The 26 postures of Bikram Yoga are divided in two parts: the standing series and the floor series. Some may say that the standing series is merely a warm up for the real yoga or floor series, but there is much to gain from the first 45 minutes of Bikram Yoga.
Standing Deep Breathing (Prayanama) begins the series and prepares the body for the next 90 minutes, expanding the lungs and increasing circulation to the whole body. Following the Prayanama Breathing are the standing poses which include the Half Moon Pose (Ardha-Chandrasana), Hands to Feet Pose (Pada-Hastana), Awkward Pose (Utkansana) and Eagle Pose (Garurasana). The physical benefits of these poses include the strengthening of the core muscles, increased flexibility of the spine and sciatic nerves, strengthening and firming of the thigh muscles, calves and hips and also the upper arms. As for the medical benefits, these poses correct bad posture, promote kidney function, increase blood circulation in the knees and ankles and alleviate rheumatism, arthritis and gout.
The next few poses in the standing series focus on balance, beginning with Standing Head to Knee Pose (Dandayaman – Janushirasana), then Standing Bow Pulling Pose (Dandayamana – Dhanurasana) and ending with Balancing Stick Pose (Tuladandasana). Among the physical benefits of these asanas are tightening of the abdominal and thigh muscles, firming of the abdominal wall, upper thighs, upper arms, hips and buttocks. As for the medical benefits, these standing series assist in improving mental and psychological powers, as well as, developing concentration and determination.
From balance we move to stretching with Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose (Dandayaman-Bibhaktapada-Paschimothasana). With this pose the sciatic nerves and tendons are stretched and strengthened. The final phase of the standing series is triangle/warrior phase, beginning with Triangle Pose (Trikanasana) and Standing Leg Head to Knee Pose (Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Janushirasana), and then moving into the warrior poses which include Tree Pose (Tadasana) and Toe Stand Pose (Padangustasana). These postures firm upper thighs and hips, and reduce the waistline, hips, buttocks and upper thighs. The warrior poses improve posture and balance, increase ankle, knee and hip joint’s flexibility, and invigorate nerves, veins and tissues.
With the completion of the Toe Stand Pose, the intense 45 minutes of the first phase of Bikram Yoga ends with Savasana or the Dead Body Pose. Savasana helps with blood circulation and brings the body to complete relaxation while preparing it for the following 45 minutes on the floor. So are we warmed up now? YES! But we have also endured one heck of a workout!