Hatha yoga is mainly an umbrella term for all types of physical yoga practices. Bikram Yoga is a type of Hatha yoga. It is quite new compared to thousands of years old yoga history. It was only created during the late 20th century.
Yes, we are focusing on physical practices when we say Hatha yoga but many Hatha yoga styles also employ Pranayama practices, philosophical and spiritual aspects, mantras, and meditation. Bikram Yoga is a type yoga which has a very strong physical aspect. Bikram Yoga focuses mainly on the practice of asanas. At this point it should also be stated that it offers a very vigorous physical practice.
The Bikram style utilises a fixed sequence put together by Bikram Choudhury. The same postures are practiced with the same order every time. The Bikram yoga sequence is composed of 26 poses. It is an hour and a half long practice. Each pose is done twice during this physically challenging practice. Some may find having the same sequence every time slightly boring but it also has many benefits. When you don’t know what is coming next, you have to pay a lot of attention to what is happening around you. With the styles that uses fixed sequences, like Bikram, you know what is coming next. Your body knows what is coming next. So, you can focus on your inner world rather than the outside world.
The most important thing about doing the same sequence is to make sure that the sequence is offering you a balanced full body practice. Bikram Yoga sequence was designed to be a such sequence. The aim was to support the healthy functioning of the body. According to Bikram Yoga official website (https://www.bikramyoga.com/about/bikram-yoga/) “It has been proved and experienced by millions that these 26 postures systematically work every part of the body, to give all the internal organs, all the veins, all the ligaments, and all the muscles everything they need to maintain optimum health and maximum function”.
One of the most significant aspect of Bikram yoga is that it is practiced in a heated room.
Why practice in a heated room? In dynamic Hatha yoga styles we always warm our muscles before going into a deeper practice. The heat softens and prepares the muscles for the dynamic movement. Sometimes it is not that easy to warm up each and every muscle through gentle movement. Well, when the whole room is heated there no such challenge. Your whole body: every muscle, and all of the connective tissues warm up with the heat of the room. Practicing in a hot room also means a lot of sweat. And, sweating out is great for getting rid of the toxins.
There is a controversy around Bikram Yoga in the yoga world because of Bikram Choudhury’s ethical manners. Regardless of this controversy and the actions of the founder of the style, it is important to recognise that Bikram Yoga played a major role in spreading the beauty of Yoga to the western world. Yoga is a personal path of self-realisation. In yoga tradition there are infinite number of ways that you can walk along this path. For some practising the sequence of Bikram yoga in a heated room might be the way to go, and for others there may be better ways. Your practice is just about you and how you experience it. One of the most important teaching of the yogic wisdom is to see the beauty in everything. There is only love there is no opposite of love, but the lack of love. Love yourself, love your practice. And if you also love heat and enjoy physical challenges then try out the Bikram yoga.