A lot of people know what yoga is, but tend to get a little confused when you throw ‘Bikram’ in there. Generally they get the idea that (for a lot of people it would be seen as a form of torture) it takes place in a 40 degree room but don’t necessarily understand the flow.
So for those of you needing a little yogaducation here is the 411.
Essentially a bikram class will always follow the same sequence. Yip the same postures, the same order, time after time. When I first started I thought it could be quite boring, but I have since been enlightened!
So 26 postures seem like quite a lot right? But yogi’s are clever sods and have planned the sequence so that each posture builds on the one before and forms the foundation for the next.
So if you’re new to bikram this should give you an idea of what to expect when entering the sweltering 40 degree room!
Each bikram class starts off with a Pranayama breathing exercise. At first I was a little intimidated and was amazed at the lung capacity of some of my fellow yogi’s, but when you get into it it’s pretty cool – and really does help expand your lung capacity!
Half-moon and hands to feet
This pose is just that – pretty awkward. The posture has three stages all of which include sticking out your butt and hovering above the floor whilst perched on the tips of your toes. Great for the quads and inner thighs but you do feel a bit ridiculous while doing it!
I don’t have a cute picture for eagle but this is a great posture to help flush fresh blood to all your joints. Essentially you need to try and make yourself as small as possible whilst maintain your balance and a straight back. If you’re keen to see eagle in action check out this link or try a bikram class!
Here your only objective is to keep your balance. From the outset this one looks pretty easy, but yoga is sneaky like that – the ones that look easy are usually some of the hardest!
In flow some yogis call this ‘dancers pose’ and being a dancer I really love this one! It’s a great challenge to pull yourself in different directions – and also looks super impressive, but don’t underestimate the concentration that goes into getting it right.
Balancing Stick Pose
This is the shortest posture in the sequence but the most cardiovascular. Don’t believe me? Measure your heart rate before and after the posture and you’ll see what I’m talking about! This posture is short and sweet with loads of oomph. Just how I like it.
Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose
Another one of those awkward moments during the class, but highly beneficial. What I mean by awkward is that when the class is really full you need to carefully calculate how you position yourself so you don’t end up with a fellow yogis butt in your face. The aim here is to get your forehead on the ground while holding the outsides of your feet. No simple task.
This is what many yogis refer to as the pinnacle posture. Working all major muscle groups this one requires a steady balance and loads of control.
Separate leg stretch
A lot of people thing the point is to get your leg straight in this one, but the real benefit is getting your forehead to touch your knee. If you’ve been bikram at yo yoga you’d be familiar with Jen telling the class that this action helps speed up your metabolism, which is something everyone wants to hear.
Tree pose and Toe Stand
In yoga many postures have certain degrees of difficulty. So for example once you master tree pose you then move into toe stand. Again, I don’t have a picture but check out this link – it’s pretty cool!
And that’s just the warm up. True story.
From the standing sequence you the transition onto the floor. Being kind souls, yogis give you a little breather in between which comes in the form of Savasana aka dead body pose. This is really a chance to catch your breath (often literally) and recuperate as you prepare to move into the main part of the class.
Bikram focuses a lot of spine strengthening exercises that go a little something like this:
Um what it says! Helps with digestion and activates your ascending and descending colon.
Yoga likes to take things slow so you don’t just dive straight into the final spine strengthening posture. First you start off with cobra where using your upper back strength the aim is to lift your chest off the ground, without using your hands.
Then you go into half locust (lifting one leg and then the other) and then both at the same time.
Full locust pose
Full locust pose if the final expression of the posture and puts all the previous ones together.
At the end of locust sequence there is generally a fair amount of sighing and gasping for air as this one tends to be quite strenuous!
The last spine strengthening posture is bow bulling pose where you take the strength you have developed from locust and apply it. Again, a lot of huffing and puffing is generally followed by this one.
Fixed Firm Pose
Next on the list is Fixed Firm Pose. Some people find this one really easy, others really struggle. I think it has a lot to do with how flexible your knees are but to be honest I think it’s one of those postures you either can or can’t do.
Can I just say – what is up with yogi’s and touching your forehead to the ground?! Another posture where the objective is to bring your forehead to the ground, but here the trick is to do it before your hands meet your mat.
Ah the beloved camel pose, the ultimate bikram posture! Again this one some people just get, but for others it takes ages to reach their heels. Personally I find this one quite easy which makes me concerned that I don’t do it properly, but I haven’t been slapped on the wrists (yet) so I must be on the right track.
Our yo yoga instructors often mention that this posture can bring up a lot of emotion, or in extreme cases your lunch, but the big thing is to really just breath through it.
This one I always find a little awkward. The aim is to hold your feet while rolling onto the top of your head, essentially preparing you for head stand – one day. Check out this clip, these ladies have rabbit down!
In the yo yoga bikram class we don’t transition from rabbit to head stand but it does help build your core so that hopefully, eventually, one day you can. Again just proving how each posture is used to help you develop and grow in your practice.
Final stretching – head to knee and spin twist
Being one of the bendy folk I tend to enjoy the stretch at the end. The aim with head to knee pose (again with the forehead!) is to bring your forehead to your knee as opposed to having a straight leg.
The spine twist is the last posture and a good way to consolidate all your hard work and as the yogis say ‘wring out your spine’.
Also known as the breath of fire! We start the class off with a breathing exercise and in true yoga symmetry it ends off with one as well. Khapalbhati breathing is a cleansing breath which helps to push out all the stale air in your lungs.
Again newbie yogis can find it a bit intimidating but once you get the hang of it you just go with and you begin to feel your lungs expand.
And that’s a wrap!
The class is ended with one final Savasana allowing you to fully appreciate all your hard work. For me this one is often the hardest as by the end of the class I am exhausted, sweaty and a little stinky and all I want to do is hop in the shower and veg on my couch.
But just lying on your mat, doing nothing, taking everything in for those few moments at the end of class is a bliss I cannot begin to explain.
Sound like something you’d like to give a go? Check out the guys at yo yoga, I promise, it becomes addictive!