The traditional 90-minute Bikram Yoga class is a rigorous series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises, suitable for all ages and levels of ability, performed in an environment of up to 105°F with 40% humidity. Each posture stretches, strengthens and prepares specific muscles, ligaments and joints for the next posture. The Bikram method also stimulates the organs, glands and nerves, moving fresh oxygenated blood to 100% of the body, restoring all systems to a healthy working order. Bikram Choudhury scientifically designed this series to deliver total health through the balancing and strengthening of every system in the body in order to prevent illness, injury, promote weight loss and limit the effects of aging. The series of postures combine skills of concentration, patience, determination and self-control, which increase mental clarity and reduce stress. Bikram Yoga is practiced in a heated room to warm your muscles, allow a deeper workout and cleanse the body by flushing toxins.
Bikram Choudhury began learning Hatha Yoga in his native India at the age of three. He began studying with Bishnu Ghosh (Paramahansa Yogananda’s brother) and quickly became a yoga champion. At 11, he was the youngest contestant ever to win the National India Yoga Competition. Swami Shivananda declared him “Yogi Raj,” King of the Yogis. A weightlifting accident crippled Bikram. But with the guidance of his guru, Bikram created his 26 posture series which restored his health. In a United Nations-sponsored research project at Tokyo University, Bikram helped doctors prove that yoga regenerates tissues and cures chronic ailments. Combining Eastern discipline and Western medicine, Bikram perfected his comprehensive system, suitable for all ages and levels of fitness. Bikram came to the U.S. in 1973 at the invitation of President Nixon and the urging of Shirley MacLaine. Since then, he has healed thousands of students and touched millions worldwide.
Standing Deep Breathing: Pranayama
- Make sure to breath slowly as this will facilitate lung expansion.
- Keep your back straight all the time and do not bend backwards. This will be easier to achieve if you suck your belly in so that your rib cage protrudes a bit.
- As you exhale, tilt your head back slightly, while keeping your eyes open.
- Shoulders should be kept in line with hips. Hips should be kept forward (you’ll achieve this by slightly squeezing your buttocks).
- When exhaling, make sure to breath out completely to get rid of every bit of CO2 in your lungs.
- Don’t worry if you feel a little dizzy or if you feel a slight pinch in the shoulder area – these are completely normal symptoms and indicate that you are doing things right.
- Helps transfer as much oxygen to your muscles and organs as possible, expands lungs, and increases focus.
- Improves blood circulation.
Half-Moon Pose with Hands-to-Feet Pose: Ardha Chandrasana with Pada Hastasana
- Lock arms and fully engage arm muscles
- Straighten body towards ceiling
- While bending backwards, evenly distribute this bend over all of your spine
- During Hands-to-Feet pose, glue body to legs and move elbows as close to each other as possible behind calf muscles
- Lift hips up towards the ceiling while moving face further down your legs
- Half Moon Pose strengthens every muscle in the body’s core, especially in the abdomen, and flexes and strengthens the latissimus dorsi, oblique, deltoid and trapezius muscles.
- Lessens anxiety and mental stress
- Increases the flexibility of the spine comprehensively, from coccyx to neck; promotes proper kidney function; and helps to cure enlargement of the liver and spleen.
- Firms and trims the waistline, hips, abdomen, buttocks and thighs. Strengthens thighs, calves, and all of body’s central muscles
- Improves bowel activity by toning abdominal organs and spinal nerves
- Provides quick energy and vitality for your practice session
- Corrects any issues with posture or with lower-back pain
- Exercises circulatory, glandular, pancreatic, muscular, respiratory, renal, and skeletal systems
Awkward Pose: Utkatasana
- Maintain 6-inch gap between knees and hands while keeping them parallel to floor
- Ensure that shoulders stay down by relaxing them throughout all 3 stages of this pose
- Ease exhaustion by focusing on stretching arms out
- Keep fingers together
- Breathe at normal pace through nose
- Continues warming up body for all other yoga poses
- Circulates fresh blood to knees and ankles
- Increases hip flexibility and relieves muscular aches and cramps
- Strengthens, firms, tones and shapes all muscles of your legs and upper arms.
