The Bikram practice is for beginners, for householders, for people with full, busy lives in the material, physical world. It provides optimal physical health for a very wide range of folks, in a way that is safe, accessible and inclusive.
That said, the yoga operates powerfully on the emotional, mental and spiritual levels, even if these are not emphasized (or even addressed) in class.
The practice includes two tools–sound (mantra) and shape (yantra)–that help each student to find a higher state of awakening and connection.
The Bikram series starts with Pranayama, breath with sound. The inhale (which travels through the nose) makes a hissing noise. The exhale (by the mouth) makes a ‘ha’ sound.
This breathing exercise allows you to hear and experience your breath from the inside, so that you can turn your focus away from the busy world outside of the studio…and redirect your attention inward. Pranayama gets you out of your everyday life and into your personal practice.
The breath is a mantra, a sound that is repeated to support concentration in meditation.
‘The decision to consistently and loyally attend to your breathing is the most important single decision that you will every make to ensure success in yoga. Your breath is connected to everything important about you, from the plainly visible, most practical physiological aspects of you to your hidden, essential, secret sacred depths.’ -David Garrigues
The poses are yantras, geometrical shapes/diagrams that we repeatedly recreate to focus and balance the mind and body. The postures are visual tools to aid meditation. Yantra shapes and patterns often include squares, triangles, circles and floral patterns.
‘It takes an astounding and confounding amount of brain power–concentration, discernment, creativity, concern, sensitivity, interest, study, compassion, cool headedness, fire, labor, receptivity–to make your shape into a yantra that protects.’ -DG
Next time you’re sweating in the yoga room, struggling to lock your knee, tuck your chin or suck your stomach in…take a moment to consider and appreciate the shape you are creating with your body, breath and mind. It is unrepeatable, unreplaceable and absolutely perfect (even if it’s not). It’s a shape that heals.