Bikram Yoga FAQ

How does Bikram Yoga work?

By the tourniquet effect: stretching, balancing (using gravity), and creating pressure all at the same time. The blood supply in arteries and veins is being cut off, creating pressure. When released, a lock gate effect is created, causing blood to rush through veins and arteries, flushing them out. Also, pressure is applied to the heart by its relative position to the rest of the body.

What is happening in my body during Bikram Yoga?

Yoga pose bowMuscles are contracted and stretched at a cellular, biochemical level. Lipids and proteins reorganize optimally in such stretching, allowing for better circulation. Joint mobility and range of motion is increased, and strength is built by the use of gravity. Muscles and joints are balanced.

Blood and calcium are brought to the bones. Working against gravity strengthens the bones. The organs of the immune system within the bones (red marrow) are boosted.

The lymph nodes are massaged, lymph is pumped throughout the body, and white blood cells are distributed throughout the body as the lymphatic system works more efficiently.

There is compression and extension to the thymus, spleen, appendix and intestines; lungs are stretched and flushed out by increased blood circulation. The endocrine glands are encouraged to secrete appropriate hormones, and the communication between hormones and various glands and systems of the body is perfected. Toxins and waste are eliminated through the organs of elimination.

The nerves are stimulated by compression and extension, improving communication within the systems of the body and  supplying fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout. The brain is stimulated by improved circulation and by varying blood pressure.

I feel nauseous, dizzy, and very tired after my first class, is this normal?

It is not unusual to feel nauseous or dizzy during your first class.  Practicing yoga in a heated room reveals to us our present condition, and inspires us take much better care of ourselves.

Usually the problem is that we do not drink enough water for daily living, let alone for exercising in a heated room. Nutritionists tell us that we need 64-80 ounces of water a day to help the body function properly.

In the heated yoga room, your body needs adequate fund of water to allow perspiration to release heat from the body as you  practice. So we estimate you need another 64-80 ounces (sometime during the day) to allow for your 90 minutes in the room.  Once you are drinking enough water your body will tolerate the heat better and you will actually enjoy the heat.

If you feel disoriented or like you need a good nap after your first few classes, this is likely because your body has begun to cleanse itself as a result of the yoga practice. Don’t be scared. After the first few classes this sensation will pass. The more you can relax as you give your 110% honest effort during class, the more energized you will feel throughout the class and throughout the rest of your day.

How many times a week is it recommended to practice?

In the beginning, do the Full Class religiously each day for two months until you are performing all but the very difficult poses such as the Standing Bow Pulling and Stretching Pose eighty percent correctly.  If you are restricted by any medical condition or have any chronic disease, you should continue daily until your condition is resolved.

Even when your progress is measured in fractions of inches that add excellence to what is already good, rather than in bold strokes, like being able to balance on one leg for ten seconds, you should continue your Yoga practice daily.

When you are performing ninety percent of the postures ninety percent correctly, you should still not feel complacent about doing your Yoga. Doing this Hatha Yoga class every day is like everything else you do in your life that is good for maintaining life. You don’t plan to give up doing those things because of the daily benefit you receive.

Why is the room heated to 105-degrees?

  • Enhances vasodilatation so that more blood is delivered to the muscles. This means that the capillaries that weave around the muscles respond to the heat by dilation. This brings more oxygen to the muscles and helps in the removal of waste products such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid.
  • Allows oxygen in the blood to detach from hemoglobin more easily when blood passes through warm muscles, oxygen releases more easily from the hemoglobin. Blood passing through cold muscles releases less oxygen.
  • Speeds up the breakdown of glucose and fatty acids.
  • Makes muscles more elastic and less susceptible to injury.  Warmer temperatures produce a more fluid stretch, allowing for greater range of motion. Cold muscles don’t absorb shock and impact as well and do not stretch as easily so cold muscles get injured more readily.
  • Improves coordination.
  • Reduces heart irregularities associated with sudden exercise.
  • Burns fat more easily. Warmed muscles burn fat more easily than cold ones. Fat is released during stress. The stress of intense exercise causes a deluge of fatty acids into the blood stream. If you exercise with cold muscles, they can’t use the fatty acids, and they end up in places where they aren’t wanted, such as the lining of your arteries.
    Improves function of the nervous system, so messages are carried faster between body, brain and spinal cord.
  • Enables the body to release toxins through sweating.

Is Bikram Yoga aerobic?

