is, as instructors have a lot of freedom to choose what they teach in a Hatha class.

What is the purpose of Hatha yoga?

Each Hatha yoga class is different from one another. But what makes them similar is the use of breathing techniques to link between body movements and poses. This practice allows you to free your mind of clutter by focusing on the moment while performing well-rounded poses that opens up your body. It will improve your concentration, strength and flexibility.

What are the the benefits of Hatha yoga?

In addition to flexibility and strength, the yoga practice of Hatha has many other health benefits like:

  • Tones your muscles
  • Enhances physical balance
  • Promotes better circulation
  • Alleviates stress
  • Improves your concentration
  • Balances your energy

The other benefits of Hatha yoga include:

Builds Immunity – The muscle movements in the body help boost your lymph circulation and drainage. This aids the lymphatic system fight diseases and flush out the body’s toxic waste products from cellular functioning. It also fights budding infections and destroys cells that could potentially become cancerous.

Strengthen The Spine – Stretching and other forms of physical exercise help tone the spine. Medical scientists say that when the spine is rigid, nerve impulses cannot flow as freely and the body receives weaker impulses. If you keep your spine healthy and flexible, the nerves remain strong and they branch out more from the spine.

Release Mind and Body Tension – Hatha and all its other forms encourage you to focus on your poses and breathing. As the exercises help relax your brain and body, they also improve your concentration which means you can achieve a calmer and more peaceful state of mind.

Improves Mood – Yoga, just like any other forms of physical exercise, can help stimulate the release of the “feel-good” hormones in the body serotonin and dopamine. When these hormones are flowing, they give you that sense of peace and relaxation. It also lightens up your mood throughout the day and keeps you feeling happy and satisfied.

What is contemporary Hatha yoga?

Given that Hatha is such an open practice, there are so many unexpected things that could happen in a Hatha class.

Today, this type of practice is used to describe gentler and more basic poses with breathing exercises. You can expect a slower-paced stretching, less intensive meditations and some basic pranayama breathing techniques.

If you have never tried yoga before, this is the first category you can experience as it helps you work on your alignment, relaxation, flexibility and strength – all important characteristics you must possess to accelerate to more advanced classes.

What is “Hatha flow”?

Some studios or private classes classify their sessions as “Hatha flow”. As mentioned earlier, Hatha is a very open practice and it can be difficult to provide a clear description on what the class will be until you have tried it yourself.

Most Hatha flow classes move from pose to pose in a sequence without resting, hence the word “flow”. This can be correctly described as a less scale of Vinyasa, but on a moderate level of intensity of Hatha.

You might also see both Vinyasa and Hatha flow being offered in the same studio. Just keep in mind that Vinyasa is more vigorous, while Hatha flow is more advanced than the regular Hatha yoga class. If you need more clarifications on both lessons, you can approach the instructor or try the class yourself to find out.

Is Hatha yoga for you?

A Hatha class is generally more appealing to the beginners because of its gentle poses. It can be used as an introductory course to yoga, but it does not mean that it is going to be easy. Hatha classes are still quite challenging physically and mentally while providing opportunities to stretch, unwind, release tension and improve your physical fitness.

If you feel like Hatha is too slow or not active enough, do not dismiss yoga completely. You can always attend a different class where they introduce more athletic ways to do yoga (like Vinyasa or Bikram).

Vinyasa Yoga Explained

Vinyasa, commonly known as “flow yoga”, is a style in this ancient Asian practice that is characterized by stringing different postures together. Some people confuse this style with “power yoga” because of its similarities with the use of varying poses.

There are no two Vinyasa classes that are alike. Some sessions would follow the “fixed forms” which features 26 postures in every single class, while others use “Ashtanga” which has different poses but follows the same sequence every time as soon as all poses have been covered.

The objective of Vinyasa yoga is it helps develop a more balanced body and can therefore prevent motion injuries that typically happens to people who are uncoordinated. The reason why so many people like this form of yoga is because it is an expression that is usually missing in other practices.

Vinyasa emphasizes on the experience of being alive, connected and free. It reminds yogis that everything around us is connected and interdependent with one another.

Aside from the spiritual awakening from Vinyasa, here are other reasons why this classification of yoga is an experience everybody should try.