- Heals chronically cold feet.
- It also helps relieve rheumatism and arthritis in the legs, and helps to cure slipped discs and other problems in the lower spine.
Eagle Pose: Garurasana
- Pull in stomach and keep it away from thighs
- Position fingers below nose
- Keep palms together
- Enter sitting posture and maintain straight spine
- Squeeze knees and thighs together in all areas that you feel contact between them to increase tourniquet effect
- Focus body weight onto heel of standing foot and eventually eliminate gap between wrapped foot and back of standing leg
- Warms body and readies it for next 3 poses
- Opens up and improves flexibility in the 14 largest joints in the skeletal system (ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, scapulae, elbows and wrists)
- Supplies fresh blood to the reproductive system and sex organs, plus the kidneys, which increases sexual vitality and helps clear up reproductive problems.
- Promotes health of central nervous system
- Enhances lymphatic functions
- Improves balance, hip-joint mobility, and immune system
- Strengthens deltoid, trapezius, and legs
- Reduces varicose veins
Standing Head-to-Knee Pose: Dandayamana Janushirasana
- Evenly distribute weight over 4 points of standing foot
- Lock knee of standing leg
- Maintain tight grip with all 10 fingers, including thumbs
- Keep non-standing leg parallel to floor
- Suck in stomach and contract abdominal muscles
- Move heel away from you and toes toward face and past perpendicular position
- Touch elbows to calf muscle
- Tuck chin to chest, round spine, and touch forehead to knee
- Improves the flexibility of the sciatic nerves and strengthens the hamstrings, tendons, leg muscles and biceps, triceps, deltoids, trapezius, back muscles, latissimus dorsi, and scapula
- It also works the muscles of the back, the biceps and the triceps.
- Helps to squeeze and flush out the internal abdominal organs, such as the gall bladder, pancreas and spleen, as well as the uterus and ovaries.
- Uses all major muscle groups
- Exercises digestive and reproductive organs
- Improves concentration and mental strength, unifying body and mind
- Tightens abdominal and thigh muscles
- Lessens/mitigates diabetic disorders
Standing Bow-Pulling Pose: Dandayamana Dhanurasana
- Grab ankle joint and maintain firm grip using all 5 fingers
- Bring knees together to start to keep hips in one line
- Raise arm up and stretch it toward ceiling
- Keep standing knee locked
- Charge body forward
- Kick and then feel spine arching backward
- Visualize foot steadily moving past top of head
- Standing Bow moves all the blood from one side of the body to the other, then back again. Transfers circulation from one side of the body to other side and then equalizes circulation, exemplifying the “tourniquet” effect
- Increases circulation to heart and lungs and stimulates cardiovascular system
- It develops balance, increases the size and elasticity of the rib cage, firms the abdominal wall and upper thighs.
- It improves the flexibility and strength of the lower spine.
- Builds patience, determination and concentration.
- Opens shoulder joints and diaphragm
- Eases frozen-shoulder conditions
- Tightens buttocks, hips, and upper arms
- Reduces abdominal fat
Balancing Stick Pose: Tuladandasana
- Keep knees locked and stomach in
- Point toes of non-standing foot
- Look four feet ahead of you to keep neck in line with spine
- Press arms against ears and remove any arm-to-ear gaps
- Stretch body toward both sides as though playing tug of war
- The forward tilt of your torso sends high-speed blood pouring into the heart, especially the neglected region, cleaning out the veins and all the arteries, strengthening the heart muscle.
- Same rejuvenating flood rushes into the brain as well.
- Increases cardiovascular circulation, especially to blood vessels of heart. May help to clear blocked arteries and to prevent cardiac problems
- It strengthens your powers of concentration.
