My friend Maggie and I decided to try out Bikram Yoga. Heated room, 90 minutes, 26 postures (which are shown in the first diagram below!), a mat, a long towel, and water bottle. I have attended a class at least 2-4 times a month over the past three years. I love it. It's such an exhilarating feeling when you finish a class. The best part about it is how relaxed it is. Sounds crazy, but it reminds me of Cross Country. There are team sports and there are individual sports. Bikram reminds me of my old running teams where not everyone is at the same level, but everyone is doing their personal best. There is something really great about watching someone skilled practice yoga next to someone like me who cannot always do all the positions due to exertion. There are some individuals who get to their first class like Maggie and do everything right the first time. The instructor thought we were kidding after class when we explained it was her first time. There are other individuals who try the first ten poses then sit on their mat for the remainder of class, joining in when possible. Everyone tries at their own rate. Not every day is going to be a good day performance wise, but it's worth it just to show up. It's up to your body and mind to tell you when to stop or help you propel forward. Like I said, just like my cross country days.
It is extremely beneficial and you sweat out a ton of water weight. After your first class, you feel so energized and so in charge of your life. It is a wonderful mind enhancing, body stretching experience. After the second class you will realize the improvement in your personal limberness. The heat really helps warm the muscles and helps to deepen your stretching abilities (I never thought I'd be able to raise my leg behind my head, I did it by my third class!) You learn to self-soothe as you control body and mind in an uncomfortable situation. It is phenomenal. Bikram also helps cleanse the body of toxins. "By the tourniquet effect: stretching, balancing (using gravity), and creating pressure all at the same time. The blood supply in arteries and veins is being cut off, creating pressure. When released, a lock gate effect is created, causing blood to rush through veins and arteries, flushing them out. Also, pressure is applied to the heart by its relative position to the rest of the body." -Bikram FAQs Bikram also helps your balance.
I also recently went to a beginner yoga class with my mother. It was extremely slow paced and I was the only one in the room younger than 30, but it was a wonderful experience. It really reminded me that no matter how easy the positions are, there is room for improvement technique wise. Going at a slower pace really demonstrated how easy it is to align your body incorrectly. A few individuals in the class mentioned they were having back problems, so the instructor led the class through a back strengthening process. My back felt better after class! Here are three of the poses she went over featured on LiveStrong! If anyone knows of any other great back extending/stengthening poses, feel free to leave a comment!
Here are some other cool yoga posters! Can you tell I'm obsessed and think everyone should strive to find a class they love?! (All photos in this post are linked to the sites I found them!)