I'm excited to report that in the past week I've done two Bikram classes. Before that, I hadn't been to Bikram in THREE full months - clearly the longest I've gone without Bikram since I started practicing in January 2008.
Bikram Yoga is a series of 26 postures that was developed by a man named Bikram Choudhury. The postures themselves are centuries old, but he put them together in a specific order that is unchanging in every Bikram class in the world. The posture order is somewhat of a yin and a yang, we do one pose in order to prepare for what is coming after. We'll bend forward, then bend backward. We'll target the hamstrings, then we'll target the hips. We'll target the lumbar spine, then we'll target the entire spine. You sweat like you've never sweated before, but you leave the room feeling great. You wake up sore the morning after, but it's a "good" sore like you've given your body a good challenge and you've used muscles that you don't normally use.
Some other good things:
1. At certain points you compress organs for a short period of time, cutting off blood flow and oxygen to the area. When you release, you get fresh blood and oxygen to the area - it's called a tourniquet effect.
2. The amount of sweat you produce feels very gratifying - you feel like you're getting rid of a lot of toxins. Some people get a "Bikram glow."
3. You improve your endurance, flexibility, and balance.
4. If you're trying to lose weight, whether it's a little or a lot, you WILL lose weight if you do Bikram consistently. I am always more trim when I do 1-2 classes a week. You burn A LOT of calories.
5. Prepping for Bikram classes requires simple eating and LOTS of water (half your body weight in ounces).
Some reasons to be cautionary about Bikram:
1. It can get so hot that you don't get a true sense of what your body can or cannot do. It's possible to overstretch and pull muscles.
2. It can get competitive - staring at yourself in a floor to ceiling mirror makes you stare at other people too.
3. Bikram himself is described by some as very arrogant - his way is the only way. I don't worry about this though - he's not teaching the class, and his way ISN'T the only way.
4. You have to prep for the class the entire day - if you aren't hydrated, you're going to suffer.
5. Bikram poses are very "leg heavy" - your legs will get tired. I wouldnt't run and then do a Bikram class back to back. If you absolutely must run, do it in the morning and Bikram in the afternoon or vice versa.
Overall, people develop a "love it or hate it" attitude towards Bikram Yoga. For me, I love it. It's challenging, attitude changing, body changing, and life changing. Everyone should try it!