One of the things I enjoy most about running Hot Bikram Yoga studios is the feedback. Work’s such a pleasure when, almost on a daily basis, I receive an email or have a conversation with someone telling me how much Bikram’s helped them.
Bikram is the perfect foundation for any sport, particularly high-impact ones. Its help in preventing injuries means you’ll be able to enjoy high-impact sports such as running, rugby and football for longer, which is why so many athletes make it a vital part of their conditioning. “The bottom line for athletes is improved performance and they get it,” says osteopath Sophie Scott, who was responsible for introducing Fulham FC and Andy Murray to Hot Bikram Yoga.
Although Sophie is careful to advise caution during rehab (since the heat loosens things up and you might stretch something further than you should), Bikram meets her philosophy of the importance of a ‘global stretch’. This is where every area of the body is worked on rather than just the areas perceived as tight. It’s key to building strength too.
“People often forget about stretching, “ she says, “but it’s impossible to have strength without flexibility. Stretching really is something you should try to build into your routine. You need a good range of motion before you can work on strength.”
The founder of Bikram yoga, Bikram Choudhury, was an Indian national yoga champion who, at 17, sustained a serious injury to his knee during a weight-lifting accident. With the guidance of Guru Bishnu Ghosh, he put together a sequence that would build strength in his knee and prevent him having to have surgery. And it worked.
That’s why, in a Bikram class, the teacher talks about “locking your knee” or a “locked-out leg”. But they don’t mean jarring it back. You learn to lift your kneecap – you’ll be able to see it happen in the mirrors – and engage the muscles around it. As you strengthen these muscles, they then help to protect your knees.
We employ incredibly sophisticated heating and ventilation equipment to maintain all our studios at a steady temperature of 105°F (40°C) and 60% humidity. Stretching into the asanas – the poses – is effectively remoulding your body and it’s much easier and safer when you’re in a room that’s close to body temperature. It also promotes sweating to flush out toxins.
Total body workout
The Bikram asanas combine strength, flexibility and balance to give you a total body workout. The sequence makes you work every area of your body (including some hard-to-reach muscle groups), which means it also helps to improve alignment.
Many of the poses have a tourniquet effect too, helping to push fresh, oxygenated blood to joints, muscles and organs to help your body recover more quickly after a hard training session. So it’s ideal for runners pounding out the miles.
International athlete Justina Heslop swears by Bikram: “It's balanced my uneven muscular frame (caused by five years of fencing at U17 and U20 level), resolved sciatica, and strengthened my IT band and knees. It’s also given me mental strength, perseverance and contentment. My knees still need work, but the yoga system seems the only lasting and enjoyable solution."
Find out more about Olga's studio at hotbikramyoga.co.uk.