The 26 poses of Bikram yoga strengthen virtually all major muscle groups during a 90-minute session. Each session is performed in a room heated to over 105 degrees Fahrenheit, with a 60 percent humidity level, giving it the nickname "hot yoga." Bikram poses use balance, pressure and heat to loosen the muscles while opening energy channels, and each pose requires controlled contractions that tone the muscles. Bikram yoga can improve flexibility in many of the body's muscles and can even improve deadlifting capabilities, an indicator of increased strength.
Bikram Yoga Poses for Lower Limbs
Some Bikram yoga poses specifically target the lower limbs, including the gastrocnemius, soleus, hamstrings and quadriceps. These poses include the Half Moon, Awkward, Eagle, Standing Head to Knee, Balancing Stick, Separate Leg Stretching, Standing Separated Leg Head to Knee and Tree poses.
Bikram Yoga Poses for Upper Limbs, Shoulders and Core
Bikram yoga poses that target the triceps, biceps and shoulder muscles include the Awkward, Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee and Camel poses. The core muscles in the hips, pelvis, abdomen and lower back help the body balance and stabilize itself. Certain Bikram yoga poses target these muscles, including the Awkward, Eagle and Toe Stand poses.
Bikram Yoga Poses for Back Muscles
Many Bikram poses target the back muscles, including the Half Moon, Standing Bow, Standing Separated Leg Head to Knee, Cobra, Full-Locust, Bow, Fixed Firm, Camel, Rabbit and Spine Twisting poses. These poses can reduce the risk of developing back and spinal injuries because they strengthen and stretch the muscles of the back. Strong back muscles also keep the spine properly aligned and are important for good posture.
Building Muscle with Bikram Yoga
Muscle-strengthening exercises should be done at least twice a week, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bikram yoga is an effective strengthening activity because it engages all the major muscle groups, including the abdominals, chest, arms, legs, gluteals and back. This type of training helps the body build muscle mass. More muscle means that the body is better able to burn calories, and strengthening the muscles increases the number of calories the body burns while resting. Strength training not only increases muscle mass and strength, but the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture website states it also lowers the risk of developing many chronic illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and osteoporosis. Building muscle through strength training may also have positive psychological effects, such as improved sleep, reduced depression and an overall sense of well-being.
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- University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture: Increasing Physical Activity as We Age: Strength Training
- Columbia University Medical Center: Low Back Pain Exercises
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
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