If you are in the Inner West, a new option for your exercise fix is now available at the Greenway Banks complex, where you can enjoy Rock Climbing, Dance, Trapeze, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and now Bikram Yoga.
The best exercise is that which you enjoy doing. Why might Sports N Spine clients benefit from Bikram Yoga? Well, Yoga itself has many benefits, and, according to a systematic review, it is effective in managing back pain. The authors of a 2013 publication in The Clinical Journal of Pain concluded, "This systematic review found strong evidence for short-term effectiveness and moderate evidence for long-term effectiveness of yoga for chronic low back pain in the most important patient-centered outcomes. Yoga can be recommended as an additional therapy to chronic low back pain patients."
Bikram yoga is attracting attention from the scientific community, with a recent literature review summarising what is known to date, and how studies could be improved in the future.
How is Bikram Yoga different? Well, the obvious answer is that Bikram Yoga is a particular style, most known for the addition of heat to the class (40.6 Celcius, 40% humidity). Proponents claim the heat aids in stimulating the sweat glands, as well as increasing the muscle, fascia and tendon relaxation. Heat adds to one's focus throughout the class. Bikram Yoga also has 26 specific asanas, or poses, and 2 specific breathing exercises.
One of the underappreciated benefits of Bikram Yoga is that it is performed in front of a mirror. There are several studies now which demonstrate that those with chronic, painful conditions have an inaccurate representation of their body/mind connection. The mind does not correspond accurately to what the body is actually performing in those with chronic pain. Mirror therapy can help correct this. Individuals with chronic back pain who performed movements in front of a mirror showed better improvement, less pain, and faster recovery than their counterparts who performed movements without a mirror, Hence, the added mirror actually has scientific and clinical merit to improving chronic pain conditions.
I've enjoyed several classes so far at the new Inner West Bikram Yoga studio, and quickly noted the following benefits: increased relaxation, decreased muscular tension, better focus and deeper sleep, I also noticed my own asymmetries in the mirror, which, no surprise, follow the setup of my desk at work (it's easier for me to lean to the right compared to the left because I slouch towards the right to use the mouse on my computer). These asymmetries began to change quickly after a few yoga classes.
As with any exercise, there is a small, relative risk associated with the activity which must be compared to the many benefits . The same is true for yoga, whether that be Bikram Yoga or one of the many other schools. Of these, post exercise soreness is sometimes associated with any style of yoga. Secondly, because of the added heat in Bikram Yoga, depleted sodium (hyponatremia) levels from sweating too intensively and drinking too much water, too quickly, is a rare but serious risk. Other studies have pointed out that the core body temperature can continue to rise during the 90 minute class, which could have rare but potentially serious consequences. Other lone cases of psychosis and heart attack have been reported; therefore, Bikram yoga may not be suitable for those with a prior history of psychosis, and should be begun only after clearing with a GP for those with heart disease, or who are deconditioned. But like any new experience, be sensible. If you have health concerns, speak to the teacher prior to the class. Also, drink...but avoid drinking too much water, too soon. Too much pure H20 can be detrimental to one's sodium balance if the body is not used to it; you should drink to your thirst. As for the heat, I personally have not found the heat in Inner West Bikram Yoga to be too overwhelming. It has helped me focus and become more pliable during the poses. Having said that, I'm somewhat conditioned to perform in heat because of years of running. So, if this is a new type of exertion for you, and you are unconditioned, listen to your GP, your body, and alert the teacher prior to the class (or during the class if you are feeling unwell)..
In conclusion, the benefits of exercise are well known. The best exercise is the type you enjoy doing. If Bikram yoga is of interest to you, I encourage you to try it out. Studies have found it to be of benefit, and there are improvements happening in the research world to ensure safety. There are many benefits to Bikram Yoga, not limited to improved mobility, gained strength, honed focus, decreased pain and increased body awareness. Those with prior health conditions should discuss their situation with a health professional and the teacher prior to commencing a new regime of Bikram or any type of exercise; however, the benefits of exercise almost always outweigh the risk of being too sedentary. Try it! .