Today more than 11 million Americans practice yoga; a spiritual discipline that originated in ancient India and has existed for over 5,000 years. While eastern yoga tends to focus on meditation and the spiritual aspect, western culture has modernized yoga by focusing on learning the postures to build strength and flexibility.
There are several different types of Yoga which can suit a variety of individuals. Ashtanga and power yoga are vigorous classes that focus on strength and muscle building. Hatha yoga focuses on alignment of the body and increasing endurance. However, the most popular trend in yoga, which we will discuss today, is Bikram yoga; which is often referred to as hot yoga.
Bikram yoga was created by Choudhury Bikram, a former National Yoga Champion in India. His style of yoga became popular in Los Angeles back in the 1970s and continues to grow in demand. Bikram yoga classes are taught in certified studios by seasoned instructors. Each class lasts 90 minutes and features 26 postures, or asanas, including breathing exercises, standing and floor postures. Each posture is followed by a brief moment of relaxation allowing the body time to process the benefits. The environment in which these classes take place is in an enclosed room at 105°F with 40% humidity.
Choudhury believes practicing these postures in a heated room is highly-beneficial for various reasons. The body works harder in a heated room; this is because the heat allows for deeper and safer stretches. The heat also flushes toxins from the skin, aiding in detoxification. Due the heat in Bikram yoga classes it is crucial to come prepared. One should be well-hydrated before each class and be sure to replenish their system once it is over.
The practice of Bikram yoga, as well as, other styles of yoga can result in many health benefits, including increased flexibility, strength, blood circulation, and increased lung capacity. Yoga releases lactic acid in the body which causes stiffness and soreness of muscles after exercise. With the release of lactic acid, range of motion is improved and flexibility is increased. Increased blood circulation is another benefit of yoga. The acts of extension and compression associated with holding and releasing muscles during the postures is accredited to enhanced blood circulation. The deep breathing practiced in yoga classes can also improve lung capacity which can aid in cardio and endurance training. Weight loss can also be seen as a result of yoga because many asanas promote a boosted metabolism and improved digestive system.
Along with the physical benefits, yoga also aids in improved mental health. Many yoga participants will note they feel more relaxed and have less stress after completing a class. This allows for a greater ability to focus on tasks and will provide deeper, more replenishing sleep at night.
Ashtanga yoga founder Sri K. Pattabhi Jois is famously quoted as saying, Practice and all is coming. This is because like any kind of training, progress depends on the time and effort one is willing to give. So whether it's in a private studio or a mirrored room in your nearest 24 Hour Fitness, classes are available to the masses, making it easy to find time to give it a try and see what it can do for your body and mind.