Sonntag, 31. Mai 2009

Bikram Yoga

I've been trying to get into Yoga before (twice, to be exact) and - although I've always seen the benefits of it - I could never quite keep it going. On one hand, I've never liked being tied down to a regular "weekly" class on a certain day; on the other hand I'd always found it hard to establish a regular practice routine at home.

This has changed since I discovered Bikram Yoga a few weeks ago, which - to me - offers everything that previous Yoga classes were lacking, and more. I had heard that "Hot Yoga" was very popular in the US, but - although the idea of practising Yoga in a heated room made sense to me - I thought of it as just another American marketing trick to make more money out of the health/fitness/spirituality boom. After all, this boom is still ongoing, and Yoga instructors worldwide have without a doubt benefited from it over the last few decades.

What I didn't know was that there's actually one guy standing behind the concept of "Hot Yoga". That guy is Bikram Choudhuri, who was born in Calcutta, won the prestigious National India Yoga Competition at the age of 13, and later emigrated to the USA to invent "his" kind of Yoga - Bikram Yoga - and sell it all over the country by franchise. Meanwhile, there are more than 1.700 Bikram Yoga studios worldwide, so this form of Yoga is probably one of the most - if not the most - commercially successful. However, I wasn't aware of all this, let alone the fact that the first Austrian Bikram Yoga Studio opened its doors in Vienna around 3 years ago.

Bikram Choudhuri may be a somewhat controversial figure in the US Yoga scene (he lives in Hollywood/L.A., owns several vintage cars, and is known for critisizing other Yoga methods, often in a rude way), but after reading his inspiring & entertaining book (it is called "Bikram Yoga", as you might have guessed) I am convinced that this guy is more than just a smart businessman. I think he is what Americans would call the real deal, and that he can allow himself to be controversial, because his method speaks for itself, and anyone who will try Bikram Yoga will find that out for him/herself, just as I did.

One of the things that surprised me in his book was his advice on how often you should practice Bikram Yoga. I thought he would recommend 2-3 times a week (which should bring him enough customers and keep his studios from becoming overcrowded at the same time), but he insists that "you must practise your Hatha Yoga every day!" (Hatha Yoga, by the way, is a general term for any kind of physical Yoga, such as Bikram Yoga.) This left me a bit puzzled, or rather, frustrated. After all, who can afford the time & money to go to a Yoga studio every day? But at the same time, I was also intrigued and - after taking a few "introductory" classes (which were nothing less than fantastic, by the way) - I decided to participate in a "Bikram Yoga Challenge", which is offered at our studio in June. That is 30 consecutive days of Yoga. You can choose any class you want, but you have to come each day.

So, from tomorrow on, I will be in a 38°C heated room for 90 minutes each day, practising the signature Bikram Yoga "sequence", which consists of 26 asanas (postures) and 2 pranayamas (breathing exercises). Thus, according to Adam Riese, the next 4 weeks will consist of 30 hours of working (in my regular job) and 10,5 hours of working out at the Bikram Yoga College in Vienna. However, Yoga is far more than a "workout", and I am very curious and eager to find out where this experience will take me.

One of Bikram's most beloved quotes is: "There's only one way - the right way. And the right way is the hard way". I like this quote, because it may well be applied to many other things than Yoga, and since I wanna do the challenge the right way, I will also avoid any alcohol, nicotine, caffeine or similar substances for the next 30 days. Since I'm neither a smoker, nor a regular drinker, nor a coffee addict, I think this will probably be the easiest part for me. A lot easier than the exercise itself, that's for sure.

After finishing the challenge, I will try to sum up my experience in words, and in the meantime I can only encourage you to buy a "Yoga Virgin Card" for approx. 10 EUR at your nearest Bikram Yoga Studio, and try it out for yourself.

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