- Provides full spinal stress relief
- Refines control and balance by enhancing physical and mental powers
- Improves posture and relieves spinal stress
- Gives many benefits for legs that standing head-to-knee pose also gives
- Reduces varicose veins
- Exercises liver, pancreas, spleen, and circulatory and nervous systems
Standing Separate-Leg Stretching Pose: Dandayamana Bibhaktapada Paschimottanasana
- Take a step (4 feet or more) to your right (wider stance = easier stretch)
- Move feet increasingly closer (if touching your forehead to the floor between your legs is easy, then use small steps; the higher the difficulty, the larger your steps)
- Keep spine straight for as long as possible
- Grab outside bottom of heels or feet when they’re within reach with locked knees, and then use arms to pull yourself further down
- Cures and prevents sciatica by stretching and strengthening sciatic nerves, as well as all the tendons in the legs.
- It also massages and improves functioning of the internal abdominal organs and the small and large intestines, and gives you added flexibility in the pelvis, ankles, calves, thighs, hip joints and especially in the bottom five vertebrae of the spine.
- Boosts circulation to brain and to adrenal glands. Exercises adrenal, muscular, and reproductive systems.
- Mitigates diseases of nervous system and effects of constipation, diabetes, and hyperacidity.
- Reduces abdominal obesity.
- Releases lower back.
- May alleviate depression.
Triangle Pose: Trikanasana
- Stretch one arm up and other one down
- Touch chin to top shoulder
- Keep shoulders down
- Push both hips toward mirror
- Touch lowered fingers between 1st toe and 2nd toe
- Keep torso flat and in a straight line as you stretch arm toward ceiling
- Avoid letting rib cage stick out
- Keep hips down, and prevent hips from moving up
- It improves every single bone, muscle, joint, tendon and internal organ, and it revitalizes nerves, veins and tissues.
- Flexing and strengthening the last five vertebrae in this posture can alleviate crooked spines, as well as rheumatism and lower back pain.
- Benefits the heart and lungs, forcing them to work together.
- Stretches both sides of body and revitalizes it
- Opens and increases flexibility of hip joints
- Provides cardiovascular exercise
- Reduces saddle bags
- Helps kidneys, thyroid glands, and adrenal glands
- Opens shoulder joint and alleviates frozen shoulder
- Strengthens and tones buttocks and legs
- Aids in regulating hormonal levels
- Mitigates effects of appendicitis, colitis, spondylitis, constipation, low blood pressure, and menstrual disorders
Standing Separate-Leg Head-to-Knee Pose: Dandayamana Bibhaktapada Janushirasana
- Remember to breathe throughout pose
- Bring feet together and raise arms above head
- Form steeple grip with hands and move right leg 3 feet toward right
- Turn 90 degrees and do same with torso, hips, arms, and head
- Rotate back foot in about 45 degrees to keep hips squared forward, heels in one line and feet flat on floor
- Tuck chin into chest and maintain straightened arms and legs
- Round down from hips until forehead touches front knee
- If hamstrings or spine is tight, bend front leg until forehead touches knee
- Keep arms and back leg straight, and if you need balance, separate hands on floor
- Engage abdominal muscles, round spine by lifting belly, and straighten right leg
- Work toward these 3 goals: Keep forehead on right knee; Straighten legs; Bring hands together into prayer position
- Align hips to square hips to floor
- Keep eyes open and ensure chin is tucked tightly into chest
- End pose by doing these: Keep arms straight and next to ears; Engage abdominal muscles; Round up slowly with chin on chest and hips square
- Trims the abdomen, waistline, hips, buttocks and thighs.
- It massages and compresses the thyroid gland, which helps to regulate the metabolism and the immune system.
