Yoga is at least about 5,000 years old. The Hindus of the Indus valley civilization developed yoga as a practical device to unite the individual self with the Brahman, the universal self. It was codified about 2,000 years back into a system by Patanjali in his work ‘Yoga Sutra.’
His yoga, known as Ashtanga Yoga (or eight-limbed yoga) came to be the authority on yogic practice. These eight limbs are to be practiced in sequence to achieve its spiritual end. In the modern age yoga came to be understood as ‘Hatha Yoga,’ which practices the third and fourth limbs of Ashtanga Yoga – Asanas and Pranayama.
Hatha Yoga, meaning sun-moon yoga, aims to unite the active and passing energies of the human beings. It harmonizes the body-mind relationship, and achieves a balance. The body becomes supple and strong. The mind relaxes and the stress eases. The internal systems, such as blood circulation, nervous system, digestive system and the endocrine system, are improved.
There are many systems of ‘Hatha Yoga,’ such as Ashtanga Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Vini Yoga, Integral Yoga, Sivananda Yoga and Bikram Yoga. Basically they hold postures that exercise the system. It is formulated by different teachers, giving importance to different aspects of Hatha Yoga.
Bikram Choudhry, the founder of Bikram Yoga, was born in Kolkatta in 1946. He became a disciple of Bishnu Gosh, the brother of Paramahamsa Yogananda, at the age of four. His mastery of the Hatha Yoga technique was so good that he continuously won the Indian Yoga championship, and retired undefeated at a very young age. Bikram started many training centers for yoga, on the direction of his master Bishnu Gosh. Later, he founded his own system of yoga known as Bikram Yoga.
Bikram Yoga is a series of 26 postures, done inside a heated room. The temperature is maintained at about 90 – 100o. This warms the body naturally, and the postures are easily accomplished. The series starts with standing postures, backward bends, forward bends and twists. Each posture is repeated twice. The full routine takes about 90 minutes.
Bikram has a school in Los Angeles where teachers impart yoga practice. He also travels throughout America organizing workshops and seminars.