How to STOP the ageing process with Bikram Yoga

Updated: Dec 13, 2021

If you’re over 50, Bikram yoga, done correctly, is the ultimate fitness program. It outperforms all those slower gentle styles of yoga for a whole range of anti-ageing reasons.

But I stress only if you have the right approach because for a lot of people the standard way doesn’t cut the mustard.

As we move into later life it’s our agility we need to maintain above anything else.

I’ve been teaching yoga for aeons to thousands of people worldwide and it’s crazy just how many people I meet with years and years of yoga experience with near-zero agility and to add insult to injury they often have chronic joint and back pain.

To be as nimble as a mountain goat, with no joint pain, the reptilian brain needs to ensure the structure of the body is always fluid and open at all times.

But, that’s not possible if the neuromuscular pathways that connect to our inner stabilization muscles, start drying up. Which is what happens as we age.

As we all know, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

Gently and mindfully stretching out tight muscles, hoping your body is able to go that little bit deeper into a yoga posture doesn’t stimulate the connections with our inner stabilization strength at all.

The biggest problem with the mainstream approach to yoga is how it targets the needs of our thinking emotional mind, not the needs of the reptilian brain.

To explain what I mean, let’s look at how we are taught to breathe in yoga.

Take Cobra pose, we’re told to inhale as we come up.

Yes, emotionally it’s nice coming up as you inhale, you have all that help from the pneumatic pressure in the lungs to support you and you come up nice and high …. lovely, great! Your ego is satisfied.

But you’re not doing your reptilian brain any favours at all.

When you inhale as you come up into Cobra, your reptilian brain cannot disconnect antagonistic muscles and therefore cannot maintain an open fluid body structure.

This creates a catalogue is issues, most notably a drastic reduction of sensory feedback information, which means the reptilian brain is unaware of just how much the spine is compressing.

Now, your yoga practice is damaging your spine and it’s not helping you gain the stability strength needed for agility.

The key to balance, mobility and agility, is for the reptilian brain to have a high level of communication with your inner stabilisation muscles and mechanoreceptors so that it can ensure the body is open and fluid at all times.

Yoga can give you this, but only if you abandon the notion of stretching your way into postures.

Stretching into postures does not ignite the right neurological connections we need for agility. That’s the bottom line of it.

And another thing…

In yoga, we spend a lot of time focusing on alignment with a misguided belief that good alignment will stave off injury.

But in truth, all you do is address the symptom, not the cause.

There is no such thing as “bad alignment”, provided the body is always open and fluid. That includes postures such as Rabbit and Wind-Removing pose.

Your body has a remarkable capacity to repair and develop itself, but only if you give it the freedom to play and explore without the rigid confinement of rules.

As Bruce Lee said:

- “Focus On The End Goal, Not The Vehicle”

- “Don’t Think, Feel”

- “Be like Water”

- “Be Flexible And Adaptable with your approach”

I guarantee, no matter how old, unfit or inflexible you are, your agility, stamina and body perception will skyrocket when your approach to Bikram yoga supports the reptilian brain to maintain a fluid and open structure and you stop chasing theoretical alignment rules.

With the right approach, I’ve seen 80-year-olds reverse their joint stiffness, lack of balance and mobility issues in a matter of weeks. That flies in the face of the saying “it’s all in the journey”.

Most of my 1:1 clients are in their 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s and they come to me with stiffness and painful joints. Six months down the line, some of them are doing Standing Forehead to Knee perfectly while on a wobble board.

Now, that’s true balance and agility.

Bill Thwaites

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