RVA Strong: Bikram Yoga 

This article is part of our RVA Strong fitness and well-being promotional series. Click here to learn more about RVA Strong.

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This month's RVA Strong Adventure really cranks up the heat, both literally and figuratively!

I have been challenged to take a Bikram Hot Yoga class and as I have pointed in out in several of my other blogs, flexibility is not one of my strengths.

Bikram Hot Yoga was developed in the early 1970's by Bikram Choudhury, a native of Calcutta, India. Like other yoga classes Bikram Yoga entails a series of postures or poses which are sustained at your end- range position for a period of time.

However, in Bikram Hot Yoga, a participant goes through 2 breathing exercises and the same 26 postures in a particular sequence each time you attend a class. During each 90 minute class you go through each posture twice allowing for progression of the position thus increasing your flexibility and strength. The other big differentiating factor is that Bikram Hot Yoga is performed in a room with a temperature of 105-110 degrees F o with humidity of 40-50% (by comparison a typical exercise facility holds its temperature around 68 Fo). Part of the purpose of these parameters is to help speed up your metabolism and thus decreasing the need for a "warm-up". Bikram Yoga also claims that the sweating helps to rid your body of toxins thus decreasing delayed muscle soreness and fatigue. However, I am not sure that this has been extensively scrutinized through scientific research so I am unable to validate this claim.

Garland Hume, one of the owners/ instructors of Bikram Yoga Richmond, was kind enough to take me through one of their classes. When you walk into the room the first thing you notice is the heat and humidity. It feels like August in Richmond, VA and we are about to go through a workout!

We started with the 2 breathing exercises and by the end I was already drenched in sweat. Garland then proceeded to guide and instruct me through the 26 different postures each one aimed at improving flexibility, strength and balance throughout the entire body. Very precise verbal instructions are given to help guide you into the proper positioning.

All postures require balance, flexibility and strength but each seems to have their individual focus as well. Some require more of the three above components compared to others. One of my favorites was the" Savasana" which when translated means "Dead Body Pose". This entails lying supine (flat on your back) holding your head and neck in neutral position while you focus on breathing and relaxing. This is probably one of the few postures that I think I was able to master during my first lesson.

All kidding aside, at the end of the workout I was definitely feeling more flexible and relaxed than prior to my lesson. Another great thing about Bikram Hot Yoga is that it doesn't require any extensive equipment. All you need is YOU! I would also recommend some lightweight clothing and a yoga mat.

Some things that you can do to help with your Bikram Hot Yoga experience include making sure that you are adequately hydrated. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks as they tend to dehydrate you. Drink plenty of fluids prior to and after your class. Also, I would focus on flexibility and balance exercises especially those that target the hamstrings, hip flexors, and calf musculature. Balancing exercises such as 'standing on one leg' will also be of benefit.

Bikram Yoga Richmond does offer "No heat" classes for children 17 years and under. This brings me to a word of caution. If you have a compromised cardiovascular system or find yourself at either end of the age spectrum you should use caution with this type of exercise due to climate conditions. The high heat, combined with the high humidity, will increase stress on the cardiovascular system and could put some participants at risk for heat-related and cardiovascular issues. I am not saying you can't or shouldn't perform Bikram Hot Yoga but I would recommend that you consult with your physician before beginning such a program. Better safe than sorry!

Finally, there was a quote by Bikram Choudhry written on the wall of the yoga room that speaks to the mission of RVA Strong: "You're never too old, you're never too sick, it's never too bad, it's never too late, to start from scratch once again."

Bikram Yoga Richmond is RVA strong!

-- Kevin

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