Bikram yoga is named after its founder – Bikram Choudhury and was developed from traditional yoga techniques. The crucial difference, however, is that the exercises are carried out in a room heated to 105°F with humidity of 40%. The increased temperature supposedly allows for better injury prevention, deeper stretching and tension relief.
During the 90 minute workout, participants run through 26 poses and two breathing exercises. The postures (traditionally called asanas) are usually performed twice and held for a certain period of time. They begin with the Standing Postures, moving on to the Backbends, Forward bends and Twists, according to ABC of Yoga.
Bikram yoga is said to help the body release toxins, encourage weight loss, build muscle tone and improve the immune system, as well as increasing flexibility. Increased perspiration and deeper breathing have also been linked to better blood circulation.
However, critics of the practise have questioned the safety of performing strenuous exercise in a room heated to over 100 degrees. It has been suggested that Bikram yoga could cause the body to heat up at an unnatural rate and lead to the build-up of lactic acid in the muscles – causing stiffness the next day, Thank God I’m Natural points out. The sudden drop of temperature when exiting the room could also send the body into shock and make it more vulnerable to illness. Hence, it is advisable to spend around 10 minutes after the workout stretching in a cooler room.
But along with critics, the controversial exercise routine has also attracted hoards of followers, including yoga enthusiasts Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston. The former Friends star recently appeared in the introduction on her yoga trainer’s exercise DVD, entitled “Yogalosophy” and has previously stated that yoga got her through the painful divorce from Brad Pitt and helped her quit smoking.
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