How to Modify Bikram Yoga Poses

Bikram Yoga's 26 poses can be modified for various conditions, including pregnancy.

Bikram Yoga's 26 poses can be modified for various conditions, including pregnancy.

Though the heated studio with temperatures soaring over 100 degrees Fahrenheit might make Bikram Yoga a little intimidating -- and challenging for that matter -- the 90-minute classes were actually designed with beginners in mind. Bikram Choudhury developed the technique’s 26-pose sequence with two breathing exercises in the 1970s. He noticed adding heat to his studio helped his students to better achieve the stretch-and-hold postures. The method is designed to work toward improving flexibility and strength. Though the poses work regardless of your flexibility level and age, you determine the intensity of the pose, according to Bikram Yoga Lahaina. Various modifications exist for those with certain injuries or conditions. Modified poses even exist for pregnant women, developed by Choudhury’s wife, Rajashree.

High Blood Pressure Modifications

Consult your doctor if you have high blood pressure and want to practice Bikram Yoga, especially regarding any position that incorporates a backward bend.

Use caution when executing the backward bending portion of Half Moon pose, Standing Bow pose, Balancing Stick pose, Cobra, the third part of Locust pose and Full Locust, and Camel, according to the official Bikram Yoga website.

Hold those poses for no more than five counts at first if you have high blood pressure, according to the Bikram Yoga website. Depending on your doctor’s advice and the severity of your condition, build up to holding for 10 counts after two weeks, the website recommends. Rest between each set and breathe regularly during the poses.

Knee Issues

Consult your doctor if you have bad knees or other knee conditions before you begin Bikram Yoga. Practice proper alignment for each pose, keeping your feet in line with your knees and your hips, Choudhury recommends on his method’s website. Keep your feet perfectly parallel when a pose calls for it. Only a slight deviation could affect your knees, the website reports.

Keep your knees pointed over your toes when bending in standing poses, like Triangle, for example. If bending your knees in any standing pose is difficult, bend a small percentage and instead focus on the correct alignment, the website said.

Keep your weight in your hands and bend your knees very gradually in floor poses, like Tortoise and Rabbit, the Bikram Yoga website recommends.

Pregnancy Modifications

Consult your doctor if you are pregnant and wish to continue practicing Bikram Yoga. If you are a regular Bikram Yoga student, modify poses for pregnancy beginning in the thirteenth week.

Perform your yoga poses in moderate heat and to your own discretion, according to Bikram Yoga. Stay hydrated and practice the poses at 50 percent of your intensity -- never to the point of exhaustion, according to Bikram Yoga Portsmouth.

Separate your feet slightly in standing poses and avoid poses that cause compression on the diaphragm and heart. Stretch upward and back in backbends using the upper spine, the Bikram Yoga website recommends. Bend your knees slightly when you come up from a bend.

Keep your knees open in poses that incorporate forward bends. Avoid Head to Knee, Separate Leg Forehead to Knee, Rabbit, Cobra, Locust, Full Locust and Bow poses the website said.

Rest on your side between postures and practice long, deep and slow breathing, according to the Bikram Yoga’s pregnancy modification recommendations.

Items you will need

  • Advice from your doctor if you have any medical conditions or injuries, or if you are pregnant.

Tip

  • Pregnant women may want to position themselves near an open window during Bikram Yoga class for less intense heat.

Warnings

  • Always consult your doctor if you have physical conditions, injuries or concerns before you begin Bikram Yoga or any other type of exercise.
  • If you have any medical issues or conditions, practice common sense and caution. Listen to trained instructors for personalized modifications to Bikram Yoga’s 26 poses and do not push beyond any pain.
  • If you do not regularly practice Bikram Yoga, starting when you are pregnant, like any other new exercise program, may not be the best time.
 

About the Author

Mikel Chavers has been writing and editing since 2006, specializing in health, business, government and technology topics. She got her start as a reporter at “The Business Journal” in Greensboro, N.C., and later covered state government for a national magazine. Chavers holds a Bachelor of Arts in media studies/journalism.

Photo Credits

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