Bikram Yoga

What is Bikram Yoga? Basically it’s a series of 26 beginner yoga postures and two breathing exercises completed in a room heated to your body temperature. The program was developed by Bikram Choudhury and has spread to many parts of the world. Classes are 90 minutes long and are led by a trained instructor who guides the participants through the series of poses. It is unlike any other fitness program that I have experienced.

My first exposure to the program was in Tacoma, WA, and I very quickly became a convert. The participants range in age and abilities across the spectrum, and people do as much (or as little) of the program as they are comfortable with. Most of the postures will be familiar to those who have practiced yoga before, but the addition of heat and a unique sequence makes a tremendous difference. Five minutes into your first class, you may find yourself sweating profusely. A large towel is placed over your yoga mat to absorb your sweat. After the first few postures, when everyone is thoroughly warmed up, the instructor will allow for your first water break, and sips of water are encouraged between sets.

Why do yoga in a heated room? The heat serves to warm the body up quicker, allowing your muscles to relax into the posture, bringing deeper movement than possible in a cooler room. Also, the process of perspiring serves to release toxins from the body. Personally, I enjoy the heat, although the first time I took a class I had to lie down and just relax several times, bypassing a couple of postures. This is normal, and the instructor encourages new people to go at half-speed until they get used to the temperature and the routine.

Doug Carroll owns and operates the new studio in Nanaimo and became an advocate after suffering many sports related injuries and not healing the way he used to as a younger man. He searched for many remedies, including physiotherapy and surgery; and he found that with Bikram Yoga, he was able to get back the flexibility and strength he yearned for. All instructors are certified by the Bikram College of India and Bikram Choudhury is still directly involved with the training of new instructors. Doug, like other instructors, took an intensive 9 week course in Los Angeles to become certified.

The 26 poses involve every muscle group and system of the body, and the sequence of the poses never changes. I found this to be a real asset, having been to studios in Tacoma and the Palm Desert as well, because the routine becomes familiar regardless of the location or who the instructor is.

Bikram Yoga is a great compliment to any sport or activity, and particularly for people recovering from physical ailments. I still enjoy traditional yoga, and I have found that since doing Bikram, my range of motion has increased dramatically. Moves that I told myself "I’m too old for that!" have suddenly become possible. Testimonials from participants have claimed improved circulation, relieved back pain, improved mental clarity and alertness, weight loss, relief from anxiety and insomnia – the list is very impressive.


Jim Pickell is a professional engineer living in Nanaimo. He is a fitness enthusiast and enjoys all types of yoga. More information can be sourced online at: