It’s been a long, stress-filled day, and all I want to do is crash, but instead I head towards my favourite urban haven- the Bikram Yoga Jozi studio in Illovo. Scantily clad yogis surround me in almost forty degrees of heat. We stare purposefully into the mirrored wall in front of us. I am sweating, my heart is pounding, every muscle in my body is turned on, and yet I am still, perfectly centered, breathing ever so slowly and very deeply. This is Bikram yoga. If you thought yoga was for sissies, then you haven’t tried Bikram, undoubtedly one of the best physical fitness programmes around. I have been hooked ever since I tried my first class about 7 years ago, and to be honest, I am an addict and it’s more than OK- there are far worse things to be addicted to than yoga after all!
Bikram Choudhury, the father of Bikram yoga, began learning yoga poses in his native India, at the age of three. At five, he began studying with his guru Bishnu Ghosh, who helped guide him in creating the 26 posture series we know as Bikram yoga today. Choudhury is quite a quirky fellow to say the least, and the multi-millionaire is often is seen sporting skimpy gold spandex and a studded Rolex and it seems everything this man touches, turns to gold. Bikram yoga has become somewhat of a worldwide phenomenon, with Bikram certified studios in nearly every major city in the world. Despite the continuous controversy that surrounds this magnanimous man, I am of the opinion that all that really counts is that his yoga sequence is unbelievably effective and healing.
Bikram’s Yoga sequence is designed to scientifically and systematically warm and stretch muscles, ligaments and tendons, in the order in which they should be stretched. Bikram is a beginner’s yoga practice and you don’t need to be particularly flexible or strong to benefit from the poses. The classes generally contain a mix of beginner’s, intermediate and advanced students of varying racial backgrounds, religions, genders and shapes and sizes. Simply put- yoga is for everyone.
Bikram yoga is exceptionally healing to the body, and in fact, Choudhury created the series initially in an attempt to heal himself after crushing his knees in a weight-lifting accident.
“I was experiencing chronic lower back pain before I starting Bikram yoga and after just a few months, I was pain free”.
Yoga is a unique physical practice in that it builds both flexibility and strength in one workout. I practice many forms of yoga, but I find Bikram to be particularly beneficial because of the heat that is generated through the practice. Besides the room being heated up above body temperature, the practice itself and the deep yogic breathing creates a fire that generates from the inside, out. This makes me that much more malleable, which means I can push my body beyond my perceived limits, without the risk of injury. The constant sweating and the pounding of my heart make me sure that I am getting a superior cardiovascular workout in the process. But yoga is not just body gymnastics- it’s a mental and spiritual workout too. Focus, concentration, mental poise, boosted self-esteem; relaxation and present moment centered awareness are just some of the additional benefits to be reaped from a regular yoga practice.
For more information on Bikram Yoga in Johannesburg, contact Bikram Yoga Jozi by following the links alongside.