every other day

For the past couple months I’ve been doing Bikram Yoga two to three times a week. Bikram involves doing two sets of 26 yoga postures and two breathing exercises yoga in the same order for 90-minutes in a 105-degree room. The first posture is twice the time of the second posture. Between each set and posture yogis are supposed to savasana, which is Sandskrit for dead body pose. The purpose of savasana is to relax our mind and concentrate on our next pose.

Bikram Yoga is a series of postures that aim to compress and stretch the muscles, ligaments, joints and spine, which all become more pliable in a hot and humid room. I suspect an additionally benefit of the heat and humidity is to create a distraction that beginning yogi‘s learn to overcome. The benefits of Bikram Yoga are increased flexibility, weight-loss, increased energy, healthier skin and a sense of accomplishment after completing a class. A Bikram Yoga class cost anywhere from $12-20 per session so when I go to class I try to extract my money’s worth. This means I drink at least a liter of water prior to class and do not eat any food at least 2.5 hours before class. Yogis need to bring a quart of water, a yoga mat, towel and some skimpy but flexible clothing. Beginning yogis can expect to feel nauseous, sick, dizzy and a loss of sensation in their extremities during class; all of which is normal.

This is due in part to a lack of hydration and a general discomfort associated with having to continually stretch in such an inhospitably environment. The point of this blog post is to describe the postures and breathing exercises in the hopes helping me achieve better form and depth in my own yoga postures. The class starts with Standing Deep Breathing or Pranayama breathing.

Standing on your mat with your feet together, interlock your fingers, touch your elbows together and place your fists under your chin. Suck in your stomach, and expose your ribcage. As you breath in slowly through your nose, raise your elbows up to the top of your head. After six seconds of breathing in, begin exhaling through your mouth and use your knuckles to push your head back while keeping your forearms parallel to the ground. As your head rolls back try looking at the wall behind you. The goal of this posture is to clear your mind, keep your spin straight and learn to control your mind through breathing. We repeat this exercise breathing in and out 20 times before taking a little savasana and repeating the posture again. After this we only breathe in and out through our nose.

Half Moon Pose or Ardha-Chandrasana

Next we move onto Half Moon Pose, which consists of four poses and two warm up poses. Start with your feet together and hands clasped overhead. Keeping your knees locked, bend to the right and left to loosen up our spine. After a few seconds go back to the middle with hands overhead, take a deep breath, suck in your stomach, stretch your hands to the ceiling and bend to the right as you begin exhaling. Exhaling allows you to bend deeper into the posture but the emphasis is always on proper form over depth. Your biceps should cover your ears and keeping your chin up so your neck is exposed. Take small breathes in and out as you let the inside of your back fold while stretching the outside of your back. After 30 seconds you return upright with your hands above your head and lean over to the left for another 30 seconds. Returning upright with your hands above your head, sweat will begin dripping off your body as you drop you head back and bend backwards trying to point your fingers at the heals of your feet. This is a tough posture to do the first time, as our back isn’t warmed up or flexible yet but we maintain this posture for 20 seconds before returning upright with our hands above our head. Next we reach forward, put our palms on the ground in front of our feet and alternate lifting our heels off the ground to stretch our calves. After our calves are stretched we suck in our stomachs, place our forearms along the back of our calves and place all ten fingers under our left and right heels. With our feet together we step on our fingers, put our forehead to our knees and begin pulling with our arms, trying to straighten our legs. The point is to get your forehead to your lower thigh, keep your eyes open, breath normal and lock your knees. This poses last for 30 seconds but feels like an eternity you breath the warm, salty air between your thighs and sweat drips in your eyes and nose. After this we repeat all four poses but only the last warm up pose.

Awkward Pose or Utkatasana

We start this series of three poses with our feet six inches apart, approximately the width of ten fingers, and raise our hands out in front of us so our arms are parallel to the ground. Our hands should be slightly lower then our shoulders when you are looking in a mirror. With our hands and head up we bend our knees, stick our ass back and putt all of our weight on the heels. We stop when our thighs are parallel to the ground and we keep our hands, thighs and feet six inches apart. After 30 seconds we stand up keeping our arms parallel to the ground and stand up on our tippy toes. With our hands up we bend our knees, rising higher on our toes and continue bending our knees until our thighs are parallel to the ground. The goal is to keep your backs straight as if we were sliding down a wall while rising as high as possible on our toes. This pose requires good balance and maintaining six inches between our hands, thighs and feet for 30 seconds before we stand upright again. Lastly, we keep our hands up, rise up on our toes a couple inches and push our thighs together. We rise up on our toes and keep bending our knees until our ass is within a couple of inches from our heels. Our hips should be above our knees so if a ball was placed on our lap it would roll forward before falling onto the floor. We hold this pose for 30 seconds before standing up. We savasana and repeat all three poses.

Eagle Pose or Garurasana

With our feet side by side we raise our hands above our head and move our right arm beneath our left arm and interlock our fingers. Hunching over, we shift our weight to our left foot and wrap our right leg above our left thigh. The goal is to get our right leg as high on the left leg as possible and while getting our right toes to wrap around our left angle. After our toes are wrapped around we lean back trying to sit down as low as possible. Hold this pose for 30 seconds before standing up, wrapping our left arm beneath our right arm and our left leg around our right leg, leaning back and sitting as low as possible. We hold this pose for 30 seconds before repeating both poses again. At this point we have our only official water break, where yogis have 30 seconds to hydrate and/or wipe sweat from their brow.