Okay, picture yourself in class, beyond hot, wondering why the instructor is not opening the door, maybe freaking out a bit. Hardly the atmosphere for stress relieving, right? While Bikram Yoga may not immediately be associated with the relief of stress due to the conditions under which you perform the asanas—hot room, significant humidity, one-and-a-half hours of strenuous stretching poses—many people who have practiced this type of yoga experience stress-relieving benefits. They experience lower heart rates, better nights of sleep, lower blood pressure, and also lowered cholesterol levels. In my personal experience, I describe it as an overwhelming sense of being able to stay in calm, even if the person in front of me at Trader Joe’s decides to write a check at the last minute and is literally tearing their bag apart to find their checkbook! Contrary to what you may expect, the strenuous exercises supported by optimal breathing result in a reduction of stress. The following factors contribute to making Bikram Yoga a stress-reducer:
In the Bikram method, we practice two controlled forms of breathing called pranayama and kapalbhati. By properly performing these breathing exercises, you release tension and, better yet, you teach your body how to use your breath to find calm and serenity. This also has the added benefit of clearing your mind, making it sharper for better and more focused thinking. Over time, and as your practice evolves, you will actually meditate while performing postures during class, further enabling you to manage stressful situations, stay calm, and lower stress.
The twenty-six postures:
In the Bikram series, you get the opportunity to perform and practice each posture twice. The beauty in this is that you are able to do the very best youcan with that posture at the present time. When the posture is complete, it is your sign to let go of your attachment to the outcome and to be present with the new posture. There is such power in letting go of the frustrations or emotions tied to a previous posture.
Toxin release is a big contributor as to why you experience a reduction in stress from Bikram Yoga, and one of the main reasons why Bikram Yoga is 90 minutes. Which toxins are released? Lymphatic system flushes. You experience the benefits of extension (which is fresh oxygenated blood boosting circulation), and healing benefits. Many of the postures in the Bikram series are designed to work the body: bones to skin, fingertips to toes.
Why does the teacher always suggest students remain in savasana? Not only are you allowing time for your body to receive healing benefits (what I like to call “receiving what you need”), but you also learn to silence your mind and be completely present with your breath. How awesome it is to give your mind—which endlessly gathers and interprets information—time to take a break!
The entire purpose of Bikram Yoga is to achieve a general well-being, which also includes building flexibility, injury prevention, weight management, tension relief, and stress relief. Stressed out? Head to class and be ready to go deep and to sweat on your mat. Time to let go.…