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A Natural Fountain of Youth

The many benefits of Bikram yoga

By Ann Marie Palma, RDH, BS

Yoga in a room at 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity? You may just wonder…why?

Many people come to Bikram yoga to detoxify and lose weight – and they do – but the real benefit is what you can’t see. It’s on the inside.

Bikram is a very specific sequence of yoga asanas (or poses) designed to keep the body systems functioning properly as it renews organs and glands at the cellular level. Founded in the early 70s by Bikram Choudhury of India, the secret to the practice’s success is the “tourniquet factor” of compression and release. The specific asanas systematically squeeze and compress individual organs and glands, restricting blood flow while the posture is held static, and then releasing the blood flow as the posture is released, sending an explosion of nutrient-rich oxygenated blood flowing at high speeds to stagnant areas of the body. The heat and humidity in the room accelerate the benefits.

Similar to a hose kink that stops the flow of water while increasing water pressure, our circulatory system works the same way when “dammed up.” The increased cardiovascular benefits to organs, glands, and joints aid in proper functioning and healing of the body’s systems.

Choudhury, who practiced yoga his entire life, extracted 26 asanas which he considered to be the most highly therapeutic from the original 84 to create a practice to optimize muscle, organ and gland function. Many of the benefits students of the practice have experienced include improved cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, immune system health, spinal health, stress reduction, increased flexibility, and chronic pain relief from arthritis, joint aches, knee injuries and more.

This tourniquet method of recovery is also used by health care practitioners and in sports medicine. “Researchers at Brooke Army Medical Center are using ‘tourniquet training’ to help wounded warriors return to full health and think it could change the way athletes recover from orthopedic injuries, as well,” reports ESPN senior writer Stephania Bell. Doug DuPont, strength and conditioning coach and regular contributor to BreakingMuscle online magazine, uses this method with his clients combining the use of a simple tourniquet with regular weight training.

In addition to the physical and physiological benefits, many Bikram students say they come to class to clear the “brain fog.” The compression and release sends nutrient-rich oxygenated blood to the brain waking up dormant, underused brain cells and enhancing mental clarity, says Choudhury. This factor, and the natural high many experience, may attribute to the success of the practice for those struggling with addiction as well. 

For those who are not suffering with ailments, prevention is the name of the game as the flexibility and medical benefits of Bikram yoga can help prevent injuries and disease as we age, while keeping the body functioning optimally as it did naturally in our youth.

Ann Marie Palma RDH, BS, is the managing owner of Bikram Yoga El Paseo in Palm Desert. She is certified in Bikram and Yin yoga, a legacy ambassador at Lululemon Palm Desert, and a registered dental hygienist at Dell’Aqua Dental. Ann Marie’s own spinal injuries 13 years ago led her to a consistent Bikram yoga practice which staved off her physician’s recommendations for back surgery. She can be reached at (760) 776.1440 or www.bikramyogapalmdesert.com.

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