Inverted poses are a staple of many studies of yoga. However, in the increasingly popular Birkam yoga, no inversions are to be found. Here we examine inversions, Birkham yoga, and why the two do not mix.
What Is Bikram Yoga?
Bikram yoga was developed by Bikram Choudhury. It is unique from other types of yoga for many reasons. Bikram yoga, or “hot yoga,” involves a 90 minute session of highly challenging yoga poses. The session is held under adverse environmental conditions. It is performed in a room kept at a high temperature, averaging 105 degrees farenheit, with 40 to 60 degree humidity. The reasons for these intense conditions include simulating the climate of India, where yoga originated, inspiring intense sweating, and allow muscles to be more flexible. Among the 26 specific, and often difficult, poses done in an average Bikram routine, you will find no inversions. This is rare in routine as challenging as bikram.
What Are Inversions?
An inversion pose in yoga is any pose that raises the feet above the head. Popular inverted poses include the shoulderstand, the headstand, and the half shoulderstand. Technically even lying on your back and raising your legs about the level of your head is considered an inverted pose, thought not a challenging one.
Inversions are used in yoga for many different reasons. They are believed to create a sense of “Viparita karani” or “opposite process” in the student. Allowing the student to see the world from an unfamiliar, opposite perspective. Some yoga instructors believe inverted poses help burn off impurities congealed in the lower abdomen, by pushing them toward the digestive fire of the upper abdomen. The more tangible health related benefits include increased circulation and sending more blood to the brain.
Not for Beginners
Inverted poses are attractive and dramatic. Talented beginning and intermediate yoga students can often achieve a rough copy of the poses. However, these poses are much more difficult to do correctly. Done by an expert, they can be held for near ten minutes, the time many professionals believe is necessary to reap the benefits of inversion. Done incorrectly by a beginner, the poses can be very dangerous with little benefit. They can result in long term damage to the neck, back and spine. The necessity to do the poses correctly is the reason Bikram does not include inversions in its routine.
Bikram Still Offers the Benefits
The purpose of Bikram yoga is to “to systematically stimulate and restore health to every muscle, joint and organ of the body.” The founder of Bikram did not believe inversions were necessary to accomplish these goals. Some of the benefits yoga practitioners believe are gained from inversions are stimulated in many standard Bikram poses. These benefits include blood flow to the brain, reduction of blood pressure, and compression of the thyroid gland. Bikram instructors have been known to invite advanced students, who have shown constant devotion to the practice of yoga, into advanced classes that include instruction in inversions. But for Bikram proper, inversions are not needed.
If you are fond of inversion in yoga, Bikram will not provide you with what you enjoy. However, if you are not a highly trained yoga practitioner, it might be better to build your skills before attempting the serious challenge of a proper inversion.