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Bikram Yoga

INSHAPE NEWS OPINION

Nick Jack – CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach and Personal Trainer

Because people will move towards what they are good at, even if it hurts them, they become blind to the fact that the one thing they do regularly is their biggest problem.

Apart from the flexibility concerns of Bikram Yoga, the hot temperature which does give you a feeling of having completed a hard workout gives people an illusion that this is strength training. Sure you may be able to hold some athletic poses, but it is not enough to adequately build strength.

You are just sweaty because of the stifling heat not because you are working hard. The hot temperature is also risky for the person with skin problems or suffering any type of inflammation. Heat is inflammation, heat also is attributed to the emotional side of anger, stress and anxiety. These people need to be cooled down not heated up. I know, because I speak from personal experience.

In my own individual experience, I found this to be extremely detrimental as I suffered from skin problems (psoriasis) and this class exacerbated my problem. I also found that I was very dehydrated after the class, even though I drank two litres of water and Gatorade.

So, in summary I would not recommend this type of yoga for everyone. I do acknowledge its benefits for some people, but before attending a Bikram yoga class I would advise you to speak with a qualified CHEK trainer or someone who understands the ramifications of this type exercise and whether this is a good thing for YOUR BODY.

Nick Jack is a qualified CHEK Exercise Coach, Level II Holistic Lifestyle Coach and personal trainer. He runs a personal training business called No Regrets Personal Training.

Nick likes to lift weights, cycle, run and triathlon. He has played almost every sport at one time in his life. Now, he enjoys spending time walking his dog and relaxing with his wife and friends.

Anthony “Chief” Ippindo – Director of Holistic Fitness Australia at Fox Studios

Bikram Yoga, developed by Yogiraj Bikram Choudhury, is a form of Hatha Yoga which takes place in a room heated to 40 degrees Celsius with around 40 percent humidity , so expect to sweat a lot.

The 90-minute class consists of a series of 26 postures, which are repeated twice and held for between 30 seconds to a minute. Controlled breathing sets the pace of the class with a “savasana” or break between each pose, when the focus is on being completely still in both body and mind.

People around the world have used healing by heat for thousands of years. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek often referred to as the father of medicine, said, “Give me the power to create a fever and I shall cure any disease.”

I have personally tried Bikram Yoga on a few occasions. I remember the first time I tried it, the company gave me a 10 days of use for a discounted price. Their philosophy is if don’t get it in those 10 days then Bikram is not for you.

In the first session you are usually dealing with the heat of the room and getting into new and foreign positions. By the second session you have become more accustomed to the heat better and you are trying to get the poses right and by the third session you get past all of that and feel warm and elongated by the end of the session. I did my classes in winter so when I came outside and hit that cool fresh air I felt refreshed and cleansed. That was it for me, I was converted.

So let’s take a look at the benefits of doing Bikram Yoga in a heated room:

  • Relaxes the muscles as they are stretched
  • Opens the pores and detoxifies the body as toxins are removed by sweat
  • Prevents injury
  • Improves the body’s cooling systems
  • Clears the circulatory system by thinning the blood
  • Improves the cardiovascular workout by increasing the heart rate even though the breathing remains regular.

According to Choudhury, Bikram Yoga improves nearly all physical functions and bodily systems. These improvements affect weight loss in the long term. For example, Choudhury claims that regular practice of Bikram yoga — at least three times a week — boosts your digestive system, reduces your cravings and stabilizes your appetite. He also claims that it improves your mood overall, enhancing your endocrine system and stabilizing your hormones. If you eat for emotional reasons or in response to hormone-induced cravings, then regular yoga might help you avoid unnecessary eating.

In closing, you never know what it’s like until you’ve tried it. I strongly urge you to take advantage of introductory offers. For me, flexibility and stretching are those disciplines that I pay the least attention too, so I need something like Bikram to improve that discipline.

All the best in health.

Anthony “Chief” Ippindo is a dedicated fitness professional, who is an AFL football player and physical conditioning coach that has a career spanning over 10 years. Anthony has a Bachelors in Sports Science and is a qualified strength and conditioning coach, which has enabled him to work with elite athletes from AFL football, hockey and tennis to rowing and high performance diving at the South Australian Institute Of Sport. In addition, Anthony has also studied a holistic approach to exercise under Paul Chek to become a qualified exercise coach and a level II holistic lifestyle coach. This has enabled him to move forward from personal training to become a holistic lifestyle coach.

Simone Samuels – Australian Holistic Health Coach

I have taken part in quite a few Bikram Yoga classes over the past few years. I tended to dabble in it for a while, but it is certainly not my favourite style of yoga. I completed a Bikram Yoga challenge just earlier this year, and I will admit that I felt great afterwards. But, I am not a Bikram Yoga convert for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I get bored in Bikram classes. Not only does the routine become monotonous, but the actual script that the yoga teacher uses is exactly the same every time. This might be good for people who are new to yoga, or those Type A personalities who love having structure and routine in their yoga practice.  But for me, I prefer variety and I enjoy learning a range of different poses.

