Bikram yoga, a discipline that takes its name from it's founder, is today one of the most popular forms of yoga. Those who are new to yoga itself may find it surprising, but there are various schools of thought and different disciplines within yoga. Hatha yoga and bikram yoga are probably the two most popular of these disciplines. While they do share a lot in common, hatha yoga is a more traditional type of yoga, and is often used as the term to describe the very practice of yoga. Bikram yoga on the other hand is quite a specific and structured discipline that includes all of the key elements of yoga.
Bikram yoga is also popularly referred to as hot yoga, and it can be a lot more strenuous as compared to the slow paced hatha yoga. As with any other yoga discipline, bikram yoga does include asanas or poses that are common to all branches of yoga. The difference being in the sequence of practice, the recommended environment, and the methods of practice. Bikram yoga asanas or postures are practiced in synchrony with yoga breathing techniques that are known as pranayams. Bikram yoga breathing is an essential aspect of the practice along with the 26 postures that constitute bikram yoga asanas.
The key difference between bikram yoga and other disciplines is however the environment in which it is practiced. The name that it is commonly referred to by, 'hot yoga', should give you some inkling of the difference. Bikram yoga essentially involves the practice of bikram yoga asanas in combination with bikram yoga breathing, in a room or studio that is maintained at a temperature of around 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Some of the bikram yoga benefits stem from this very practice. The heated environment help make the muscles a lot more supple and flexible, enabling the practitioner to execute the poses with greater ease, and less risk of injury.
Unlike other disciplines of yoga that include a plethora of postures in their repertoire, enabling advanced and fresh students to choose different poses, bikram yoga has just 26 postures. This may raise the doubts, with beginners wondering if some of those poses may be too tough, while advanced students may worry about them being too simplistic. The malleability of yoga postures however is one of the elements that makes yoga such a universal discipline. Poses for beginners can be modified to suit their abilities, while bikram yoga advanced postures are the very same poses, modified to be more challenging.
A bikram yoga session always comprises of 26 practices, beginning with bikram yoga breathing exercises or pranayamas. This is followed by the Half Moon Pose and hands to Feet pose, after which you move into the Awkward Pose and then the Eagle Pose. These are followed by the Standing Head to Knee Pose, the Standing Bow Pulling Pose, the Balancing Stick Pose, the Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose, the Triangle Pose, the Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose, the Tree Pose, and concluding with the Toe Stand Pose. This is not really the end of the session, but bikram yoga asanas practice is broken into two, with the first twelve postures being practiced in the standing position while the remaining are in the seated or reclining position. The remaining poses would be practiced in the following order:
The Dead Body Pose, the Wind Removing Pose, the Sit-up, the Cobra Pose, the Locust Pose, the Full Locust Pose, the Bow Pose, the Fixed Firm Pose, the Half Tortoise Pose, the Camel Pose, the Rabbit Pose, the Head to Knee Pose, and the Spine Twisting Pose. Your session concludes with the Blowing in Firm Pose.
Do bear in mind that bikram yoga benefits may be plentiful, but this discipline is not meant for everyone. If you have a sensitivity to humidity or are susceptible to heat strokes and dehydration, bikram yoga may not be the best idea. Pregnant women are also advised against the practice.