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Bikram Yoga


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At the suggestion of one of my instructors, I recently began including Bikram Yoga as part of my weekly excercises. For those unfamiliar, this is basically a series of stretches or postures as they are called, performed in a very warm and humid room (around 105 degrees F). Each class consists of about 45 minutes of standing stretches and 45 minutes of seated streatches (my apologies to those more experieijknce with this form of excersie if I have incorreclty describe it.)


My question is this: has anyone else tried this form of "cross training", and what were your results?


After about 5 classes, I have noticed improved flexibility in some areas, and I am told greater results can be expected with time. My instructor told me on Saturday that he had noticed some positive improvement in my class work. I explained to him that I had taken his advice and tried Bikram Yoga, and he has encouraged me to stay with it, as there has been definite improvement.


Just curious to see what others have to say about this. Thank you.

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Yoga in general is sort of controversial for ballet dancers, as you can't do some of the postures and not encourage some non-ballet features, like sickling! Bikram Yoga is controversial inself among adepts of yoga. I'm not one, so I don't know what they are, but I bet it's partially the application of heat and humidity from outside the self that troubles them.


Yoga specifically designed and adapted for the training of ballet dancers can be a good thing, but I just don't know anybody outside of the Vaganova Choreographic Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia who does such a thing.

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Since I came to ballet after many years of yoga I'll give my two cents worth on this one. Clearly, you cant achieve many of the ballet movements if you dont have the range of movement necessary. Yoga helps to achieve this. However, in another way it is unhelpful. Yoga moves - even the "fast" yoga moves - are slow and deliberate in relation to ballet. Therefore, yoga strengthens, exercises, and enhances the slow muscle systems - i.e. the slow muscle fibres, the slow reflexes and so on. Moreover, the extreme positions are usually passively supported, rather than active. If your muscular abilities are substantially built on this, then you will not be encouraging the fast explosive moves needed in ballet. Therefore I suggest that once someone has achieved the range of movement needed, he/she then needs to concentrate on building up the speed, explosive power, and extreme range strength needed by ballet.


About this sort of yoga being controversial: because yoga is based on traditional practices and wisdom rather than scientific evidence, its practitioners get very defensive when its methods are modified (because they have no evidence to justify their position except a lifetime of experience, which looks like going out of the window). Secondly, this type of yoga does not encourage the spiritual/mental aspects of yoga that are (or are meant to be) one of its benefits. Thirdly, people who want to make a good living devise their own variants of yoga in the hope that they will become fashionable and then they will become very rich charging celebrities to come to their studio.


My view is that you can be pragmatic about achieving goals, and if you want to exercise in 105 deg humid air and that's the way to achieve your goals, then that's up to you. It just wont achieve the other goals normally associated with yoga. But what your goals are is up to you.



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I got great benefit, as a dancer, out of Feldenkreis training. Not an on-going thing, but a brief workshop. I believe that some aspects of Yoga are similar, especially the bit about breathing. OTOH, adult dance students I've seen who do a LOT of Yoga often don't do so well in ballet class.

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I’ve done yoga on and off (mostly off, however) since the mid-1970s. Yoga is a nice activity in and of itself, but like most all auxiliary activities, I think it neither helps nor harms development or skill in ballet. Though yoga promotes increased flexibility, that is usually not considered the primary aim of yoga. Personally, I believe the types of stretches you do in a jazz or modern class (which are often derived from yoga postures) have been more effective for me than have yoga postures in improving my flexibility.


I’ve never done Bikram style, but know about it. I generally agree with jimpickles second paragraph. I’ve always found stretching feels much better when I am actively sweating, which is perhaps the attraction of Bikram. But that’s also pretty much how it goes in a jazz class not held in the winter.

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  • 1 month later...

Wanted to follow up on this subject - after about 6 weeks of Bikram Yoga (2-3 times a week, 90 minutes per class), not only has my turnout greatly improved, but also my balance, and I can get higher eleve's (sp?).


My instructor stated he has seen drastic (his word) improvement in my form, and as a result, my technique has greatly improved. I can even perform tours without falling all over the place!


He has suggested that after my package runs out at Bikram (you purchase so many classes at a time, and I purchased a 25 class package) that I take a break to see if the effect is lasting, or if it needs to coincide with my personal ballet training.


All in all, I feel this has been sound advice with very positive results for me! Just wanted to pass along to anyone else who may be struggling with turnout, balance, cross training issues.


Thanks guys.


Oh yeah - I also wanted to say thank you to all who contribute to this site - I check it daily and have learned a great deal that helps to make me a better dancer! I really appreciate all the honest and sincere feedback (and even the colorful commentaries!). Thanks everyone! :D

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One word of caution,


A cardiologist warned me that high humidity puts a big strain on the heart. Yoga is typically not aerobic, but ballet is.


Those who think a hot humid studio is a good thing could be hurting themselves.



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Yoga is typically not aerobic, but ballet is.


The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) defines aerobic exercise as "any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously, and is rhythmic in nature."


That means taking your heart rate to 60% - 80% of your maximum and sustaining it there longer than 20 minutes. I suppose you could design a ballet class to be aerobic but the long pauses in most classes allow your heart rate to drop out of the zone.


There are a couple of conflicting theories for calculating your maximum heart rate. The most common is subtracting your age from 220. Consider that a guideline only. If you can get out a five to eight word sentence while exercising, you're probably in the zone. If all you can do is grunt, you're long past it and building up lactates faster than you can burn them. If you can recite the Gettysburg Address, you're not working hard enough.

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I recently irritated my Hamstring AGAIN! Orthopedist told me I am not stretching enough. Slow stetching seems to be the only solution. Everyday. Office workers in Midtown Manhattan will see a guy in a business suit doing yoga and other stretches in his cubicle.


I keep ballet aerobic by dancing in both groups, if allowed. during my recuperation I've been sitting out jumps and petit allegro, and joining in grande allegro. I'm usually drenched in sweat, but the past few classes I've stayed noticably cool and dry. Scott, you must be right about aerobic excercise, i do feel cheated out of a full class, but cannot strain my hammies again.



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I've started my first 90 minutes session last week and I am planning to go back again for a 3 times week session. The receptionist in London answered my question about the correlation between one's genetics and limits of flexibility. Eg. it's not necessarily true that your own genetics determine "how much more" range of flexibility that you can stretch. In other words, if you have tight hamstring or can't lift your leg up to 90 or above, then this will help. I am using "will" because I have high hopes that this form of yoga will work for me. I am hoping to increase my range of flexibility and looking forward for the result after 1 month. The heated environment acts like some kind of catalyst.

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"The receptionist in London answered my question about the correlation between one's genetics and limits of flexibility" -- I'm glad he or she was able to, because I've never seen the answer to this in the scientific literature over the years.... The role of genetics in the development of flexibility is (except in some pathological cases) entirely unknown.*


To MJ - I hope you allow your hamstrings to recover completely before stretching. If you try to stretch them again even while they are a bit irritated, they will get irritated again and the whole cycle will start again. And I suggest only stretch when REALLY warmed up.




*If someone wants, I can list what is known (as far as I am aware), though not just at this moment.

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