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Bikram yoga: getting in shape at over 40 degrees

Bikram yoga: getting in shape at over 40 degrees

Bikram Yoga was created for healing in a country like India, where going to the doctor or getting medicine was very difficult. With its expansion to the USA, it became popular and is now the favourite exercise of celebrities. Macarena Cutillas, director of Californian Hot Yoga in Madrid, left her job as a lawyer to learn and teach this discipline.


 

Bikram or Hot Yoga is somewhat special. It is done in a room at 42ºC and with 40% humidity. During the class, students obey a teacher who gives instructions for 90 minutes. The instructor talks constantly so that students are not distracted and do not think how hot it is. "It must be a conscious exercise," says another teacher of the centre.

Where does this form of yoga come from?

This type of yoga was invented by Bikram Choudhury, who was born in Calcutta. This Indian injured one of his knees and could not move. Then he started to do yoga with a great guru, Bishnu Ghosh, who was Yogananda's brother and one of the first who brought yoga to the West. Choudhury was completely cured and began to help the guru. What they did was to treat and heal people with stomach pains, shoulder pains, headaches ... giving them a posture for each problem. They could only heal 15 people a day, because they had to attend them one by one, so they began group healing with Bikram Yoga.

And how did it become popular?

It was in the 70s. The president of the United States, Richard Nixon, learned that this type of yoga was being done and called Bikram Choudhury. Nixon had thrombosis in his left leg, he was lying on a bed and Bikram cured him. It was just at the time of Shirley Maclaine, the Hollywood star, who was also a Bikram fan, and it became famous through these two people. The main centre was in California, which is why our centre is called Californian Hot Yoga, and from there it was distributed to the whole world.

Californian Hot Yoga in Madrid was the first centre in Spain to teach several hot yoga disciplines. Based on the good results of Bikram, they adapted different types of yoga, such as Hatha and Vinyasa, to do them at different temperatures. The idea is that the student can do different types of yoga because "we are not the same every day," says Macarena.

What benefits does this kind of yoga have today?

The first benefit is that it rejuvenates the body. It is said that we yogis are at the age at which we began to do it. Bikram Yoga sends fresh and oxygenated blood to all the cells of the body; it rejuvenates every cell, every organ, every gland ... Another of its benefits is loss of weight, not only because of the heat, which helps, but also because we work on the thyroid and parathyroid glands, which are sometimes numbed by the pace of the lives we ​​lead today, and are responsible for fat burning and loss of weight. Through yoga we send them signals and blood to wake them up. It also heals back, throat and neck pain, bad digestion ... And lastly and most importantly, it heals the mind, which we have stressed and on the go all day long. We make it stop for 90 minutes and concentrate only on what it is doing. In this way you connect with what you really are, which is the ultimate goal of Bikram Yoga.

The University of Texas did a study and determined that the benefits of traditional yoga, or other types of yoga, were the same as those obtained with Bikram Yoga. Do you agree?

All yoga is good because they are postures that work the whole body. The difference with hot yoga is that it enhances the yoga itself. We enhance the yoga, the benefits and the effects of each posture and every breathing exercise we do. It is amazing how a person who does Bikram for two weeks changes both in body and mind.

It is very striking that exercise is done at 42ºC. Is there any danger in doing yoga at such a high temperature?

The same danger you have when you walk or run down the street. We have been working on this for many years, studies have been carried out all over the world and we have never seen anything happen. The heat is the same as when you go to the Caribbean: the first day you are a bit sleepy and the second you are peacefully having a cocktail on the beach. This is exactly the same. It is about getting the body and mind used to it.

So, can a person who has never done yoga do it?

There is often a lot of confusion and we believe that yoga is putting your "leg" behind your head, but the truth is not that at all. Everyone can do yoga and even more Bikram Yoga, which is made for everyone. Bikram Choudhury has a phrase that is, "You're never too sick, you're never too old, you're never too bad to start doing Bikram Yoga". You are never too old, you are not too overweight, and you are not too bad to come to class.

And what does a person who has never done hot yoga have to take into account for their first class?

The recommendations we give are to drink two litres of water a day, to have an empty stomach for two hours before coming to class, and simply to stop when you cannot go on, to sit down, breathe and, when you're better, to join the others.

This type of yoga is very fashionable. Celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Miley Cyrus and Zinedine Zidane already do it. Why do you think it has become so popular?

I think it's because its origin started in Hollywood with Shirley Maclaine and from there it became very famous, and also because it feels very good. A 90-minute class is the same as 12 km running for the heart. It is also good for the soul, because they say that you sweat and that you get rid of your sorrows too.

You have been teaching for many years, have you seen any concrete case in which yoga has changed someone's life?

Yes, mine first. I used to be a lawyer, I worked a lot of hours a day and I changed completely thanks to Bikram Yoga. It has also changed many people. For example, I have a student who had been through a separation and had a serious weight problem. By doing Bikram Yoga, 8 months down the line, he has lost all his extra weight and he is delighted. In fact, he has even got a girlfriend.

"The ultimate goal of Bikram Yoga is to connect you with what you really are"

The University of Texas did a study and determined that the benefits of traditional yoga, or other types of yoga, were the same as those obtained with Bikram Yoga. Do you agree?

All yoga is good because they are postures that work the whole body. The difference with hot yoga is that it enhances the yoga itself. We enhance the yoga, the benefits and the effects of each posture and every breathing exercise we do. It is amazing how a person who does Bikram for two weeks changes both in body and mind.

It is very striking that exercise is done at 42ºC. Is there any danger in doing yoga at such a high temperature?

The same danger you have when you walk or run down the street. We have been working on this for many years, studies have been carried out all over the world and we have never seen anything happen. The heat is the same as when you go to the Caribbean: the first day you are a bit sleepy and the second you are peacefully having a cocktail on the beach. This is exactly the same. It is about getting the body and mind used to it.

So, can a person who has never done yoga do it?

There is often a lot of confusion and we believe that yoga is putting your "leg" behind your head, but the truth is not that at all. Everyone can do yoga and even more Bikram Yoga, which is made for everyone. Bikram Choudhury has a phrase that is, "You're never too sick, you're never too old, you're never too bad to start doing Bikram Yoga". You are never too old, you are not too overweight, and you are not too bad to come to class.

And what does a person who has never done hot yoga have to take into account for their first class?

The recommendations we give are to drink two litres of water a day, to have an empty stomach for two hours before coming to class, and simply to stop when you cannot go on, to sit down, breathe and, when you're better, to join the others.

This type of yoga is very fashionable. Celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Miley Cyrus and Zinedine Zidane already do it. Why do you think it has become so popular?

I think it's because its origin started in Hollywood with Shirley Maclaine and from there it became very famous, and also because it feels very good. A 90-minute class is the same as 12 km running for the heart. It is also good for the soul, because they say that you sweat and that you get rid of your sorrows too.

You have been teaching for many years, have you seen any concrete case in which yoga has changed someone's life?

Yes, mine first. I used to be a lawyer, I worked a lot of hours a day and I changed completely thanks to Bikram Yoga. It has also changed many people. For example, I have a student who had been through a separation and had a serious weight problem. By doing Bikram Yoga, 8 months down the line, he has lost all his extra weight and he is delighted. In fact, he has even got a girlfriend.