I’ve recently come back from Yogaville for the second time in the past two months. Yogaville (yes, there really is such a place) is a wonderful spot in the very center of Virginia where Swami Satchitanada (who became famous after blessing the opening of the Woodstock festival) re-located his ashram. In February, I was honored be a Faculty Assistant for the same Viniyoga teacher training I completed. Then during the first weekend in April, I went again to assist my teacher, Gary Kraftsow, with a workshop on Yoga Therapy for Structural Conditions (or, how to ease the pain in your neck, upper back, shoulders &/or low back).
It is worth the trip to Yogaville to see the amazing LOTUS temple, shaped like a pink lotus, sitting on the banks of the James River, with the Blue Ridge mountains in the background. The second level of the temple is a large meditation space but the first level is a wonderful museum dedicated to all religions of the world, including those that have not been founded yet. I appreciate the Swami ‘s belief in all-inclusiveness and the fact that he celebrated the diversity of the world’s religions. As my t-shirt reads, “Truth is One, Paths are Many”.
After watching how Viniyoga works magic on practitioners of varying ages and situations, my recent visits to Yogaville have also made me think about how many different paths there are to yoga. Specifically, I’ve been mulling over one popular path to yoga in the U.S. today: Bikram or Hot Yoga.
Bikram Yoga was developed by a man named Bikram Choudhry. A Bikram practice consists of the same 26 postures or asanas performed in the same order in a room with the temperature set to 105 degrees. Choudhry’s idea is to replicate the temperature conditions in India, claiming that his system of yoga cures almost anything by sweating.
I do believe that there are many paths to find your own truth and I have traveled the yoga expressway for over 20 years, experiencing many different forms of yoga, including Bikram yoga and its derivation, Hot Yoga. That said, I want to offer a few thoughts about this particular form of yoga for your consideration of your own yoga practice and general health.
- This is a quote from the Bikram Yoga site:
“These studios are built in such a way that you always get the proper heating which help you practice your postures optimally. Bikram calls these studios ‘Torture Chambers’.”
- I’m sure when you sweat like crazy in that “torture chamber”, you feel like you’ve really purged. Surely, there must be toxins streaming out of your pores! Sorry, but it’s not true. Really, all it does is dehydrate you. If you like to sweat, seek out a sauna or steam room, relax and drink lots of water. In addition to dehydration in a Bikram/Hot yoga class, you also run the risk of physical injury because the super hot temperature fools the mind into thinking that the muscles are warmed up when they’re really not.
- Female and 50ish? Struggling with night sweats &/or hot flashes? An Ayurvedist would tell you that exercising in a super hot room will only exacerbate these issues. Try your yoga practice at a regular room temp for a while and see what happens.
- Those with high blood pressure or heart issues are playing with fire in an over-heated room – no pun intended. Just ask your doctor.
I’m not even going to talk about the fact that Bikram Choudhry conducts his classes in a Speedo, has been convicted of sexual misconduct, and that his other business is a Rolls Royce dealership, because one man shouldn’t taint the larger picture. My only suggestion is to consider your goal for your yoga practice. If your only goal is weight loss and toning, then this very physical, strenuous practice might work for you for a while. If you are looking for more, for the real benefits of a 5000-year-old health maintenance system, then seek out authentic traditions, like Viniyoga, that are true and sustainable.
With Viniyoga, we design the practice to fit the practitioner, whatever your goal might be. Want to know more? Consider my special package to get your started with your own personal practice or just email me.