Dr Divi Chandna explains why Bikram Yoga is the ultimate way to achieve overall health in body and mind. It is slow medicine, but it is the best medicine.
Ultimate Health with Bikram Yoga
“Bikram Yoga – the Ultimate Yoga Practice for Keeping You Healthy!
Even if when you start you are ill – you can and will get healthy with faith and practice.”
This was the message I heard in my first few classes in the Hot Room.
As a family doctor (now for 17 years) – I didn’t believe that doing the same yoga class it.
Personally, I started this practice with a myriad of running injuries – and a desire to return to running with some deep stretching. Little did I know that my initial ‘cross training’ activity would become a career and a true passion.
After practicing for a year, I became a certified teacher and a year later, opened Bikram Yoga Victoria, followed by Bikram Yoga Langford. After eight years of dedication, my husband and I sold both studios and recently relocated back to Vancouver. Practicing at BY Vancouver is like ‘coming home’ - Lisa Pelzer taught me my first class more than ten years ago, at the infamous first studio at Broadway and Arbutus.
Over the last ten years, I’ve had the benefit of the classic western training as a physician and the more esoteric, eastern guidance of being a yoga teacher.
So many people turn to Bikrams for reasons related to their physical health. All of us notice the mental benefits immediately, and the physical ones start to come very quickly in the first few months of our practice.
Yoga was designed to prepare the body for long periods of meditation. Over time, it was noticed that the body maintained and gained health benefits thru regular practice. The Bikram Series, particularly, is especially geared to our “Western Bodies’ with Western Health Issues.
Relatively, the practice is simple – not too complicated postures with the aide of heat to enhance flexibility and strengthen our mental focus.
When you first walk into a Bikram class – you will be surprised by the obvious differences compared to what you may ‘think’ of yoga – the bright lights, the loud teacher who talks non-stop and the apparent lack of clothing around the room!
But, one thing that will stay with you – even after just one Bikram class – is the positivism of the teacher. The teacher will espouse the health benefits of the practice – and will encourage you to push you to your limits.
Outside of the room – we turn outwards when our health suffers – we go to doctors, therapists or a medicine cabinet. How often do we look inwards, and actually try to help ourselves?
This is exactly what the hot room is for – treating ailments and preventing new ones.
Because we believe that our health comes from the external – the first thing – is to increase our belief in ourselves. We have to believe it is possible. With yoga, you will be reminded of the perfection in which you are – and the possibility of excellent health and a wonderful life. In a short time, you will be able to look in the mirror and you will also be able to feel the magic of the body in its’ self healing powers.
People ask me all the time – How does it work? The yoga practice works in many, many different ways. The primary way yoga works is through re-alignment and re-balance. I’ve taken the top 3 ailments that we (as doctors) write prescriptions for – discussed the traditional Allopathic approach (western medicine) and how Bikram Yoga works.
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
The approach tends to be dietary changes, exercise and medications. As we know, compliance with a regular exercise and healthy dietary habits are difficult to maintain. Medications have multiple side effects & always create‘dependence’ for the body.
Bikrams works safely and effectively for blood pressure control. The heat acts as a vaso-dilator, and this is one way in which medications work – to relax blood vessels to drop blood pressure. In addition, when people practice Bikrams, they drink more water and automatically diurese themselves of extra fluids. The kidneys are stimulated in many of the compression/extension postures aiding in release of toxins, dropping blood pressure safely and effectively.
Hi blood pressure is extremely common in our society – stress, anxiety and ‘pressure’ exacerbates it. What better ‘fix’ than the regular practice of yoga and breathing. Don’t you always feel more ‘relaxed’ after a yoga class?
Some people are ‘afraid’ to enter the hot room with high blood pressure. I would like to remind you that the majority of the worlds’ population live in hot continents – Africa, Asia, & Australia. The per cent age of people with high blood pressure in these areas is the same as it is in Canada. The hot room simply simulates an area for augmenting health and the health benefits of yoga practice.
Heartburn/Peptic Ulcer Disease
The approach with Western Medicine is – dietary, lifestyle (decreasing smoking, alcohol and cutting out caffeine and spicy foods) & medications to decrease acid in the stomach.
Heartburn and ulcers are well known to be triggered by hi acid states in the stomach. Hi acid is caused by certain lifestyles – smoking, alcohol, and stress. Anyone who has tried to quit smoking or cut back on alcohol can tell you of the difficult uphill climb it is. I have often been amazed at how Bikram Yoga makes that change much easier.
The difference is that when someone tries to cut out alcohol (or smoking), they go from their ‘addiction’ to nothing. When you add Bikram Yoga, you replace an ‘addiction’ with a healthy addiction, that leaves you feeling buzzed, relaxed and with high endorphins – which is one of the reasons many people turn to addictions.
Regular yoga practice balances out our appetite and cravings. Intuitively, we choose foods that are healthier – that create less acid and balance the enzymes in our stomach.
And, as mentioned above, the stress levels are cut in half or more with regular practice – Less stress – less acid – less heartburn – medication free!
In the 90’s, our generation was labelled the ‘Prozac generation’. Depression and anxiety are rampant in our society.
In Western Medicine, the theory has been largely ‘chemical’ with newer anti-depressants emerging daily. If you ask anyone who has taken these medications, they will commonly report the high side effects and the ‘dependence’ that they feel on the medications. Some people take these drugs the majority of their lives!
Bikram Yoga is a life-saving place for all of us – and especially for those afflicted with these conditions. Bikram Yoga teaches us that we are not our thoughts – the thoughts are produced by us and we can choose to ‘observe’ them and watch them drift away. Life gets easier as we harness these techniques and make them part of our daily existence.
Chemically, many of the postures ‘balance’ hormones in the brain – balancing chronic mood states like depression and anxiety.
Bikrams is a safe and effective modality for those on or off medications.
General Points of Practice
The underlying theme in all of the ailments listed above can be expanded to apply to all chronic health conditions.
The similarity that you will find as you look at your ailment – and using the yoga is the ‘balance’ that Bikram’s creates. The balance is created in all areas of your life – mentally, emotionally, physically & spiritually. This balance is a direct result of your ‘work’ in the hot room.
The more often you practice with applied intensity and proper form, the faster and greater your results. Have faith in the practice – and trust in your bodies’ natural abilities to heal. If you do nothing, in ten years, you will be guaranteed to be in a worst condition than you are in now – so, what do you have to lose?
You may run across road blocks – increased discomfort, more fatigue, no motivation to practice. Despite these apparent stumbling stones, continue your practice – do less, come more. Then, very quickly, you will find a complete opposite – you will have less pain, more energy and heightened desire to practice!
I always have told students – Bikram Yoga is the ‘Best Medicine’ and it is ‘Slow Medicine’. Give it 1 year (minimum) commitment of 3-5 times per week, and you will be astonished by your results!
You have nothing to lose – and everything to gain – your health, your life!
Dr. Divi Chandna.
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