- Compresses belly and throat to flush out and stimulate abdomin
- Alleviates diabetic disorders
- Balances levels of blood sugar
- Aids immune system and metabolic functions by stimulating thyroid
- Helps regulate pancreas and revitalizes kidneys
- Works digestive, endocrine, and reproductive systems
- Enhances flexibility of calves, hamstrings, sciatic nerves, and spine
- Strengthens abdominal muscles and legs (particularly calves and quadriceps)
- Invigorates and stretches shoulders (especially deltoids and trapezius)
Tree Pose: Tadasana
- Choose a point for visual focus
- Concentrate and relax by deepening breath
- Balance on left leg
- Use right hand from underneath and behind to hold right foot up in front of left upper thigh
- Keep sole of right foot facing toward ceiling
- Tighten buttocks, straighten spine, and ensure the following:
- Tailbone is lengthening down
- Ribs are drawn in
- Shoulders are moving back rather than rounding forward
- Open right hip and work right knee down and back until knees are in one line
- If right foot remains above left thigh, bring hands into prayer in front of chest
- Prevent right foot from slipping by pushing hips forward and bringing right knee back
- Hold pose for 10 seconds and do opposite side.
- Improves posture and balance and increases the flexibility of the ankles and knees as well as the hip joints.
- Strengthening the internal oblique muscles and prevents hernia.
- Strengthens leg muscles–particularly calves and quadriceps.
- Prepares body for Locust pose when combined with Toe Stand
- Relieves lower-back pain
- Releases tension in belly
- Stretches spine and adductors along inner thigh
- Enhances mobility of knees and hip
- Helps correct posture
Toe Stand Pose: Padangustasan
- Begin in Tree pose and then hinge forward from hips while keeping standing leg straight and stomach in
- Distribute weight evenly through thighs, calves, and all areas of standing foot before descending
- Reach for floor and transfer body weight to hands so that knees are protected as standing leg starts to bend
- Keep standing leg locked, bend down to ground, and focus on a point on floor in front of you
- Once you’re sitting on heel, walk hands back by hips, lift chest, and straighten spine
- If foot of folded leg slips, hold foot with opposite hand
- Maintain balance by visually focusing on floor about 2 feet away and by using core strength to straighten spine
- Lengthen spine by pretending to touch top of head to ceiling
- Bring hands into prayer
- Breathe, stay in balance, and gradually lift gaze to meet your eyes in mirror
- Engage abdominal muscles and inhale deeply through nose
- Finish pose by:
- Walk hands forward
- Push away from floor, lifting hips up and straightening standing leg with weight in hands
- Stomach in, bring upper body up to standing
- Once you’re standing, raise and then lower bent knee
- Opens up the knee and hip joints, and helps cure hemorrhoid problems.
- It also develops mental strength, balance, concentration, core strength, focus, and patience.
- Helps relieve arthritis in hips and in all leg joints.
- Strengthens joints, knees, stomach muscles, biceps, triceps, and shoulders.
- Invigorates ankles, feet, and knees–especially effective for curing gout and rheumatism.
- Prepares body for relaxation and stillness of next pose.
Corpse Pose: Savasana
- Lie back on floor, touch heels together, and let feet fall sideways
- Relax arms by letting them gently fall to both sides with palms facing up
- Keep eyes open and gaze softly at a spot on ceiling
- Pull shoulders down and back flat against floor
- Breathe slowly and deeply, in and out by nose, letting belly rise and fall with every breath, encouraging more tension to leave body with each exhale
- Focus on breathing, especially if mind wanders
- Dead Body Pose facilitates powerful blood flow, then lets circulation return to normal, creating internal cleansing and greatly magnifying the benefits of the postures that precede it.
- Optimizes circulation of freshly oxygenated blood to all areas of body.
- Maximizes release of tension by completely relaxing entire body
- Slows heart rate and reduces blood pressure
- Lessens fatigue and headache
- Calms mind, reduces insomnia, and improves sleep
- Cures fatigue and jet lag
- Improves absorption of nutrients
- Balances blood pressure, brain waves, and respiratory rate
- Strengthens immune system
Wind-Removing Pose: Pavanamuktasana
- Interlace all 10 fingers and take hold of right leg two inches below knee
- Draw right knee out and down toward chest, and pull right knee to right shoulder
- Keep elbows in close to body and relax shoulders flatly on floor
- Tuck chin into chest and press neck bones into floor.
