The belly is a prized area of the body for many men and women. When fat appears for various reasons, people are often led to exercise as a means to get rid of it.
Spot reduction of problem areas doesn’t exist; if you only perform exercises that strengthen certain anatomical areas, you won’t reduce abdominal fat. You need to eat healthy foods and perform regular aerobic exercise to lose all-over body fat. Performing the entire Bikram series will offer the overall health benefits this style of yoga provides with consistent practice, including a toned midsection.
One question that we often get from both new and old students alike is “Where are the abdominals in Bikram yoga?” It’s going to be different for each person and you certainly have to exert the effort and do the proper form to work the core (in any exercise – even crunches!). Regardless of the posture you perform, you should always engage your abdominals. What you’ll find is that Bikram is a nearly 90 minute ab workout!
Pranayama: in breathing, the stomach should be sucked in on both the inhale and the exhale; core strength is used to push the air out of the lungs and keeping the stomach in on the inhale helps the lungs work harder to fill, increasing your lung capacity.
Half moon: Half Moon pose strengthens all of the core muscles located in the abdomen and the sides of the torso and releases energy from the spine to prepare you for the rest of the Bikram series. Half Moon pose is the first pose of the Bikram series and is particularly beneficial for strengthening the abs. The first part of the pose prepares you for the backbend in the second half, which mimics the gut-busting reverse crunch, one of the top exercises used to tone the belly. With regular practice as part of a whole-body workout, expect the Half Moon to tighten your lower abs, waistline, buttocks and thighs.
Awkward: four times in this posture (in parts 1 and 3), the dialogue says something to the effect of “suck it in.” When you’re sucking it in that hard and trying to keep a straight spine, you can’t help but do some work in the abdominal muscles!
Eagle: twice here the “suck it in” revisits. Right before you sit and at the end of the posture.
Standing Head to Knee: another forward bend so definitely suck the stomach in before rounding down to grab your foot. Another benefit – the tighter you suck your stomach in, the easier it feels to tighten up your glute muscles and leg muscles.
Standing Bow: opens the diaphragm and lungs to improve circulation. When you properly engage your abs, this ordinarily difficult pose becomes easier; however, it may take several tries before you can balance successfully. When practiced regularly, this pose firms the abdominal walls, helping tone the upper and lower abdominals as part of a full-body workout.
Balancing Stick: every single muscle should be contracted in this posture, including the abdominal muscles!
Standing Separate Leg Stretching and Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee are both forward bends so suck the stomach to the spine as you go into them and then challenge yourself to keep it held in the whole time. The constant trying to keep it in is a great ab workout.
Triangle: trims the waistline as you use your abs and constantly lift from the lower belly.
Toe Stand: forward bend! Suck it in!
The Situp: need I say more? Ok, keeping the heels on the floor helps the situp work more of the lower abdominals as well
Spine Strengthening Postures: We tend to let our bellies relax in most of these and focus on our spine. But a strong spine must be balanced with a strong core. Cobra, Locust, Full-Locust, and Bow are just the poses to tone your entire midsection. And remember that a “tight body is a light body”. The more you tighten your core, the easier it will be to lift off the ground.
Half-Tortoise: Oh yah, this is where it’s at. The whole way into and out of this posture, when you’re slowly lowering your body down or slowly bringing it back up with a straight spine, the core muscles should be working HARD.
Rabbit: the extra dialogue in this one definitely calls for sucking it in and depressing the abdominal wall (also another forward bend).
Separate Leg with Stretching: a forward bend where you curve your spine; sucking the stomach in on this one really helps you get your head closer to your stomach (more compression = more medical benefit!).
Spine Twisting: the more you suck your stomach in, the easier it will be to twist.
Blowing in Firm: the dialogue clearly states that this one is good for the abdominal muscles. You should even feel a little cramping in the abs as you do this one from using them to quickly blow the air out of the lungs.