1. It Is Perfect For Beginners

As Vinyasa is a diverse practice, any beginner can easily find a class that will provide both a mental and physical challenge in a healthy way. This is also the kind of yoga that will teach you proper breathing techniques and how to apply them every time you change positions.

2. It Keeps You Focused

The concept of Vinyasa relate to keeping your body shifts and movements interconnected by inhaling and exhaling. Instructors try to keep the movements as fluid and continuous as possible. If you struggle with a lack of concentration and mind-wandering, Vinyasa can help you address these issues.

3. It Is An Interesting Practice

There are no exact rules set in stone when it comes to teaching Vinyasa. Many instructors incorporate other styles of yoga to keep the class interested and engaged. Some would also switch up their playlist and incorporate nature soundtracks to provide a more zen vibe.

4. It Can Help With Weight Loss

Because instructors incorporate other forms of yoga, nobody can expect how much work the next day’s session will entail. And because each class follows a continuous sequence, it is great for getting your heart rate up. When your heart rate is elevated, you can be sure that your body is burning more calories than usual.

5. It is A Great Challenge

Although the poses of Vinyasa might seem easy and relaxing, this style of yoga is actually quite challenging. Because this practice changes a lot over time, it takes a while for one to master one particular pose. You have to attend the class for months to master the easier poses.

In fact, you will find yourself in a different territory almost every single time as the teacher throws inversions of different poses. The positive outcome from this challenge is that it improves your flexibility, balance and strength.

6. It Is A Complete Class

Vinyasa is a complete instruction class because it incorporates all of the various “Asana” families in one session. These yoga categories are where each posture in every yoga class belongs to. Because the cycle of classes through Asana categories are taught over a series of weeks, you will have a greater depth of postural understanding.

7. Improve Consciousness

Vinyasa induces your body into a “flow state”. As defined by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it is a type of consciousness wherein you are in a state of being fully absorbed and highly focused on the task at hand. When you are in this state, everything is said to feel easier and more connected. Many yogis call this state “the effortless effort”.

8. Vinyasa Is Fun

Because of the following movements and great playlist, this practice feels more like an interpretative dance. Every person in this class will look incredibly graceful and engaged in every pose.

As a philosophy, Vinyasa yoga recognizes the temporary nature of all things. One may enter into a certain posture, stay there for a while, then leave. Each posture represents the action of life and breathing connects these actions while having the intention of moving towards it.

The wisdom in Vinyasa is then revealed through observing ourselves move pose after pose in the real world; and how we move takes on a greater importance than what we are doing.

7 Things You Need To Know Before Joining A Yoga Class

Perhaps you have already heard about the numerous benefits of yoga and how it can combat weight gain, stress and even anxiety. But attending your very first session can be intimidating, especially when you have no clue as to what to expect.

There are a number of preparations you need to be aware of before participating in your very first yoga session. Here are the things that you must know.

1. Don’t skip meals but don’t attend on a full stomach either

Many people attend yoga class in the morning right after they have eaten their breakfast. However, this will hinder their practice sessions. As yoga involves twisting, bending and hopping into poses, your stomach must not be digesting any food at that time.

If you prefer to eat your meals before attending your yoga class, make sure that you eat at least an hour ahead of time. In the case that this would be impossible and you just need to satisfy your hunger, you can eat a small apple or a piece of banana at least 20 minutes before your session begins.

2. Bring your own yoga mat.

Many studios and programs offer you to purchase your own yoga mat. Some also rent them out. While choosing a good quality mat can be a bit costly, it is certainly worth it – especially when you are committing to the program for a longer period of time.

You will be sweating and rolling around the mat. Because of this, many people do not find mat rentals hygienic, even if the studios assure you that they clean their mats every after session. Other props like a strap, block, yoga blanket and other accessories can be borrowed in the studio but you can also buy your own if you want.

3. Try to arrive early on every class.

When attending a class in a studio, it is important that you arrive early due to numerous reasons. If this is your first time, you can have an ample time to work on your paperwork and talk about introductory discounts. Some studios also offer other types of money-saving options that you can possibly be entitled to.

Arriving early also gives you the chance to find a prime location where you can comfortably carry out the poses. Staying close to the instructor when it is still your first time will provide a better insight of the practice.