- Keep left leg firmly on floor; if left calf muscle lifts, flex foot
- Hold pose for 10 seconds and remember to breathe
- While holding pose, allow pose to work into right hip
- Lower right leg, and repeat above steps using left leg
- Raise knees toward chest and grab onto opposite elbows, hooking arms just below knees
- If grabbing elbows isn’t possible, grab forearms, wrists or fingers
- When pulling in knees, look down through diamond shape created between arms and legs
- Work toward getting every vertebra of spine on floor by doing these: Tuck chin to chest to lengthen neck; Flatten shoulders against ground to extend upper spine; Push hips and tailbone down to work lower spine
- Remember to breathe and hold pose for 20 seconds
- Lower both legs slowly
- Wind-Removing Pose compresses and massages the ascending colon, descending colon, and transverse colon.Enhancing body’s nutrient absorption
- Strengthens the arms, prevents flatulence, improves hip flexibility, and firms and tones the abdomen wall, hips and thighs.
- Regulates and normalizes levels of hydrochloric acid in stomach
- Alleviates most chronic abdominal discomforts
- Relieves lower back pain
- Boosts functions of immune system and metabolism by compressing thyroid gland
- Stretches shoulders and entire back side of spine
- Strengthens biceps and hand muscles
- Start from Corpse pose
- Flex toes up toward ceiling and lock knees
- Bring both arms overhead and cross thumbs, palms facing up
- Inhale as you sit up and exhale as you start diving forward to reach for toes, keeping your arms with your ears
- Work toward keeping legs on floor, grab big toes with middle and index fingers and aim forehead towards knees and elbows towards floor
- If hamstrings and lower back are too tight, bend knees slightly to grab toes and touch forehead to knees or roll to side and push up
- Stay motivated, even if you think you have no abdominal strength; building strength takes time!
- Stretches the spine and increases flexibility.
- Strengthens and tightens abdominal muscles, and tones torso.
- Firms and trims the lower body, where many problem areas reside.
- Works the muscles, ligaments and tendons of the legs and improves circulation there as well.
- Realigns spine and enhances its flexibility
- Increases flexibility of hamstrings
- Massages abdominal organs
- Energizes body to prepare it for next pose
Cobra Pose: Bhujangasana
- Lie on belly
- Put palms flat on floor directly underneath shoulders, fingertips in line with tops of shoulders
- Keep legs and feet together and keep them stretched down and back
- Draw shoulders down and keep elbows in close to ribs
- For next step, use strength of spine and legs rather than arms (it’s not a push up)
- Inhale, look up to ceiling, and arch head and torso back until belly button just touches floor.
- Ensure that arms are “L-shaped” at 90 degrees
- Maintain slightly raised gaze and avoid supporting body weight with hands
- To prepare for 80-20 breathing, keep elbows tightly to sides of body and relax face
- Hold pose for 20 seconds while doing 80-20 breathing
- Lower chin to floor
- Strengthens the lumber spine, relieving pain and combating slipped or herniated discs, scoliosis and arthritis in that region.
- Improves digestion, provides relief from menstrual disorders (backaches, cramps, and irregularity), improves appetite, and raises low blood pressure.
- Improves the functioning of the liver and spleen.
- Helps to cure lumbago, rheumatism, and spinal arthritis
- Aids in correcting posture
- Boosts concentration
- Increases spinal flexibility and strength
- Invigorates deltoids, trapezius, and triceps
- Massages and tones back muscles
Locust Pose: Salabhasana
- Lie on belly with chin forward on towel
- Lift hips, move arms underneath body by lifting one hip at a time and rolling to one side
- Keep palm flatly on floor, spread fingers, and point fingers toward knees. Lock elbows as closely underneath you as possible.
