Bikram yoga helps rejuvenate the body

Anjali Shrestha
Features Editor

Just as I went into the second set of the seventh pose, “tuladandasana,” and the room reached 110 degrees Fahrenheit, I asked myself why I signed up for a Bikram yoga class.

The gratification came hours later when I was home and had recovered from the experience.
Yes, my back was sore — but I felt rejuvenated, less stressed and more limber.

“[When] you make it through that class you feel accomplished,” said Elizabeth Palmer, 500 Registered Yoga Teacher, who founded and owns Fluid Yoga in the Sunset district. “I think you also feel a better sense of yourself.”

Bikram yoga was developed by Bikram Chourhury in India and consists of 26 fundamental posture exercises.

“In the world of yoga, Bikram is a specific type,” said Palmer. “It is hot yoga with a specific series of poses. People know what they are going to get into since it is the same beginning poses. In these poses there is an aspect to every posture that people can achieve.”

Bikram yoga claims to reshape the body, increase flexibility and circulation, and strengthen the muscles and spine.

“I have seen people change their blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, weight, and approach on life,” said Palmer. “Somehow they are able to clear their mind here. You learn to balance and focus, you can build better strength in your core.”

The high temperature paired with movement is said to balance the metabolism. The heat opens up the muscles during posture sequence making the stretches more effective and allowing the participant to push flexibility beyond her usual limits. Bikram yoga helps to open joints, and release toxins fairly quickly so the body can move, according to Palmer.

I am not used to temperatures above our mean San Francisco 60 degrees Fahrenheit — and even less used to strenuous activities in extreme heat. As the temperature slowly escalated, the term, “dripping with sweat” became real as I swerved from an incoming bead of sweat from the outstretched arm of the woman beside me. These radical temperatures forced me to focus on the poses and energy of the room. The typical, breath in, breathe out of yoga was necessary to distract myself from the heat and successfully tackle the poses.

Yoga is a unique exercise program because it focuses on working personal ability. Yoga works a different muscle structure than traditional western exercises. The slow twitch muscle is the muscle at the bone level, and this is what is worked during yoga.

“Yoga can clean out the organs, flushing the hormone surge,” said Palmer. “It can help ease bloating and cramps and anxiety because the work we do through the organs with the compressions in some of the poses.”

The instructor introduced dandayamana-bibhaktapada-janushirasa, and told us to touch our heads to the floor from a standing position. I laughed and thought how impossible this was, but the people around me easily tackled the pose. Being the youngest person in the class, I thought I would be at the same level of ability and flexibility as some other participants, but I was easily overshadowed. Instead of attributing this flexibility of my peers to natural talent, or my lack of, I learned that with continued yoga, newly-found flexibility is possible.

Yoga is not just an alternative to standard running and weights. Big time athletes such as the 49ers football players and San Francisco Ballet dancers incorporate yoga into their training to establish teamwork and strength.

Bikram is often suggested.

Whenever you can clean up the body completely, lubricate the joints, expand lung capacity, strengthen the heart and improve spine, the body becomes balanced,” said Palmer. “This ensures there is not a deficiency.”

The receptionist at the beginning of the class warned me that Bikram was addicting I ignored her, thinking you had to be crazy to force yourself to sweat that much. But the relaxing atmosphere paired with strenuous yet refreshing poses did force me to crave more.  I want to go back and brave the heat, and finally touch my forehead to the floor.