4. There might be some chanting in the class your enrolled in.

Yoga is not just a physical practice, it also promotes spiritual wellness by chanting. If you happen to enroll in a class that includes Sanskrit chanting at the beginning and at the end of the session, there is no pressure to take part in it. Just relax, breathe, listen and keep an open mind. If you wish to take part and try it, your may do so as well.

5. Breathing is important in yoga.

Your breathing should be in sync with your poses. Although this will be a difficult task to perform at the beginning, you will soon get the hang of it. Pay attention to the shallowness of your breaths and how it is at the end of the class.

If your mind start to wander off, think about your breathing and try to lengthen your inhalations and exhalations. The breathing techniques used in yoga is the best way to calm your mind down.

6. You can skip a pose you are uncomfortable with.

There are different levels of yogis practicing in one class. If there are poses that you do not understand or aren’t ready to try, do not be afraid to skip it out. Each person in your class has been in your shoes and your instructor will completely understand if you need a break.

You can simply take a rest in a Child’s Pose and breathe. This will help you regain your zen until you are ready for the next pose.

7. Allow yourself to be a beginner.

As a beginner, it will be difficult for you to follow your instructor’s pace. Regardless of whether it is too fast or too slow for you, trust your instructor’s sequencing. Try your best to stay on track with the rest of the class.

One more detail to expect is that some instructors are more hands on than the others. This is common especially to the new yogis in the class. If you are not comfortable with adjustments by touching, you can simply let your instructor know about it and the both of you can try something different to work it out.

Beginning yoga can be an amazing gift to yourself. This practice lends itself to numerous mental, physical and spiritual benefits. Embrace it with an open mind and before you know it, you are already encouraging your friends and family to join a class with you.

The History Of Yoga

Yoga, the well-know form of exercise and mediation, is certainly getting more and more popular when it comes to staying healthy and fit. Many people prefer yoga over any other form of work out because of its physical and spiritual benefits.

Different schools of yoga are practiced worldwide nowadays, but they have common roots that can be traced back to about 5000 years ago. As a matter of fact it is the oldest form of exercise known to man. Some researchers even claim it to have roots dating back to 10000 years ago.

The earliest yoga writings were said to be transcribed on fragile palm leaves. So unfortunately they have been lost. Even though the art of yoga is said to be old and varied, it is seen as the most popular form of relaxation of both the body and mind. Most people look up to yoga as a true lifestyle.

Yoga and the pre-classical era

Pre-classical yoga has its root back to the Indus-Saraswati civilization of the Northern part of India, making India the birthplace of yoga. The word ‘yoga’ was first mentioned in the oldest and most sacred text, the Rig Veda.

The development of yoga took place as brahmanas documented it in the Upanishad, marking the beginning of the pre-classical era of yoga. Yoga began to be practiced and preached from that time, progressively increasing in popularity.

The most renowned yogic scripture, the Bhagavad Gita is said to have been written in 500 BCE. The rules of origination of yoga can be traced back to both Hinduism and Buddhism. The Bhagavad Gita brought various disciplines in Yoga called-Bhakti yoga, Karma Yoga and Jana yoga.

Classical yoga

In this Yoga period, Patanjali composed the yoga sutras. These Yoga sutras were meant to be memorized, not written. The earliest writings about the yoga sutras can be found in the Yog Bhasha, written by Ved Vyas. Patanjali’s idea of yoga emphasized restoring the spirit of each individual to its absolute truthfulness.

The yoga sutras were the first systematic representation of yoga and are said to have been written in the second century. Patanjali is often said to be the father of yoga and his design of the yoga sutras still influences modern yoga styles to this day.

Post classical yoga

Centuries after Patanjali, some yoga gurus designed a system to practice yoga, rejuvenate the body and prolong life. They rejected the prior teachings of the Vedas. The idea of the physical body as the main means of enlightenment came to light and started to be followed.

A new discipline of yoga, tantra yoga was born. This form of yoga was more spiritual than physical and was designed for the health of the mind and body. The idea of tantra yoga is to weave many yoga styles together to connect with the universe.

Tantra yoga was designed to break the boundaries in our minds and cleanse the soul to gain enlightenment. This discipline of spiritual exploration led to the birth of modern yoga or yoga in the west-“hatha yoga”

Modern yoga

Modern yoga came to being in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Swami Vivekananda, a disciple of saint Ramakrishna, addressed the audience in a conference in Chicago as “Brothers and sisters of America”, hereby attracting many American students to India and yoga. This marked the beginning of the modern yoga period!