- Relax and keep body firm and steady
- Without lifting hips, raise right leg straight up to 45-degrees, and keep left leg relaxed on floor
- Maintain tightened muscles in right leg, point toes, and lock knee
- Touch hipbones to forearms and ensure right hip is not twisting out
- Keep stretching right leg back and up and hold pose for 10 seconds
- Repeat with left leg
- Protect neck by tilting head down, tucking chin in, and keeping mouth on towel
- Keep arms underneath body
- Straighten legs, point toes, and lock knees
- Lift legs up away from floor, breathe through nose, and hold pose for 10 seconds
- Strive to lift legs and hips away from floor all the way to belly button
- Lower both legs without collapsing
- Turn to one side arms out from underneath you, palms up, toes touch and heels out.
- Locust Pose has many of the same benefits as Cobra, but it is even better for slipped discs, sciatica and gout.
- Strengthens shoulders, pectorals, elbows, wrists, and upper spine, and the uncomfortable stretching of the arms can actually relieve tennis elbow.
- Locust can also help with varicose veins in the legs.
- Encourages concentration and perseverance.
- Targets upper back.
- Boosts circulation.
- Increases flexibility and tone in spinal muscles.
- Firms hips, buttocks, and legs.
- Invigorates arm and back muscles.
- Builds core strength.
Full Locust Pose: Poorna Salabhasana
- Lay belly down on floor
- Turn chin out and stretch arms out to sides in line with shoulders
- Face palms down, fingers together
- Keep legs, knees, and feet together
- Ensure that calves, thighs, and buttocks remain tightened throughout pose
- Exhale completely, then inhale
- Lift arms, legs, chest, head, and torso away from floor
- Keep gaze lifted to direct whole body to lift
- Remember to breathe; a deep inhale will help you lift
- Draw arms back so fingers are in line with top of shoulders and face palms toward floor
- To arch body more: Use back muscles, and maintain straightened arms and legs and keep them engaged. You should also use core strength.
- Set goal to eventually balance body on abdomen
- Hold pose for 10 seconds while doing 80-20 breathing
- Full Locust increases strength and flexibility in the middle spine; it is good for scoliosis, kyphosis, spondylosis and slipped discs.
- It opens up the rib cage and increases its elasticity.
- It also firms the abdominal muscles, upper arms, hips and thighs.
- Strengthens deltoids and trapezius.
- Improves function of liver and spleen.
- Includes benefits of Standing Bow-Pulling pose and Cobra pose.
Floor Bow Pose: Dhanurasana
- Lie on belly, bend knees, reach back, and grab outside of each foot, two inches below toes with all five fingers together
- Keep feet and knees together as close as possible.
- Ensure the following: Wrists remain straight by grabbing; feet with fingers, not palms; Hips aren’t tilted to one side.
- Inhale deeply and simultaneously kick back and up into hands and lift thighs and upper body away from floor
- For more power, push hips and pelvis into floor before lifting legs back and up.
- Release shoulders back as you lift torso
- Roll body weight forward to balance on middle of belly
- Use inner-thigh strength to keep knees and feet 6 inches apart
- Work toward these goals: relax neck and drop head back as much as possible; look for toes and use equal strength in both legs to kick
- Hold pose while doing 80-20 breathing for 20 seconds
- Slowly lower torso and legs to floor
- Opens up the rib cage, which allows the lungs to expand more fully. Improves oxygen intake by opening rib cage; this enables maximum expansion of lungs.
- This 360-degree flexion of the spine revitalizes all the spinal nerves by increasing circulation, and strengthens the spine along its entire length.
- Aids digestion, fights constipation, and combats bronchitis and diabetes while improving the functioning of the large and small intestines, the liver, kidneys and spleen.
- Relieves backaches by invigorating entire spine and helps with all manners of back problems.
- Boosts circulation to heart and lungs
- Upgrades functioning of spleen, kidneys, liver, and small and large intestines by massaging abdomen
- Enhances digestion
- Opens shoulder joints
- Helps correct posture
- Invigorates mental focus and perseverance
- Betters flexibility of deltoid, latissimus, scapula, and trapezius muscles
- Stretches hip flexors and psoas muscle
- Revitalizes all spinal nerves by increasing circulation to all of spine
- Strengthens abdominal muscles, hips, thighs, and upper arms