New Hampshire Magazine May 2010
In January of 2003, Pubali Campbell was at a crossroads. She had spent two years taking multiple leaves of absence from a “toxic” work environment to spend time with her dying father. She was ready for a new chapter in her life. In February, out of the blue, she received a call from a beloved uncle with an idea that would help her turn that page. The uncle just happened to be Bikram, the founder of a form of yoga based upon a routine of postures performed in a room heated to 105 degrees. The Bikram “hot” yoga, with its lack of religious associations and its focus on weight loss and wellness, was opening the practice of yoga to thousands and swiftly growing in popularity across the country. Her uncle challenged her to open her own studio in Manchester. It was a huge leap; she would have to quit her job and enter a rigorous physical training regimen just to prepare for the actual teacher training. “I thought about it for all of one night and accepted the challenge,” she says. “The rest is history!”
What’s so great about Bikram yoga? In one word: empowerment. Every aspect of this yoga practice, from the philosophies behind it to the manner in which the classes are conducted, empowers its practitioners.
What lessons can we learn from a 2,000-year-old practice? First and foremost, that anything that has been around for this long is worthwhile to explore! Yoga is anything but “new age.” Next, the importance of paying attention to the journey from A to Z — not only getting to Z and what happens once you get there.
Have you witnessed any remarkable transformations in your students? In my time here I have seen people lose dramatic amounts of weight and go from being so tight they couldn’t kneel to easily touching their toes and sitting cross-legged. Students have healed injuries, gotten off sleeping pills, managed migraine headaches, have stopped smoking and have conceived babies after years of difficulty. It goes without saying that the students who have experienced these “yoga miracles” put considerable effort into their health. One has to practice regularly and have good habits outside of the yoga, too.
What’s the reason for using the same poses each time, as opposed to a varied routine? Well, think about tennis, for example. People who play tennis practice the same elements of the game over and over again. The backhand, the forehand, the overhead, the serve, etc. The postures may be exactly the same, but the person is constantly changing. And this is how you make and mark progress.
Why must it be so hot? Three reasons: 1) Safety — the body stretches more safely and effectively in a warm environment. 2) Sweating — we believe that there are great benefits to sweating. 3) Mental challenge — because such a large part of the Bikram philosophy is training the mind to be stronger and more tolerant. We believe that the heat adds another layer of challenge that helps build tolerance, patience and breath control.
Why no Omm … at the end of practice? The Bikram yoga philosophy believes that the perfect balance of a sound body and mind is the epitome of well-being. Since cultivating this balance can be a lifetime process, our classes are dedicated only to the strengthening of the physical body and mind. So, Bikram yoga does not incorporate any spiritual elements into the practice.
How would you rate yoga as a way to get in shape? Every yoga class has a different outcome and approach. The relaxation-based classes help people learn to calm their nerves, lower the heart rate, blood pressure and stress. The more physical classes help people with improving literally every system of the human body, the most obvious being the cardiovascular, muscular, skeletal, immune, nervous and respiratory.
Three Easy Poses
Bikram does not recommend practicing its specialized poses outside the hot room, but Campbell says the following poses can be used to good effect independently or together by someone wanting to try yoga at home.
1) The first, Savasana, is done lying on the back. Heels together, toes out to the side. Arms close to the body, palms facing up. At home, the eyes can be closed. Breathing should be slow and deep. In and out through the nose.
2) The next, Ardha Kurmasana (half tortoise pose), is similar to a child’s pose. Start by kneeling. Arms over the head, palms together, thumbs crossed. Gently stretch up to the ceiling, and slowly come down to the floor with a strong abdomen. Once down, relax the abdomen and stretch, gently, the arms forward, hands/palms staying together.
3) The last, Pavanamuktasana (wind removing pose), you do by lying on your back. Bring the right leg up, hold the leg with your fingers interlaced a couple inches below the knee. Gently, pull the leg a little out to the right and then towards the shoulder. Outside of the hot room, just do a gentle stretch. Switch legs. Then, bring both legs up and hold the legs with arms interlaced a couple inches below the knee. Relax the abdomen and let the legs gently push the abdomen. Keep the chin down.