The other issue I have with Bikram Yoga is that the postures are not challenging for me, as an advanced yoga practitioner. The challenge of getting through the class becomes more about surviving the heat and the sweat, than actually pushing me to my edge with the postures. It becomes more psychological than physical, which can be a good thing for some people — again, those who are Type A perfectionist types — but this just isn’t me. I like to be comfortable and to feel relaxed from a yoga class, not hot, hyped-up and feeling a bit competitive. Spin classes are great for that.

Bikram Yoga classes also lack that spiritual element. There are breathing exercises and in the second half of the class the sets of asana are punctuated by one minute lying in savasana, but this is often more of a reprieve from exertion in the heat than integration. I believe that a few minutes of quiet meditation at the start of a class is necessary to focus, and the 10-15 minutes of savasana at the end of a regular yoga class is something that I feel is really important to integrate the movements of the class, before going out again into the real world. There is a chance to do this in Bikram Yoga, but everyone is either lying in an exhausted heap or usually so keen to get the hell out of the hot room that people leave immediately after the instructor does, and on-mass. Plus, it is rather noisy in the room as they shuffle around to exit.

Finally, I feel like the classes are really impersonal. The instructor generally shouts out the memorised script and there is very little posture adjustment that takes place. When someone is not holding an asana correctly, the instructor will often say so in front of the whole class — this can be a little bit alienating. There is also very little lee-way for people who really just can’t stand the heat and need to get out of the room. Bikram Yoga seems to lack compassion. An element that is often so lovely when taking a regular yoga class with a caring teacher, who will gently adjusts and guides you to push yourself to your limits for more difficult poses, without the aggression that seems to fill the Bikram Yoga room. It is like the heat of the room fires-up everyone’s emotions, and empathy gets left out in the locker room.

These are my recollected experiences from a few different studios and several different instructors. However, there is no doubting that a Bikram Yoga class can help to flush out toxins, and it can certainly help with losing a few unwanted kilos if you commit to go every day, but for me, dedicating almost 3 hours of my night to a yoga class that hasn’t pushed me physically is not something I will do regularly. I prefer being a sporadic Bikram Yoga attendee, and to keep up my own vinyasa practice at home for my regular choice of yoga.

Simone Samuels is an Australian holistic health coach raw food chef. She also comes under the titles of yogini, scuba diver, photographer, fitness lover, writer, world traveller and life adventurer. She believes that being happy and well is a state that everyone deserves to feel, every day. Simone runs the practice Integrated Wellness so she can help busy women to reclaim their wellbeing and empower them to feel happy and hot! Simone received her training as a Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s cutting-edge Health Coach Training Program. During her training, she studied over 100 dietary theories, practical lifestyle management techniques, and innovative coaching methods with some of the world’s top health and wellness experts. She also holds a Master of  Education, and worked as a teacher, trainer and tutor for over a decade before transferring her skills to the role as health coach.

Sputnik – Chief Swashbukler, The Swashbucklers Club (I’m also an ultra runner and author if that is still too weird)

Bend like Beckham.

Now, in the interest of being totally up front, I have to say my personal experience with yoga of any variety is actually pretty limited. As a closet Spice Girls fan, my introduction to Yoga was via the Geri Halliwell Yoga DVD. I managed to make my way through the DVD several times and although my body genuinely felt better for it, my poor old ears couldn’t really handle Geri blabbing on and my yoga experience came to a somewhat premature and abrupt end. So my opinion here is more a philosophical one rather than based on my ability to do any kind of preztel impersonation.

What I have noticed in my years on the planet, is things tend to come in and out of fashion. To be fair, yoga has been around since before Jesus played for Jerusalem, so you could hardly call it a fad. But in Western society, it’s only been a relatively recent occurrence that it’s gone from something the smelly, fringe-dwelling hippies do to being embraced by the mainstream.

Like any form of exercise or fitness protocol, yoga is something I would label as ‘definitely worth a shot’. Bikram Yoga in particular, which was only created some time in the middle of the 1900s, certainly seems to be going through a massive surge in popularity so it must be doing something right. Practiced for 90-minutes in a room where the temperature is set to about 40 degrees, it may not be everyone’s boiling hot cup of fart-scented tea, but there’s plenty who rave about the benefits.

Supposedly the heated room helps you with your stretching, prevents injury and reduces stress and tension. But then, you’ll likely enjoy most of these benefits sitting on the beach in Bali drinking a cocktail, so perhaps it’s the 26 postures you work your way through that are really doing you good.

