Bikram's beginners yoga class is challenging, in the beginning, and even for practiced yogis. Bikram yoga otherwise know as the 26 & 2 always uses the same postures: two breathing exercises, 12 standing poses and 12 floor postures. Practiced in a room that’s warmed to a approximately 38 degreesC, the heat according to Bikram’s Yoga University of India, works to warm the muscles, making them more versatile and less prone to injury, but it also causes participants to sweat, assisting a deep cleanse for the body. Things to keep in mind to help you throughout the practice.
BREATHE Always Breathe
Even experienced Bikram yoga students can often find it challenging to breathe in the heated space. Concentrate on correct yogic breathing by inhaling and exhaling through the nose, which assists to slow the breath and soothe the nervous system. The aim is to find a rhythm which suits you, and over time, using your breath to encourage both strengthening and releasing within the postures. As your lung capacity and stamina increases, you’ll discover a better connection through your breath and the movements of your body.
Listen to the Instructions
As opposed to depending on past experience, listen to your teacher and attempt to perform each position exactly as described to the best of your ability. Allow the teachers voice to think for you, so often we go on autopilot, (teachers included)… which means our minds are somewhere else. By listening to the teacher and keeping in time with the instructions, we flow as one, remaining present and in tune with what is happening, this alone brings a strong sense of unity in the class as we all work together.
Focus on Alignment
While it may be tempting to push yourself into reaching the final and deepest expression of each posture, remember form is more important than depth. Keep form and then gradually go deeper.
Experiment With Different Class Times
If your schedule allows, attempt taking an early morning class. You may discover the postures appear more difficult, because the body hasn't been moving around for very long, however you'll be more in tune with the body both physically and mentally because the mind is less occupied in the mornings, and will remain more present having come from a calm state of rest, before the activities of the day mixes into our thoughts. After attending early morning classes frequently for a while, you could find afternoon or evening classes physically easier, finding more depth, but, with more awareness on where your body requires deeper attention.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day before your Bikram yoga class, or alternatively if you practice early hydrate well the day before. 8 Glasses of water a day is the average recommendation, therefore if practicing Bikram Yoga regularly, you may need more than the average 8 glasses. It is also important to replenish the minerals lost in our sweat. Investing in electrolyte replacements is essential to any Bikram Yoga practitioner or athlete.
Like any physical discipline, success with Bikram yoga takes some time. Preserving a routine practice will help you steadily improve. Know and remember that every journey started from somewhere... Frequency… precision… and intensity… these are three things that will unlock the treasures of Bikram yoga. Trust in the process, and the discipline will pay off.
Everyday is different, so don't be surprised if you start struggling with poses that were formerly easy for you, or if you go through a period where your practice is harder. Everyone who practices Bikram yoga experiences these obstacles regularly. Our lives are continually changing and evolving, as well as our physical state, therefore your practice will regularly change and develop. It will probably never ever become simple, which is exactly what makes Bikram yoga such a fulfilling practice, its always changing because we are.
- Kate Burford