If I had to sum up what Bikram Yoga is… I would say it’s a class for your spine! We live and work in a “forward” bend. After time, the spine begins to compress, and lose its natural curvature. This can result in back pain, low energy, and overall bad health. In yoga, we practice back bending, to counteract the constant forward bending, because the spine should be strong and flexible. As Bikram says himself, “Healthy Spine, Healthy Life.”
After a 50-minute warm up, with only standing postures, we begin the spine strengthening series on the floor. This consists of four postures that target the lower, middle, and upper back, in turn strengthening the entire spine. They are simple and easy to follow, and everyone goes at their own pace.
COBRA POSE – THE INFAMOUS LOWER BACK
Keeping the legs straight and hip muscles tight and together creates a dynamic movement throughout the entire body. This technique is repeated many times throughout class. It may look like the arms are engaged, but it’s actually only the lower back and core that are being used to lift the upper body. This posture is held for 15-20 seconds, and then lowered down into a full body relaxation, all while maintaining relaxed breathing. It is a combination of precision and intensity that creates the best results.
HALF LOCUST POSE- UPPER BACK
Right below the cervical spine (neck) is the upper back. In Half Locust, the arms are used to lift the torso and legs, increasing upper back strength. This pose begins by lifting one leg fully extended, then the other leg, and then both legs up together!! Pretty much every muscle in your body is used for this power lift. It’s a full body posture that emphasizes the upper spine. Every floor posture for the last 40 minutes of class begins and finishes with a full body relaxation. This combination of activity to passivity, and back and forth again, creates a natural irrigation of the circulatory system.
FULL LOCUST POSE- MIDDLE BACK
This pose is similar to a jet airplane taking off…everything goes up. The legs and toes remain together in a straight line, while the arms stretch apart from fingertip to fingertip. As you look up to the ceiling, the sky is the limit. Keeping both legs solidly together, lengthening and lifting as much as possible, concentrates all the strengthening on the middle spine. The body is then slowly lowered down, finishing with yet another full relaxation.
FLOOR BOW- THE WHOLE SPINE
So far these postures have focused mainly on strength. Floor Bow is an even 50/50 split between strengthening and stretching…balancing passivity and activity. It’s a classic!! In this pose, the upper body is relaxed, and you have to kick out strong to lift up, feeling an intense stretch across the pectoral muscles and through the arms. It’s great for those that like to pump iron! This pose works the entire spine, abdomen and hip flexors, and also tones the legs and glutes.
Miami native Sam Levine is the owenr of Bikram Yoga Falls, one of the fastest growing studios in south Florida. It is located at 13847 South Dixie Highway, Miami, FL 33176. Check out www.BikramYogaFalls.com for more information and class schedules.