The practice of yoga in the United States today has become quite popular. It is regarded by most as a physical practice or sport that leaves the body more flexible and strong, however, yoga is much more than a sport.
Yoga was first conceived nearly 5,000 years ago in India by the sage Patanjali. Yoga literally means “yoke”, which is interpreted as uniting or joining and alludes to the ultimate goal of the process which involves uniting the mind, body and spirit as one. Bikram Yoga is a highly popular form of the art that involves practicing a series of postures in a heated room. Bikram yoga benefits are numerous and extend beyond the mere elongation and strengthening of the muscles.
Bikram Yoga was developed by Bikram Choudhury and became popular in the early 1970′s. The practice combines a regiment of 26 yogic postures, two pranayama breathing techniques and the use of a heated space. The room is heated to 105 degrees F for the practice, which helps facilitate the relaxation of the muscles as well as the body’s production of perspiration.
The primary benefit of Bikram Yoga is the improvement of blood circulation which is accomplished through several techniques. The yogic postures performed throughout the session are designed to restrict and increase blood flow to specific parts of the body. The restriction of blood vessels while holding postures is said to actually increase the blood flow in that same area because the blood rushes back more quickly to the area when the posture is released.
Combining this technique with breathing exercises that increase the amount of oxygen in the blood allows the blood to become highly oxygenated which deeply nourishes all the body’s tissues. By practicing the postures in a heated environment the blood is circulated even faster as the body works hard to cool down, thus providing a benefit even if the postures are not performed with perfect execution. Bikram Yoga benefits not only the muscles, lungs and circulatory system but it also has a positive effect on the overall wellbeing of the practitioner.
Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years by men and women seeking a more enlightened consciousness and state of being. It is only very recently that the art has been used as a fitness tool. While the physical benefits of Bikram Yoga are indisputable, the effect on the mind of the practitioner should not be overlooked.
The practice of yoga demands that the practitioner has a focused mind. In fact, yoga is really a form of meditation that involves the body. When the mind is focused, calm, and cantered, the postures can be performed with more precision and the practitioner can experience a firm and deep posture. The more focused the mind becomes the more effective the postures are and vice versa. This process of using the power of the mind to discipline the body is said to be one of the keys to reaching higher consciousness.
While Bikram yoga benefits the body, studies show that it also benefits the mind of the practitioner leading to a more relaxed and tranquil feeling and an overall enhanced lifestyle.