Bikram Yoga: Benefits for Mind, Body, and Soul

Over winter break, I decided to take a break from my typical running and swimming routine and go to the Bikram yoga studio in my town. I had done bikram for a month during my senior year of high school and really enjoyed it. One of my friends had gotten back into it and I thought I'd tag along.

It turned into one of the highlights of my break. Bikram yoga is done in a 105 degree room and is made up of 26 postures and two breathing exercises. It is a specific type of hot yoga. Classes are an hour and a half long and most studios offer Bikram at various times of the day. Bikram didn’t only provide me with a good body workout, but allowed me to take care of my body in all ways over break. I highly highly encourage everyone, especially those in our very active Notre Dame community to give it a try. Here is why:

Body image

Since the temperature is so hot, I would go to class in just a sports bra and spandex. All of the poses require you to look at yourself in the mirror and concentrate. At my first class, I was conscious of how I looked and what other people thought of me since nothing can be hidden in such little clothing. By my last class, I could look myself in the eye in the mirror and feel confident about myself - imperfections, holiday food, and all.

When was the last time you felt your heart beating in your fingertips?

At the end of the class, all participants are told to lie in shavasna, also know as dead man’s pose. This position is on your back with your eyes closed and arms to your sides, palms face up. It is highly encouraged in order to get the maximum benefits of the workout and let your body cool down. I would find myself lying there for 10 or 15 minutes and being the last one in the room. I did not have to rush off to homework, I could lie still and clear my mind. I was there, but not there. A feeling of peace, but not quite sleep. I could feel my heart beating and my body recovering from the work it just had gone through. I felt completely in touch with mind and body which is a really cool feeling.

Quiet mind

During hot yoga class, I found that I was not thinking about what Christmas presents I needed to buy, how to spruce up my resume, or if was I working hard enough. I simply just did as I was told. My mind was only focused on each pose and each movement I was supposed to follow. Again it was just myself and my body. As an ND student, I find my mind running a thousand miles a minute and it is overwhelming. Bikram not only calmed me for the hour and a half I was there, but also helped me to quiet my mind and relax in general. Each day over break, my mind relaxed more and more with each class I went to.

Something new

Bikram is a great way to change up your workout. The idea is stretching through your own strength. The heat allows you to stretch a little further than you might be able to when you just roll out of bed in the morning. I also think it forces you to really focus on what you are doing. If you are someone with injuries, it is definitely something to look into because anyone can do it.

Breath

I have found since my time as yoga that my breathing is much more relaxed. Granted as a swimmer I may notice this more since I have found that I do not have to breathe as often in the pool, but bikram helps to increase your lung capacity. The breathing exercises and working out in a hot room allow you to focus on using your lungs in the most efficient way possible. A benefit that is great for all. I learned that breathing in and out of your mouth actually creates a fight or flight response in your body, who knew?

Skin

Yes, you sweat like an absolute pig, but it feels fantastic. My skin felt totally cleansed after because it was like a natural cleaner. Certainly take a shower very soon after (or you can hit the grocery store like I chose to do and scare off some people), but again all the sweating leaves you with a very natural feeling.

Embrace the nerd inside of you

I am a nerd so I loved hearing about all the ways the different poses help your body. The instructors talk you through the whole each posture and sometimes would throw in the details about the benefits of each pose. How this pose was compressing your thyroid and, thus, helping your immune system. This was massaging your ascending colon. This was releasing the sinusoidal fluid in your spine. Usually the focus of a workout is to build muscle or lose weight, but bikram goes beyond that. It touches upon everything, which I think is so cool.

Time for yourself

When was the last time you relaxed and gave yourself an hour and a half to just be with you?

The company

When was the last time you got to work out with pregnant ladies and old men at the same time? Bikram is unique because adults of all ages, shapes, sports, and backgrounds can do it. There would be pregnant women in the corner doing things with their giant bellies, older men who were getting their sweat on, athletic jocks manning up and trying to stretch, the hippy like grandmas who were more flexible than I was. Anyone can do it and I know at my studio everyone was very friendly. People don’t talk in class and you are very much in your own mind, but it is nice to know that everyone is there with that same self focus. Everyone is there together, yet focused on themselves. You don’t have to worry about people’s opinions or how you compare to others; you just do you.

So next time you have some free time, check out hot yoga! There is unfortunately no bikram yoga studio in South Bend, but there are a few places near us who do offer hot yoga. Trust me, as you just read, the perks of hot yoga are endless!

Thanks to BYG for a great experience! 

 

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Image 1,2,5 found here and 3,4 found here