10. What about the postures?

What is an 'asana'?

An asana is a discipline of the body - usually combining rules or postures to keep the body disease-free and preserving vital energy. Correct postures are a physical aid to meditation, they control and prevent imbalances of the limbs and nervous system.

We have presented you with an intelligently sequenced group of postures that carefully and mindfully open up your body, with each posture preparing you for the next. This unique sequence is designed to be maximally accessible to any new student, regardless of age and physical condition.

What is 'Pranayama Breathing'?

Pranayama breathing is a control of the breath. Beneficial to health, pranayama breathing steadies the body and is highly conducive to the concentration of the mind.

Why are full inversions not included in Bikram Yoga?

Full inversions (hand, head & shoulder stands) require strength, balance and skill that most beginning yoga students will not initially have. The Bikram series uses postures that easily place the body into a position of mild inversion, making the practice more accessible to more people.

My arms hurt when I do Locust with my arms under my body. Why?

This is quite normal. Many new students will experience feelings of discomfort in their arms, elbows, wrists or hands in this posture as a result of old injuries or general stiffness. Discomfort in a particular posture means this is the posture you need the most to heal that part of your body. Just pull back a bit if you are experiencing pain and while keeping your hands under your body, allow your arms to come out to the side for a while. Working through this discomfort, patiently and carefully will heal your body and the discomfort will go.

When I'm working in the standing series, particularly the balancing on one leg postures, I develop cramps underneath my feet. What causes that?

This is another common experience for new students. You will spend a lot of time balancing on one leg during the Standing series. While you strengthen your legs, you are also strengthening your feet. Often cramping is an indication that you are building new muscle strength in that area of your body. As your strength and fitness increase, the cramps should disappear. If, however, you continue to get cramps in class it may be a sign of an electrolyte deficiency. Taking an electrolyte replacement BEFORE class may help.

I am experiencing tingling sensations in my extremities, is this bad?

These sensations will sometimes occur in early classes as you and your body become accustomed to the practice. Your breathing may be too shallow and rapid. Concentrate on lengthening the inhalation and exhalation of your breath to avoid hyperventilation. Other symptoms associated with rapid/shallow breathing may include weakness, dizziness, blurred vision, tingling mouth or a racing heartbeat. If these symptoms persist outside of class, you may need to consult with a chiropractor or osteopath to check for any neuro/musculoskeletal cause or with a general practitioner for any disease process associated with such symptoms.

I feel my fingers & toes and other parts of my body cramping up, but more than cramping it feels like my bones are stiffening, what is this?

When muscles cramp, they may restrict the range of movement of a joint and make you feel like the bones in an extremity are stiffening. Cramping or involuntary muscle spasm may occur due to dehydration and a loss of electrolytes (trace minerals that the body needs). There may also be inadequate dietary intake that needs to be addressed.

Also, in cases of incorrect breathing, an excess of CO2 in the blood may cause severe cramping of muscles. This may also be associated with feelings of anxiety. To help prevent such symptoms, eat a healthy range of foods, drink plenty of water before class, use electrolyte replacements, and focus on breathing as fully as possible and exhaling as slowly as possible during class.

I am finding it hard to balance on one leg, I keep falling out.

The one-legged balancing postures are a challenge for most people. As you build strength in the muscles of the leg, hips and low back, you will be better able to correctly lock your knee.

By developing visual and mental concentration on what your standing leg is doing, you will be better able to control the micro-movements of your postural muscles that work to maintain your balance on either one or both feet. To fall out of a posture is being human. To keep coming back into a posture, to try again, is being a yogi.

My lower back hurts in some poses, how can I stop this?

Make sure that throughout the class you listen to the teacher's voice and carefully follow their instructions. In some postures you will be asked to suck your stomach in until it is tight, contracted. This will help protect your lower back and build a strong core in forward bending. In other postures you will be asked to stretch up or lift your chest up BEFORE moving into a side or back bending position.

This lengthening of the spine helps to prevent localised compression into the spinal joints. If your low back is painful, when you do the sit up, roll on to your side and push yourself up. When your back settles and your abdominal and core strength improves, you'll be able to do the sit ups. If you have a history of back injury, please make note of that on the registration form in the section about injuries.

Please advise your teacher before class if you are in significant pain. It is always wise to seek the advice of a musculoskeletal professional, such as a chiropractor or an osteopath.

Is it normal to feel dizzy, nauseous or light-headed when I practice?

It is completely normal to feel a bit dizzy, nauseous or light headed, especially when you begin practicing Bikram yoga, or return after having a break. First check that you have sufficient nutrition, your blood sugars may be low. Eating good-quality, unprocessed, healthy foods are best.

This can also be a sign of dehydration, so make sure you are always well hydrated before class. These are also signs that your body is beginning to detoxify which is a good thing, as you know the yoga is working. Remember if you do feel these symptoms, don't be afraid to kneel down on your mat until the symptoms pass. Over time, as you practice regularly, these symptoms will disappear.

Yoga is a fantastic diagnostic tool for the body. All the symptoms you feel are just ways your body is communicating to you. Your inability to hold a posture correctly can often tell you which parts of your body are weak or not functioning well. It is important you listen to your body and respect its messages!

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