Bikram Yoga Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose

I have read a lot of reviews about Hot Yoga in which the journalist completely misses the point.  Sometimes they fail to fully comprehend the heat and that the Bikram method is simply Hatha yoga done in a hot room.  What's more shocking is the number of times journalists don't understand why we do the same sequence every time.  In a recent magazine article, it says "if you get bored doing the same postures each time you practice yoga, then Bikram hot yoga is not for you".   The article goes on to outline how it's better to add variety to your yoga practice.  Not only are they missing the point of Bikram, they miss the point of any yoga practice.  I know that Hatha yoga has been dumbed down over recent years.  Though have we really come to the point that the core essence and power of true Hatha yoga is being eroded to what really should be called a Zumba class. I happen to like Zumba, but it 'ant yoga. The last thing you should do is continually chop'n'change your yoga style/sequence.  There are many reasons why.

Firstly,  how are you ever going to master it?  It would be a bit like learning the play the piano one week, the following week the guitar and the next the violin - you're never going to master any instrument!   If you're looking to become a musician, master one instrument first, after which you are better able to quickly learn another instrument.  Many musicians can play many instruments,  but only after mastering one first. 

The reason why you will never master anything if you continually chop'n'change, is because you will never move away from the analytical mindset of learning the fundamentals.  You will never get to that point where you are able to let go of your analytical mind, placing your body be in control. 

If you chop'n'change your style or sequence, your mindset will always remain focused on the physical element of a posture, never reaching the point at which your mind is free, not thinking, letting your body do its thing and the mind just an observer.

Being so close to London's West End, we get a lot of professional dancers.  I've noticed they seem to be able to fully embrace hot yoga quicker than most.  The reason has nothing to do with the fact they are more flexible or stronger than the average person. 

When a dancer learns a dance routine they first learn the structure of the dance sequence. This phase requires your analytical mind to learn the steps.  They keep repeating the steps until it becomes automatic.  Until it becomes second nature.  Until they are able to do the routine without thinking, without thought.  Then they are able to switch their head-space,  switching off their analytical mind,  no longer thinking about the mechanical structure of the sequence, instead they ask there body to dance.  Now they're dancing, they feel it, with the body in control in perfect harmony.   That's what dancers are trained to do.   They know to transition their mindset having learnt the sequence, from the mind to the body.

Bikram Yoga Awkward

That's what we all should be aiming for when practicing Hatha yoga.  Whatever form of Hatha yoga you are doing.  Letting go of the mind, quieting the chatter in your head, obtaining a focused, calm mind & body.   Through the mindful application of strength, you should be connecting with the expression of the posture,  feeling the body opening.   I often remind students that "Hot Yoga is a 90 minute physical meditation, working through a 26 posture sequence in a heated room". 

In the first few months of practising hot yoga, finding that meditative element is nigh on impossible.  Of course, it is.  First, you have to go through that initial analytical mindset learning the mechanical structure of the posture and familiarising yourself with the 26 posture sequence.  During this time students also have to learn to keep their breath calm, which is extremely hard with a mind thats over analysing everything.   Only then, slowly in time, do you start to let go.  You start connecting with the meditative element of hot yoga.  Hot yoga is not easy, it's demanding, and because of this you have no option but to let go, to calm the breath, the mind.  You slowly discover the meditative side of hot yoga. 

In rehearsals a dancer may occasionally re-visit the sequence, with an analytical mind set. Similarly, after 14 years of practice,  I still occasionally re-analyse a posture during my practice.  As my body opens, I need to revisit my alignment, my  precision of the posture.  Precision is vital, though  ultimately it's all about the expression, finding the sense of opening within the posture, which can only truly be found once the postures and the sequence become second nature, no thinking just connecting, listening, feeling.

Over the past 8 years we've had over 60,000 students through our doors and I've seen the power of  hot yoga.  It's the best all around , perfectly balanced, Hatha yoga sequence  ever devised.  It's spectacularly good for beginners, transforming any stiff, unfit or injured body & mind.  

Bill Thwaites

CHECK OUT: Why some Bikram/Hatha teachers have a misguided view regarding Strength and Flexibility - By Bill Thwaites.