Category Archives: About Bikram Yoga

OMB Conversation: it’s all in the Details

by Barbora Simek

 

The February 2011 issue of Details Magazine featured a full article on Bikram Yoga under a gasp-inducing title. The Overheated, Oversexed Cult of Bikram Choudhury, was undoubtably sold to an editor as a racy behind the scenes expose into the culture and sexlives of teacher trainees. Understandably, many of the yogis in the Bikram community have stood up to declare their disappointment and outrage at the content. At OMB we want to know what you think of Bikram’s latest press scandal.

Here is what I think…

The article describes the routine of teacher training from the perspective of an outsider, while exploring the sex lives of male trainees. And to be honest, for any guy going to training in hopes of finding a mate, the odds are stacked in their favor. I know few men who go to training and DON’T take advantage of these odds. Relationships, flings, marriages and more start at training and it is no secret. While the drastic majority of teacher trainees take to heart Bikrams “no kissy kissy…” instructions, the majority of male trainees indulge in the opportunity before them.

Some people on the Details page call for the writer to be barred from his profession as a professor while others lecture that he has missed the point of yoga. I would argue, that many of these people have missed the point of journalism.

More after the jump… Continue reading

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Sweat the Small Stuff: a photo essay

by Barbora Simek (text) and Caitlin Hicks (photos)

Photographer and yogini Caitlin Hicks joins OMB with her stunning yoga photo essay. Hicks is a fourth-year photography student at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD). The images below are a part of her final project in which she photographs yogis of Bikram Yoga Toronto.

“In photographing this series, I aimed to get away from the idea of photographing each pose, instead I examined the intense form and focus that is required throughout the 26 postures,” said Hicks.

More after the Jump….

Continue reading

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An open letter to a new student on their first class

by Barbora Simek

Dear New Student,

Welcome. Like it or not you are now a part of the Bikram Yoga family. Whether today’s class will become something that is laughed about with friends and never attempted again, a daily routine, an occasional pass time or obsession, your experience today will stay with you forever. This means I have ninety minutes, and ninety minutes only to show you a practice I have dedicated a part of my life, my heart and much of my body to. So listen carefully, because this is important, this can change your life in ways you never thought possible.

I know the room is hot, and the poses are difficult. This is not because we are trying to prove something. This is because these specific elements: the postures, the heat, the mirrors, the style of teaching — are the perfectly combined to heal your body, heart and mind.

I know there are a lot of people. This is not because the studio is interested in a big pay-day. This is because the more we can practice together, the more we can share energy. Your neighbors will help you get through class, inspire you, become your friends and maybe even your future fiance (it’s happened more than once!) So be kind. Be patient. Because the more patient you can be with people here, the more patient you will be with them out there in the world.

I know my voice is loud. This is not because I want to dominate you. My voice is the best tool I have, along with the dialogue (the directions), to help you through your class today. When you feel weak, my voice will be strong to support you. When you are tired Continue reading

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Posture Clinic: Balancing Stick

by Barbora Simek

Balancing Stick

Tuladandasana

One of the most invigorating and challenging postures in the Bikram Yoga series, balancing stick is a hugely beneficial to the internal organs and as a large calorie burner, helps to tone the entire body. Like standing head-to-knee and standing bow-pulling pose, bringing the chest parallel to the floor helps to stimulate and strengthen heart giving huge cardiovascular benefit. Finally, it requires extreme concentration and helps to release emotion and open the heart.

Leslie Christiansen in Balancing Stick Pose photo: Bikram Yoga College of India


Anatomical Focus

Strengthens

  • Upper Thighs
  • Buttocks
  • Shoulders
  • Abdomen
  • Trapezius Muscles
  • Deltoids
  • Ankles

Stretches

  • Hip Joints
  • Shoulders
  • Full Stretch of the spine

Stimulates

  • Pancreas
  • Liver
  • Spleen
  • Kidneys
  • Nervous System

Physical Benefits

Improves balance

Increases endurance

Increases lung capacity

Stimulates the heart and arteries, strengthening the heart

Helps to clear blockages from arteries helping to prevent future cardiovascular problems

Helps varicose veins

Burns fat (up to 300 calories during the posture according to Rajishree Choudhury)

Slims waistline and eliminates deposits fat on the body

Relieves tension from the spine

Energetic Benefits

Activates and opens the heart chackra

Mental Benefits

Improves memory and concentration

Emotional Benefits

Releases doubt and fear of giving and receiving love (by activating the heart chackra)

Allows you to open yourself to love and soul expression

Posture Tips

BREATHE This is especially important because you are working the cardiovascular system which is aided by the respiratory system

SUCK YOUR STOMACH IN, using the abdominal muscles in this posture will stabilize your core and will ultimately help you to balance in the posture.

Point your toes from beginning. After you step forward and before you bring your body down, lift your back leg one inch off the floor, and point your toes.

Improvement in balancing stick will help your locust pose and vice versa.

Tips from the Pros

The set up determines how well you will do the posture, lock everything before (knees, elbows, etc) so that you will have more stability in the posture – Craig

Lean back slightly in the set up to stretch the chest as you step into the posture – Craig

Come down absolutely straight, and use your strength immediately – Bikram

Use your eyes to continue the stretch of the spine, the spine stays straight but the eyes look forward – Craig

At the end of the posture stretch forward a little more than you stretch back – Craig

Check out more posture tips from Bikram Yoga NYC here

Tips for Teachers

Keep the set up in a regularly paced tone, once the student is in the posture make the dialogue more energetic – Craig

“Sound is almost the same as solid matter. Voice and volume is tangible.” Craig Villani

Because of the intensity of the posture, you must increase your vocal energy and intensity to help the students complete and endure through the pose.

