Having finished my 5 part series on Bikram yoga, (one, two, three, four and five) I want to pull together some final thoughts. I began this series knowing that I had made modifications to my Bikram practice, often widely diverging from the script. However, until writing it down pose by pose, I didn’t truly grasp just how deeply I went.
I have suggested changes that diverge from, and are sometimes contrary to, what your Bikram teacher is telling you do. I fear that this will make it appear to be another hit piece on Bikram, but that’s absolutely not what I want. Bikram yoga appeared, and then re-appeared, at two very high stress times in my life, and taking up a regular Bikram practice at those times brought me profound benefits, physically and mentally.
I ended each part of the series saying:
Properly modified to your anatomy, Bikram yoga is an awesome total body workout. I love it, and still do it once or twice a week. The key is to remember that any exercise must serve you, to provide you what you need.
The key statement, “…any exercise must serve you…” If you are being told to do something that harms you, STOP. You only get one body, so take care of it. Use it in a way that helps, that improves, that serves your needs.
So, is there anything contradictory in saying, “Do Bikram, but make these changes?” I don’t think so, because I don’t think my changes make it “not Bikram.” I still do the entire series, with 3 exceptions, and even the script tells you not to do the sit ups if you have back problems. I just expanded on that concept.
I love the heat, the sweat, the stress and the strain of the Bikram hot box, and I didn’t want to give it up. But around the same time I had my moment of clarity, I also began having increasingly serious lumbar problems. My search for solutions included a year deeply immersed in unlearning old movement habits and learning new ones.
Those solutions included a pose by pose fine tuning of the Bikram sequence, asking:
- What is the purpose of this posture?
- What are my physical limitations?
- What must I do to make the posture serve me?
The answers to those questions are what you read over the last few posts.
“I love it and still do it once or twice a week.” But I also tell any new teacher, before I go into class, that I have lumbar flexion issues, so I have to do some of the postures a bit differently. And you know what? Not a single one of them has had any problem with that. So keep going to Bikram, learn to modify it to your anatomy, and use it to learn to Stand Up Right.