Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Technology of Bikram Yoga

The Merriam-Webster's Dictionary has four definitions of technology. Two of them are particularly applicable to Bikram yoga. One is "the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area" and another one is "a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods or knowledge."

Practically everything in life has a technology to it, from cooking to fixing a car. There is an exact manner to accomplish a certain task.

As you can see from these definitions, Bikram Yoga is a technology, but what is it a technology for? We'll get to that shortly. First, let's take a look at the first definition. Bikram is most definitely a practical application of knowledge in a particular area. The knowledge has been gleaned through quite literally thousands of years of experience with hatha yoga and distilled by Bikram into a series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises practiced in a hot room. As for the second definition above, Bikram yoga is certainly a manner of accomplishing a task, but which task?

The simplest way to put it is this: Bikram Yoga is a workable technology for healing the body. It doesn't mean it's the best technology, or the only technology, or that Bikram only heals the body and nothing else. It just means it works. One could certainly make a case that there are other, non-physical benefits to Bikram, some of which I have discussed in my blog earlier. However, mental and spiritual benefits are harder to quantify and highly subjective. So for our purposes, we'll stick with the physical healing aspects. Talk to anyone who practices Bikram regularly and they can tell you things that have been healed in their body, plus there are the untold number of ailments that are prevented from practicing.

However there is one caveat with this technology - it has to be applied correctly, by both the teachers and students. This means proper dialogue, a hot room, trying the postures the right way, etc. If some of these points aren't present, maybe the yoga will work and maybe it won't. That's why it's important to try the postures the right way, do all 26 postures in class (both sets) as much as possible and insist on correct dialogue and a hot room. If those points all exist, your body will improve and heal itself.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Posture Discussion Part XIII - Cobra Pose

Now we get into the discussion of my least favorite part of class - the spine strengthening series. As you've heard, the postures you like the least are the ones you need the most and all four of the spine strengthening series fit that description for me. As much as I don't look forward to these four postures, they are the ones that completely handled my back pain that existed prior to starting Bikram. They are fantastic for working all the different parts of the spine.

The first of these postures is Cobra pose, which works the lower back, and you can absolutely feel it in your lower back. Once in a while (not very often) my lower back is a little sore going into class but after this posture any soreness goes away immediately. Lower back pain is such a common occurrence that literally millions of people consider it a normal fact of existence and there are innumerable "cures" out there for lower back pain. Special chairs, special beds, special keyboards, pills, chiropractors, you name it, but this posture can put your spine in such good shape that you won't have to worry about lower back pain again.

It took me a while to get the form of this posture and the set up is extremely important. At first I didn't really feel like I was getting much of the posture, and I probably wasn't, but then I had some teachers check out my form and made a few corrections and I noticed a drastic improvement after that. As usual, the dialogue is excellent about what to do, but I would suggest having a teacher closely check out the position of your hands in the set up. It can make a world of difference.