Put emphasis on stretching forward. Before coming to the repetition of ‘stretch, stretch, stretch’ at the end of the pose, make sure the final instruction is to stretch forward. – Craig

Correcting the alignment of the hips is a correction for intermediate and advanced students only, not for beginners – Craig

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Posture Clinic: Why back-bending is good for your spine.

“If you have a good spine, the gods will chase you. Nobody has psychological or emotional problems, everyone has a bad spine.” Bikram Choudhury

Ashley Hooper and Elisa Matthews back-bending photo: Bikram Yoga College of India

by Barbora Simek

Understanding why and how back-bending is beneficial for the spine is a challenge for many yoga students. For many, back-bending is an emotionally charged, challenging and often uncomfortable part of practice. However despite its discomforts back-bending can be one of the most therapeutic parts of a yoga practice.

Think of all the time you spend bending forward in a day, from enjoying a coffee with a newspaper, to driving, to typing at a computer, cleaning or lounging with a friend. The reality is, we spend most of our day in an unsupported forward bend.

Internally, forward bending causes the front of vertebrae move closer together, forcing the inter-vertebral disks and spinal nerves back. Prolonged poor posture can:

  • cause or aggravate back and neck pain
  • constrict blood-flow and put pressure on vital organs and glands preventing them from functioning properly
  • has been shown to have negative effects on self-esteem and mood in studies

Ironically, when most people experience back pain or discomfort their first reaction is to bend forward, not knowing it is the cause of their discomfort. In reality back-bending is what is needed to counter-act the impact of continuous forward bending. This impulse is not easy to unlearn.

First it is important to recognize that back-bending is a natural range of motion for the spine. “Think of monkeys or children climbing in a tree who reach backward for a branch, the spine bends backward,” says Jeff Weisman a Toronto based Bikram Yoga teacher and Hellerworker.

As you bend backwards you compress the posterior part of your spinal column, pushing your disks away from the spinal nerves and decompress the front of the vertebrae. This effectively counteracts the damage of hours spent forward bending.

Those concerned and intimidated by back-bending should rest assured that the controlled environment and proper progression of the Bikram Yoga series allows for back-bends to be preformed safely. For those with limitations and injuries, remember to speak to your instructor, move slowly and listen to your body.

Physical Benefits

  • Stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and prepares the body for action.
  • Helps counteract damage of bad posture.
  • Relieves back pain, bronchial distress, scoliotic deformities, tennis elbow, frozen shoulder.
  • Realigns the spine.
  • Promotes proper kidney function.
  • Helps with digestive function, eliminating constipation and flatulence.

Energetic Benefits

  • Stimulates all the chackras, primarily creating opening in the fourth (heart) chackra.

Emotional Benefits

  • Helps to break through insecurity and fear.
  • Relieves stress and tedium.
  • Opening the lower back helps to free you from insecurity and taking yourself too seriously.
  • Helps to build confidence and self-esteem in children.

Tips from the Pros

Allow your exhale to lower you into your maximum depth, allow your inhale to lift you up and forward. Reverse this pattern on purpose by pulling backward more vigorously into the posture during the inhalation (taking you more fulling into the posture) and then relaxing and easing off the posture during the exhale (thereby reducing tension).- Anatomy of Hatha Yoga, Dr. H. David Coulter

“Lift your breastbone up as you go down into it, instead of jamming only the lower waistband spine.
You HAVE to have your elbows pressing IN, not bowing out before you go down.

Also, LIFT the front of the neck and shoulders and armpits before you drop down.

Then you lift UP, OUT and OVER your waistband spine so you do not get that crimping feeling.” – Mary Jarvis for All Back-bending Heals the Spine

Do not contract the gluteal muscles until you reach your maximum expression then tighten – Rajishree Choudhury (for more read this article)

The standing back-bend is regulated by locked knees – Craig Villani

Drop the head back as far as it goes. The head and arms do not need to stay together. – Bikram Choudhury

Tips for teachers

Beginners are always afraid of back-bending. Make sure to stress that the hips, stomach, legs everything must come forward. – Bikram Choudhury

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Posture Clinic : Full Locust Pose

by Barbora Simek

Full Locust Pose

Poorna Shalabhasana

Ashley Hooper in Full Locust Pose image: Bikram Yoga College of India


“This is the hardest posture to improve. No matter who you are if you just struggle, you will get 110% benefit.” Bikram Choudhury

Anatomical Focus

Strengthens/ Firms:

Lower and Upper Back

Muscles of the upper arm (deltoids, triceps)

Abdominal Muscles

Bottocks

Muscles of the upper thigh (hamstrings)

Calf Muscles

Stimulates:

Liver

Spleen

Benefits: Continue reading

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Toronto’s Advanced Schedule April 11th – 16th

MondayBikram Yoga Bloor 2pm after the 12:00 class (lead by Damien, Teshia or Halliday)

TuesdayBikram Yoga Centre 10:15 after the 8:30 class (lead by Tara or Teshia)

WednesdayBikram Yoga Beaches 2pm after the 12:00 class (lead by Damien, Teshia or Halliday)

ThursdayBikram Yoga Centre 10:15 after the 8:30 class (lead by Tara or Teshia)

FridayBikram Yoga Bloor 2pm after the 12:00 class (lead by Damien, Teshia or Halliday)

SaturdayBikram Yoga Centre 1:30 after the 11:30 class (lead by Tara or Teshia)

*schedule is subject to sudden change, please call studios in advance to double check times.

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