Bikram Yoga for Men

It’s not often standing idly by will make you sweat as though you’ve just run a marathon.

That is, until you walk into what feels like a 40-degree room in nothing but a modest pair of gym shorts and realise it’s quite possible and just as bizarre an experience as it sounds.

Bikram yoga is a craze that has been around for a while now, since Bikram Choudhury adapted the style from traditional hatha yoga in the 70s, and it’s succeeded in taking Australia by its impressively flexible hamstrings.

It’s been a gradual development over some of the more conscionable years lately, that has resulted in countless Bikram yoga studios popping-up in suburbs country-wide and countless herds of people who’ve developed an addiction to sweating profusely for the purpose of achieving a rejuvenating stretch.

One such organisation that is out there to prove it’s the best in helping people achieve the unfathomable amount of reasons people begin their Bikram journey, and offer a nice alternative to winter-time exercise is Bikram Yoga Bayside, founded and headed-up by Marcelle Dwyer.

Her tale of success behind the business is an inspiring one about the pros of something that so many have subscribed to, as well as the tales of rebuttal that circulate about the supposedly ‘questionable’ exercise practise.

I had a chance to chat to Marcelle about her thoughts on Bikram yoga, its goods and bads and how it fits into the modern Australain lifestyle. She has nothing but good things to say, and after having tried my own hand at stretching my body into some positions I never thought possible, I can only attest to them.

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We’ve all heard of the ‘benefits’ of Bikram Yoga. What’s your opinion on them?

I’m a strong believer, and walking, talking evidence of the benefits of Bikram Yoga, as are my Teachers and Students. I was unwell and unhappy when Bikram Yoga found me. I soon felt the amazing physical and mental benefits, especially as I increased my practice days.

I’m delighted to hear so often people talking about how it has improved the lives of our Students in so many ways. We all have issues – physical and/or mental, and I hear amazing stories constantly about how BY has improved the lives of others.

For me, my sick body became well, I became strong and flexible, my self esteem, self confidence and self discipline increased, my anxiety decreased, and I found myself with a sense of serenity and a happy mind. None of these I possessed before Bikram Yoga. It was a profound life changer – it was soon evident that I’d found my calling – to become a Teacher, open Bikram Yoga Bayside and pay it forward.

Why do you practise Bikram yoga?

I practise Bikram Yoga because it makes my life significantly better in every way. It’s almost a “you name it, I’ve had it” situation – physically and mentally – but in short, Bikram Yoga keeps me well, pain free and happy. I have had periods of time when I’ve not been able to practise (e.g. for a month after my baby was born) and the difference for me during those times has been tremendous. I feel hugely better, well, happy, peaceful, when my practice is regular and frequent, and I’m in discomfort, even pain when it’s not.

How do you find most people respond to Bikram yoga?

I love hearing people’s experience of the yoga. It constantly reminds me of why I do what I do. Most people are incredibly positive, and surprised. So often I’ve heard really fit athletes come out of their first class saying “that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done” with huge grins on their faces, and at the other end of the spectrum, people who’ve not exercised in years come out equally happy and excited, surprised at what they were able to do, keen to come back for their next class. It’s such a joy.

One of the beautiful things about Bikram Yoga is that everyone can do it – all ages, shapes, sizes, physical abilities, spiritual/religious inclinations… It’s designed for absolute beginners, but is still challenging for everyone. As your practice strengthens, you can continue in the same class for the rest of your life and continue to be positively challenged and benefitted.

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Why do you think people see bikram in such a novel way? Do you think they still do, years after its first introduction to the mainstream?

I think it was seen as more of a novelty early in its introduction here – being the first hot yoga it was a new concept to Westerners. But it makes sense – yoga originated in India, in the heat. It’s been used for thousands of years as a preventative and treating therapy. Now, with other hot yoga venues opening here, Bikram Yoga is seen as less novel with the heat factor, but more trusted as being the original hot yoga. It’s becoming more known for the fact that it’s design is very scientific, with a view to healing and improving every part of the body in order to gain maximum medical benefit.

Are there many advancements to be made to the practise of Bikram yoga or has it plateaued?

Bikram Yoga itself, the two breathing exercises, 26 postures, timing and heated room were designed with great care. All aspects are very specifically the way they are so that every part of the body is carefully prepared to safely and sequentially execute each posture for the required amount of time in order to receive maximum medical benefit. It has been the way it is since it was first developed many years ago – there is no need to change it, simply put, it works.

There are other hot yogas that have deviated from the original, perhaps offering shorter classes, lesser heat, modified postures… While I think all yoga is good yoga provided it’s instructed by properly educated and qualified Teachers, they don’t provide the same benefits as Bikram Yoga.

The one advancement that can be made is to bring it to more people – the more people that practise, the more healthy, happy people there are.

In winter, it can be hard to get motivated to leave the house and get moving. Do you think Bikram is a nice motivator?

Bikram Yoga’s a wonderful thing in Winter! On the cold days the thought of getting into a hot room and working up a sweat is a great motivator. At Bikram Yoga Bayside we’ve got a huge floor to ceiling window – not only is it great as you don’t feel claustrophobic, but the feeling of being in the hot room when you can see it’s cold, wet and windy outside is great. And practising during a storm is really something special.

It’s also fantastic in the hotter weather – dispelling the misconception that “it’s too hot for hot yoga” – the body is more warm and flexible through the natural heat, making it less of a temperature transition.

Do you think many people would think of Bikram as a winter exercise alternative? Why or why not?

Some people do feel they only want to practise Bikram Yoga during the colder months, and that’s totally fine. I recommend maintaining a regular and frequent practise though – that way your body is consistently well, fit, strong and mobile throughout the year. The physical and mental benefits of Bikram Yoga are so substantial, and just like most things we tend to lose them if we don’t keep up the maintenance. By the time next Winter comes around, your body has reverted to the state it was in before your last Bikram Yoga season, so it’s kind of like starting all over again.

Practising in the warmer weather too gives you the opportunity to pop down to the beach and take a dip straight after class – I highly recommend it! With the beach 3km away, you can be in the water within 5 minutes after your class at BY Bayside. It’s a fantastic way to start or end your day.

Most people still see yoga as a woman’s exercise regimen. Do you agree? Why?

It’s less and less seen that way, thankfully. Of course there are still those ideas out there, but it’s great to see more and more men take up the practice. I say “real men do yoga”. Those who practise know too well that this yoga is for everyone, and it’s terrific to have so many fellas practising at BY Bayside.

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James Banham
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James Banham

Editor at THE F
James Banham is an Australian lifestyle, fashion and entertainment journalist. His writing can be found on these many topics and more in print and online publications around the country.
James Banham
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