Bikram Yoga is healing. Thank you to Fatma, Hazel and Alex for coming forward and sharing your stories. They inspire beginners and advanced practitioners alike and help us to keep up with our own practice.
Bikram Yoga Journey
I enjoy challenges, especially those I can relate to in terms of benefits and physical exercise. When my sister and I were offered a Bikram Yoga class, we jumped on the occasion; a challenge with my sister is the best challenge their is 🙂
We push each other and try to be as good as the other. We also understand each other without having to speak.
Though it’s increased in popularity in the last few decades, yoga has actually been around for thousands of years. And in its various forms, it is beneficial for not just your physical health but for your mental health and it helps in a variety of other ways too.
We have been practising yoga for a while, not being naturally flexible, we thought the addition of the 40 degree heat in the hot room would enable us to gain flexibility in no time.
As we entered the silent room, the other yogis already positioned lying down, feet towards the back wall – we looked at each other which meant “hmm, this isn’t quite what we expected”. It was hot.
We lay down and started breathing deeply, as we felt the air was not conducive to normal breathing, we observed what the other students were doing and waited for the instructor to enter the room.
The class began with a breathing exercise, which hurt my shoulders, and made me feel uncomfortable, then came the standing poses. Poses I was familiar with but yet I did not seem to be able to go deeper into them, some I wasn’t able to do at all. My mind started to get in the way, thoughts occurring along the lines of “ Its too hot in here”, “ This is making me uncomfortable”, “How much longer is the class”, “There’s sweat in my eye!”
At one point the Instructor switched on a fan for a few seconds which changed my state of being and I began to relax a bit again. As soon as it went off, I started to obsess about when the next fan time would be, which did not happen for what felt like a very long time.
By this time my sister had already taken a knee, and was now lying flat on her back, she looked drained and was imploring me with her eyes to help her somehow. I smiled at her, or tried to amidst my own exhaustion – she did not return it.
Not long after, it was my turn, first I took a knee, then collapsed into savasana, breathing heavily, my mind still racing, now I was eyeing the fan pleading with it to come on.
I looked at my sister, she was looking at me – this meant “lets leave”.
We quietly got up, and began to roll up our mats. “ Ladies, please don’t leave the room” we hear, “ the goal is to stay in the room for the entire duration of the class, you can stay in savasana if you need to, breathe normally through the nose, this will bring down your heart rate and enable you to finish the class”. Back we went into savasana which lasted until the end of the class for us.
We swore to ourselves we would never take the class again, the instructor however took us aside as we were leaving and talked to us about our experience in the hot room. She explained that we were detoxing deeply and rapidly, about the benefits of a regular practice, that we would get used to the heat in no time, that its normal to feel overwhelmed and most importantly, to breathe normally throughout the class.
The personal touch made all the difference to me, within a day I was back in the hotroom.
Fast forward to today – I now practice 3 times a week, If I don’t get in my 3 classes I feel like something is missing. Over time I have felt a shift within myself , I am learning which foods are good for me and which ones don’t sit so well. I’m learning how to control my breath which in turn controls my mind. I don’t obsess over the fan so much anymore, and have come to a point where I actually enjoy the heat. Who would have thought? The more I practice, the stronger I get physically, mentally and emotionally. The more focused and determined I become on the mat, the more focused and determined I become in my daily life. I have come to find that who I am on the mat, reflects who I am off the mat.
I am transforming myself from the inside out, can breathe better than I have done in a very long time and would highly recommend Bikram Yoga to anyone who wants to make a serious lifestyle change. I had heard before that many Bikram students feel addicted to it, I can see and feel now for myself how this is possible.
There are a host of benefits that come with Bikram Yoga including increased blood circulation, improved digestion, flexibility, prevents injuries, glowing skin etc.
Come and take a class, see for yourself, show up for yourself and be transformed.
Comment with what Bikram Yoga has done for you, or get in touch if you would like to contribute your own article.