For my money, I’d say why not give it a whirl? I personally don’t care if you’re doing Cross Fit, Pilates, karate, running, swimming, Triathlon, weights, cycling, spin classes, Zumba or whatever else comes next. The important thing is you feel better for doing it, and love it enough to want to keep doing it. And of course, that you feel like it’s doing you some good in the process.

As the old saying goes, “Life is about seeing what works” and if Bikram Yoga works for you, then keep doing it! It’s worth saying though, that as always, you should also be clear on what your goals are. No matter how ‘good’ something is, it still depends on what your personal goals are as to whether or not it’s ‘right’ for you. Or the most effective thing for you to be doing to achieve what you’re setting out to do. Most of us have limited time, so it’s important we spend it in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Plenty of celebrities have jumped on the Bikram bandwagon though, so at the very least, going to a Bikram Yoga class may be a nice way to bump (or bend) into David Beckham, Madonna, George Clooney or even Lady Ga Ga.

Have an Out of this World Day!

Since taking up running in 2010, Sputnik has completed numerous road marathons including the New York Marathon as well as a number of ultra trail runs including the Tarawera 100km ultra in Rotorua, NZ and the brutal North Face 100 – a 100km trail race through the Blue Mountains in NSW. His practical, useful and usually at least vaguely entertaining advice and ability to make stupid, difficult and stupidly difficult acts of exercise look a tiny bit enjoyable and possibly even fun has already helped numerous people get off their arses. His mission is to do that a bit more. As testament to his Swashbuckling spirit he has eaten fried tarantulas in Cambodia, climbed active volcanos in Indonesia and been married. Sputnik is currently training for a 250km mountain trail race through Nepal where he hopes to ‘Redfine Crazy’. Sputnik says “Ordinary is the enemy and must be avoided at all costs”.

Sigrid de Castella – ‘Half the Woman I Was’ Author

Here comes the confessions of a Bikram Virgin. I have, for some time, been lectured by converts on the ancient wisdom and natural healing powers of this hot form of yoga, so I thought it was time I experienced it for myself.

So, I headed to Bikram Yoga Melbourne, situated on Bridge Road, Richmond, in Victoria, for my first class. I probably should have done some research first, but I wanted to go in cold, with no expectations, no training and no warning. I actually thought it would be a piece of cake having done classical yoga for several years. But Bikram is different.

Firstly, the room is hot — 40 degrees — so you sweat massively. Secondly, whilst participants are quiet there is continual coaching from the instructor,  virtually no silence. Thirdly, the class was an hour and a half long. Did I mention the 40 degrees?

Was it easy? It’s true the heated environment allows for much deeper stretching, but I have to admit that after an hour I wanted to run and fling the windows wide-open so I could breathe in the cool air. However, Bikram is also about persistence, dedication and discipline, and it’s in that very moment of doubt where you find your inner strength and power.

Did I like it? I have to confess that Bikram is not my all-time favourite way to work out. But it does provide good variety and has some great health benefits. And the invigoration you feel after you leave the hot room is pretty exhilarating.

Favourite pose? There were 26 (mostly) poses, some easier than others. My favourite was Savasana  or the dead body pose. Do Bikram and you’ll find out why!

Will I go back? Whilst studios will suggest that you should practice Bikram yoga daily, I am considering a weekly class to assist with long term flexibility.

Bikram Tips:

Follow these simple tips to ensure you get the most out of your class:

  • Having an empty stomach is considered best for all forms of yoga, so it’s best not to eat for two hours before any class.
  • Wear very light clothing. An action back singlet or crop top with stretchy short leggings is best. Sweat head bands and wrist bands can also be useful. And wear thongs or shoes that you can easily remove.
  • It’s yoga etiquette to take your own mat but most studios generally have mats for rent.
  • Take a large bottle of water into class with you, along with a large towel to cover your yoga mat as well as a smaller sweat towel.
  • Don’t wear any perfumes or strong deodorants as this will impact others around you. Class rooms are regularly aired, but if you’re worried then head to the day’s first class for a fresher room.
  • During the class don’t expect to achieve the full poses first time. Go at your own pace and don’t stretch beyond what is reasonable for your level of fitness and experience. In time you will achieve more.
  • After class remember to rehydrate with plenty of water and boost your electrolytes if necessary.

Sigrid de Castella is an internationally published author, speaker, and coach in the fields of health and business. Her book “Half The Woman I Was – How I lost 70kg naturally, reclaimed my life … and how you can too!” has received international acclaim and has been hailed as the most comprehensive weight loss book on the market. Sigrid has also studied Personal Training with the Fitness Institute Australia and has a keen interest in whole food nutrition, natural therapies and all aspects of physical and mental health. Sigrid and holds a BBA from RMIT University and is a member of both the Australian Institute of Managers and the Australian Society of Authors.