The word aerobic literally means “with oxygen” or “in the presence of oxygen, involving or improving oxygen consumption by the body . Aerobic activity trains the heart, lungs and cardiovascular system to process and deliver oxygen more quickly and efficiently to every part of the body by elevating the heart rate during exercise to its target level. As the heart muscle becomes stronger and more efficient, a larger amount of blood can be pumped with each stroke. Fewer strokes are then required to rapidly transport oxygen to all parts of the body.

You can derive these benefits from practicing Bikram yoga. Use this formula to find your target heart rate:
220 minus your age times 60% and times 90%

Does Bikram Yoga help with balancing emotions?

Bikram Yoga helps balance the emotions in several ways.  Physiologically, regular practice harmonizes the nervous and endocrine systems, two systems which figure heavily in emotional well-being.

In addition, practicing Bikram Yoga cultivates the mental faculties of  faith, self-control, concentration, determination,  and patience.  As we become more aware of our inner life, we notice how events, interactions, and even the atmospheric pressure effect us. When we are aware, we can exercise choice in our response. This helps us balance our emotional life.

What is 80-20 breathing?

80-20: In this method of breathing, you take in a full breath.  Go to the posture and continuously let out 20 percent of the air through your nose with your mouth closed. In postures that require 80-20 breathing, you need oxygen in the lungs to do the posture, so you will be able to maintain proper strength while performing the posture.
Exhalation: In exhalation breathing, you take in a full breath and exhale the breath completely when you achieve the posture. While you are doing the posture you should continue exhaling.

With either breathing technique, you should not strain. In the beginning, your lung capacity will not be large enough for you to sustain yourself with the above breathing methods. To prevent straining your lungs, take another breath as needed and continue with the breathing method. As your lung capacity improves and you improve doing your Yoga postures, you will find that following these breathing methods becomes as natural as doing the Yoga postures themselves.

Can I practice Bikram Yoga when Pregnant?

bikram yoga pregnant student“If you have been doing yoga regularly just prior to your pregnancy, then you may continue with the yoga exercises in this book until your third month, or up until the time you are no longer able to lie on your abdomen. Then you should use Rajashree’s Yoga for Pregnancy video.

If you are new to yoga or have not been doing Yoga just prior to your pregnancy, you should wait three months until you start. At that time you should use the Rajashree’s pregnancy yoga video.

If your delivery was healthy and normal start your yoga the moment you are out of bed. Do all the exercises from the first day, no problem.”
–Bikram Choudhury, Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class, ©2000

No postures should be done which cause compression on the diaphragm or heart.  In backbends, don’t push hips forward of knees.

In backbends, stretch upward and back with the upper spine; when coming up bend the knees to relieve back pressure. Moderate heat is okay from the beginning. Separate feet slightly in standing poses.

In forward bends keep knees open. No head to knee pose, separate leg forehead to knee, or rabbit. Also no cobra, locust, full locust, bow.

Rest on side in between postures rather than on the back. Long, deep, slow breathing in easy sitting position is relaxing for mom and baby.

Practicing yoga during pregnancy is one of the healthiest ways to nurture yourself and your baby. You will learn to become more patient and gentle with yourself and gain confidence in the beautiful mother that you are becoming. Marvel at the miracle of your baby and what your incredible body and spirit are capable of creating.

During your pregnancy, you and your baby are changing and growing every day. More than ever before, your yoga practice will change and grow from day to day. You will be faced with new challenges physically, emotionally, and spiritually. For example, physical balance may become more difficult but your flexibility will increase. Regarding the heat be cautious, but not afraid. It is still healthy for your body to sweat allowing your muscles to loosen and relax. The heat also helps toxins in the body to be released. Ask the teacher where the coolest part of the room is, and don’t be afraid to sit out any poses your body (or your baby) tells you to.

Yoga means union. May yoga unite you with yourself, your breath, your body and the new life you are creating.

"I am currently 29 weeks pregnant and from the day I found out I was pregnant I switched to the pregnancy poses.  I have had absolutely no problems throughout my pregnancy and feel so wonderful after yoga. I average 4 times per week." –- pregnant practitioner

"When I was pushing, the L&D nurse was astounded by my ability to push so strongly and effectively, and my strength and stamina..."–- pregnant practitioner

"I have no concerns about losing my pregnancy weight and regaining my pre pregnancy body once I am practicing again." –- pregnant practitioner