What Makes Hot Yoga So Cool? Hot 26 Yoga, also called Bikram Yoga, is based on a sequence of yoga poses popularized by Bikram Choudhury of India and brought to the U.S. in the early 1970s. In the past year or so, however, it has become a global sensation. Find out why. By Rhonda Uretzky
In this invigorating yoga class, the room is heated to over 100 degrees (37.8°C) to allow the body to move deeper into postures, with less possibility for injury. The yoga sequence is carefully chosen from among the many poses and their variations that belong to the 5,000-year- old yoga lineage of India.
These yoga poses are derived from traditional hatha yoga postures, known as “asanas.” What makes Hot 26 Yoga different is the sweat, and even tears, it has been known to evoke from practitioners … and the huge files of anecdotal evidence of healing in all directions.
The legend of hot yoga
Hot yoga is both aerobic and relaxing. It works on creating both core body solidity and loose flexible muscles. It is both challenging and calming all at once. The legendary figure of hot yoga is Bikram Choudury, a yoga Champion and award-winning body builder, who accidentally dropped barbells on his legs during one competition and was told by his doctors that he would not walk again.
This yoga was actually developed for Bikram by his Guru, Bishnu Ghosh, who created the sequence and set the heat and humidity specifically to heal Bikram. Needless to say, today Bikram is not just walking—he is strutting, the picture of youth at well over 60 years old. Bikram is the flamboyant yoga guru who is anything but shy about the miracles of this yoga.
The yoga postures use proper alignment and holding of the poses for particular time periods to create a “tourniquet” effect, a damming up of blood and bodily fluids followed by a release and rush of those fluids through particular body parts. The series works against gravity to strengthen the bones, and is actually said to work every muscle, bone, system and cell of the body from bones to skin, in just 90 minutes.
A faster route to healing benefits
If you want to be on the fast track, consider the 30-Day Hot Yoga Challenge, which entails 30 consecutive days of consistent practice. Thousands worldwide have taken on the 30-Day Hot Yoga Challenge.
Many talk and blog openly about the healing they personally experienced. Migraines are cured. Lupus is under control. Sciatica magically disappears. Back pain is eased. Bum knees are healed. Eyesight is reported to be improved. Sex drive has increased (this may have something to do with the skimpy outfits, sweaty bodies and bending over in hot yoga classes).
Most Western medical doctors will not confirm that hot 26 yoga can cure such ailments, and the advice often offered before each hot yoga class is to leave your complaints, excuses and ailments at the front door and enter the yoga room with an open mind.
30-Day Challenge: a personal story
After practicing hot yoga myself for over 15 years, I embarked on my first 30-Day Challenge in April. This is a day-by-day commitment you must remake daily, as the first thing that happens for most is that all the excuses to not continue start to come to mind. I am always too busy. I can always be doing something more productive. I have too much work and too little time.
I am tired. And I am not sick; I don’t have any ailments to heal or broken body parts to mend. I won’t get any of those miraculous healing—so what’s the point really? Thousands of others have done this 30-Day Hot Yoga Challenge and have reported the following:
• Deeper, more regular sleep
• Clear complexion, softer hair and skin
• Way more flexibility and mobility of joints
• Weight loss
• Changes in weight distribution: tighter abs and thighs, more shapely arms, smaller waistline
• Healthier diet: sugar cravings gone, and healthy foods preferred – fruits, vegetables and grains
Regardless of the fact that I had “nothing to heal,” my 30-Day Challenge has made an impact on my life. I discovered a great many things about myself, including:
I can tolerate discomfort: outside circumstances can change; heat and humidity may rise, but I can still remain calm, and even find inspiration to exceed all known limitations. It is always my choice.
Breathing is key: steady breathing through the nose passing breath through the throat feeds a steady mind and a high- functioning nervous system as well as an optimal physical body.
Laser-beam focus is available to me: Learning to focus intensely on the listening and doing the yoga poses without letting my mind wander in hot yoga is excellent training for mental focus outside the yoga room and into the world of work and play.
Multitasking is counterproductive: Focusing on one thing at a time gets the job done faster, and better.
The more I focus, the more time expands: You don’t have to find additional time to practice the 90 minutes daily; time seems to expand the more you practice, as you are more efficient with the time you do have—and you get more done.
Challenges are training for life: You can find a way beyond perceived limitations by challenging yourself physically or sitting in meditation; both get you to the same place. Commitment is mandatory.
Physical and Mental Strength are one: Hot 26 yoga combines mind and body by fully engaging both at the same time; you cannot close your eyes and practice hot yoga, you must stay in the room, and keep your mind present and focused or the poses won’t work.
Physical balance equals emotional balance: Internal balance and calm can be gained by balancing the external body.
Distractions can be tuned out: The world is filled with distractions. Even in the yoga room, there are noises, movements and distractions; focusing on your goal is the way to tune out the extraneous.
Heat training is great for athletes
“Heat training” has long been considered a great way to increase aerobic capacity. For runners, as time spent in temperatures hotter than race day will benefit any athlete.
Many athletes consider Hot 26 Yoga another cross-training option to elevate the heart rate and condition the neuromuscular system, and condition the mind for a focused goal.
In the end, I did it because I said I would. Keeping my word to myself is in itself a miracle. Hot 26 Yoga is appropriate for beginners, intermediate and advanced practitioners; you do not have to be physically fit to participate and there are studios all over the world that offer this practice.
After doing the 30-Day Hot Yoga Challenge, it’s easy to see why it is said that Hot Yoga is a 90-minute meditation while performing 26 postures in a heated room. There is often no ambivalence about the experience—you either love hot yoga or hate it.
But even those who say they “hate it” continue to practice hot yoga, as it often makes them better athletes, more comfortable in their own bodies and better able to become the person each wants to be.