The next famous yogic guru was Paramahansa who wrote the “autobiography of a yogi”. His teachings called “Yogodo teachings” continue to influence modern yoga today. In the mid 1960’s, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced techniques of meditation to the West. These teachings continue to be an important pillar on which the art of modern yoga stands.

Shrita Prapbhupada founded the “International Society for Krishna Consciousness” or “ISKON” in 1965 and spread a movement based on a discipline of yoga-” Bhakti Yoga”. Another prominent yogic guru was “Swami Sivananda”. He wrote more than 200 books about yoga and served in many yogic centres as a doctor, across the world. Bhagwan Rajneesh, popularly known as Osho was still another famous yoga guru, renowned across the world!

We all know about Sathya Sai Baba! He is a guru, who is looked up to by people of all races across the globe. He is said to be “the man of miracles” by his disciples and people follow him religiously!

Now that we know the birth of yoga and its journey over the last few centuries. It is easy to say, it’s an ancient method of stress release and also of strengthening the immune system, that has been practiced for years and will continue to be practiced.

Can Yoga Help With Weight Loss

Let’s talk about yoga.

Yoga is not a sport like any other. Famous for its Zen discipline, it is recognized for its relaxing and soothing virtues, for both the body and the mind. Its practice is therefore particularly recommended for women whose weight gain is partly related to stress. In short, with yoga one can possibly promote some weight loss!

However in the collective imagination, yoga is a sport more spiritual than physical. Is it so? The lotus flower, the water lily and the grasshopper do not work only the mind, far from it. So overcome any preconceived ideas, and do not lose sight that to practice regular yoga also allows you to:

  1. muscle and tonify all the body, in a harmonious way because it solicits the whole muscles.
  2. improve our flexibility and sustainability. Ideal for those who want a slender silhouette and who feel packed
  3. breathe better, which will promote the elimination of toxins fixed in the tissues.

Moreover, the majority of women who practice yoga for the purpose of weight loss agree that the more you progress and the better the poses are performed, the more comfortable you feel in your bodies. We feel a great sense of control and self-control, which really helps us fight food temptations, as well as acquire new nutritional habits.

Some of you will ask: why is yoga more effective as a weight loss exercise program than other forms of exercise – like aerobics for example?

Many people do not know that the benefits of yoga are not just for the body, but also the soul and the mind, because yoga is one of the most gentle and relaxing ways to exercise in order to lose weight.

Is yoga for weight loss a reality?

This is undoubtedly why more and more people are turning to the practice of yoga for weight loss and achieving a peace of mind. Also, if you are confused and if you are wondering if yoga can help you lose weight, why not try and decide for yourself?

Let’s discover together below the different ways in which yoga can not only help you stay in shape but also make you lose weight and burn calories.

Yoga postures to lose weight

To get rid of this unsightly surplus of fats on your body, nothing better than yoga postures, because this is simply one of the best ways to lose weight. You’ve probably already heard of power yoga, one of the most common and most effective forms of yoga to lose weight.

There are yet other forms of yoga that can be practiced in order to burn fat and chisel a perfect body. By assimilating and practicing yoga postures – also called asanas, you will have the answer to the question that is tapping you: can I lose weight with yoga?

Ardha Sarvangasana

Ardha sarvanagasana is also known as the posture of the candle. This integral body posture, or asana, is very effective in losing weight around the belly. In addition, it regenerates the entire body and improves the functioning of the thyroid gland. Let’s see now step by step how to practice ardha sarvanagasana.

Lie on your back by placing your hands on your lower back, so that they support you when you raise your legs in the air; keep the forearms and elbows on the floor.

If this posture is properly performed, you will feel the weight of your body resting on your shoulders and on the middle and lower back parts. Note also that you will have to feel pressure on the neck, otherwise it means that the posture is badly performed.

Once in position, breathe slowly for 5 to 10 minutes without moving. When you return to the starting position, your legs should remain straight; bring them back slowly.

As your practice progresses, gradually increase the length of time you are holding a candle. Although ardha sarvangasana is a very effective yoga posture to lose weight, it should not be undertaken by people with heavy hips because the whole weight of the body rests on the shoulders. Similarly, this posture is not recommended for people with low back problems, blocked sinuses, throat inflammation or hypertension.