First, what is Bikram Yoga?
For those of us that are not avid yoga enthusiasts, hot yoga, also known as Bikram yoga, is a style created by Bikram Choudhury synthesized from traditional hatha yoga techniques. It consists of a series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. Here is the “Hot” part. It is ideally practiced in a room heated to 105F with a humidity of 40%, now that’s pretty hot. Although there are other forms of hot yoga, it is the most popular.
The founder of Bikram Yoga was born in Calcutta in 1946. He won the National India Yoga Championship, and was undefeated for three years. He retired as the undisputed All-India National Yoga Champion. At the age of seventeen, he injured his knee while weight-lifting, and the local doctors predicted he wouldn’t walk again.
Determined to walk again, he had himself carried back to his teacher, Bishnu Ghosh’s school, knowing that if anyone could help him heal his knee, he could. Six months later, he totally recovered. Bikram later devised the 26 postures sequence that he claimed have profound healing power on your body and mind. As a result, he founded Bikram’s Yoga College of India. Today he is the most respected living Yoga Guru in the world.
Bikram claims that his system stimulates and restores health to every muscle, joint, and organ of the body. The claim is that it increases circulation to all organs in the body thus preventing heart disease and organ failure. Bikram also claims that when one is practicing pranayama, or deep breathing in layman’s terms, s/he will eventually be able to enhance oxygen conversion and absorption, as well as improve blood circulation. How is this done? Choudhury claims that during Bikram Yoga, two processes take place, extension and compression. While performing a specific pose, the practitioner stretches or compresses a certain part of the body, thus cutting off circulation temporarily, which causes the heart to pump more blood in reaction to the shortage. Once the individual comes out of posture, the new oxygenated blood is able to rejuvenate the arteries that were being compressed.
So, are the Bikram Yoga claims of health benefits valid? Well, there are no confirmed scientific results through any published research, if these claims are actually true. All claims seem to be anecdotal.
Many individuals skilled in human physiology would have difficulty believing any of the health claims made about underlying method of how “extension and compression” work. As a result there appears to be very little, if any, published, peer reviewed research data to support any of the Bikram Yoga claims. All I can say is, if it gets you off the couch, that’s a good thing.
Robert Kinch is a writer who specializes in health and fitness activities. You can check out his latest website at Travel Yoga Mats, where he provides unbiased reviews and buying advice for a range of yoga mats, including the Jade Travel Yoga Mat, Gaiam Yoga Mats, and much more.
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