Lee Sutherland – Creator of ‘Fitness in the City’

Oh Bikram Yoga, we’ve had a torrid love affair over the years. More hot than the cold for obvious reasons. But, no matter how far I stray I always come back to you for more and swear never to leave again.

Why do I love and (gasp) sometime dislike Bikram Yoga in equal measures? Because 90-minutes in a hot, sweaty room, toe-to-toe with other sweaty hot bodies is a REAL commitment! Bikram Yoga consists of a series of 26 postures practiced in a studio heated to 38 degrees with 40 percent humidity, so it is not for the faint hearted.

Unlike a strength session, cardio or bootcamp class where I can mentally check out and just ‘get it done’, for me, I’ve got to be not only physically ready for Bikram, but also emotionally prepared for the practise ahead. Emotional breakthroughs and breakdowns are common practise in yoga, and no one blinks twice at the site of someone sobbing on their mat halfway through class. This most likely occurs during some good ol’ hip opening exercises.

Now don’t be put off by the bucket loads of sweat that comes with Bikram, as there are many other amazing positives to add to the list. There are no egos in yoga, no competing against anyone, no rushing ahead, and no leaving the class early. You have to be present in more ways than one for the whole time, and working to your own capability. And that my friend, is why it’s so important to practice -– you have to be present, so you have to check all your baggage at the door and work. The result, a great workout. Oh, and did I say you sweat?

So why the heated room?

A number of reasons actually. Not only does the heat allow you to go into the postures deeper while reducing stress and tension, but it also stimulates circulation. Thanks to many of the massaging and compression efforts of the lymphatic system, encouraging detoxification and restoring health to the entire body –- muscles, joints and organs –- just to name a few.

Interested in giving it a go?

Most centres have a trial pack of at least 10 sessions. The reason the number is so high is because first time students can feel overwhelmed by the fairly rigorous workout or heat, so it usually takes a few sessions for the love to set in.

My wise words to you. Don’t give up after one class. Breathe and enjoy the new experience. Rest in child’s pose as often as you need. Also keep in mind that each class will be different, as will the vibe, the teacher and the person next to you. Don’t strive for perfection. Strive to be present and do what you can in that moment.

If you’re a beginner of Bikram Yoga and you’re located in Sydney, then below are some great studios that offer some great deals:

Sydney – City

Bikram Yoga College of India, Darlinghurst
Studio owner Darren Ma has taken first, second and third places at the Australian Bikram Asana Championships. His two-level studio is hidden in a laneway near the busy intersection of Oxford and Crown Streets. It offers 10 classes each weekday from 6am, and six classes on Saturdays and Sundays.
Cost: Beginners $17 for 10 days, casual class $18, membership packages also available.
Contact: (02) 9356 4999 (02) 9356 4999, www.bikramyoga.net.au

Body Mind Life, Surry Hills
This studio offers approximately 36 classes for hot yoga fans each week. Owned by Nicole and Phil Goodwin, it has daily vinyasa-style yoga for all levels of experience. Classes are based on power and vinyasa principles. For those after a less dynamic workout, there are Yin Yoga classes (see glossary on page 34). Body Mind Life also has a studio in the inner-west suburb of Rozelle.
Cost: Beginners $25 for two weeks, casual $19, monthly unlimited $119, membership packages also available.
Contact: (02) 9211 4111 www.bodymindlife.com

Power Living, Bondi Junction
Open since May of this year, Power Living Bondi is owned by Mandy Kopcho, osteopath Tim Hulbert and Power Living founder Duncan Peak. It offers 38 classes each week, including Vinyasa Flow at a temperature of 32 degrees Celsius, and restorative and alignment classes at temperatures reduced to about 20 degrees, suitable for all levels. Themed workshops are held every six to eight weeks focusing on postural foundations and breathing. Osteopathy and acupuncture treatments are available in the treatment room.
Cost: Beginners $20 for 10 days, casual class $19, membership packages also available.
Contact: (02) 8065 7315, www.powerliving.com.au

Pure Bikram Hot Yoga, Bondi Junction
This studio offers about 30 classes per week. Scott Valentine opened it after healing his own back injuries with the 26-posture practice. There is also a studio in Maroubra.
Cost: Beginners $20 for 10 days or $99 for a month, casual class $19, membership packages also available.
Contact: (02) 9388 9642 www.purebikram.com.au

It’s important to drink plenty of water before and after your practice and to not to eat two hours before your session or digestion will be interrupted.

Enjoy, it is addictive!

Lee Sutherland is the creator of Fitness In The City – a personal training blog on all things health, nutrition and fitness. She is also a Master Personal Trainer who trains clients outdoors as well as working at Sydney’s exclusive gym Holistic Fitness.

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