Balancing life with Bikram Yoga |

Balancing life with Bikram Yoga

Suzie Daggett interviews Helen Neff, owner and teacher of Bikram Yoga in Grass Valley.

What got you interested in Bikram Yoga?

I started Bikram Yoga eight years ago in an effort to improve my bone density. I fractured my hip when I was 42 and a resulting test showed that I was minus 25 percent in bone density for my age. The doctors said I would need to go on bone-strengthening medication later in life and would most likely be a hunched over old lady. I preferred to be pro-active and after pressing my doctor for alternatives, he recommended yoga, and specifically Bikram Yoga since it has a spine strengthening series. Four years later, I had another bone density test that was much improved.

I continued to do Bikram Yoga and after seven years, took another bone density test with the results measuring over 100 percent in my spine and my hips for my age. In addition to improved bone density, I also experienced reduced stress, increased muscular strength, and became more flexible than I have ever been in my life. I became a certified Bikram Yoga teacher in 2004 and now share this practice with others,

What is Bikram Yoga?

Bikram Choudhury started this practice in the 1970s. A yoga champion as a youngster in India, he went on to weightlifting until an accident crushed his knee. With the help of his guru, he created this series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises to restore his health. He then started teaching his style of yoga in other countries. He added heat to the room because it was not as humid and warm as in India. The heat enables the body to bend, allowing students to go deeper into the postures and detoxify at the same time. During each class, the 26 postures and two breathing exercises are done in the exact same order.

What is a 90-minute session like?

We start with deep breathing, then spine opening postures which work on the hips and then move to the major joints of the body. This is followed by the balancing and separate leg series. The last third of the class is spent on the floor with emphasis on spine strengthening. Each posture – done in a specific sequence – is held for a certain amount of time, then we release and rest. When we are in a posture and holding it, we are restricting the blood supply to certain areas. Upon release, fresh blood flows to those areas. This helps to heal injuries and scar tissue and builds strength and endurance.

What are the benefits of Bikram Yoga?

The benefits are different for everyone, but in general, one can expect to restore flexibility, gain strength, build endurance, improve alertness and balance, discover energy and detoxify the body through the sweating process.

Many students have gained mobility, relieved emotional stress, lost weight and more. Here are some of their stories:

Jerre: A knee injury in 1981 gave me very limited movement. After about one year with Bikram Yoga, I have more flexion in my knee – more than 30 percent recovery. In addition, I am more aligned in my spine, I am stronger overall in my body, and I feel larger lung capacity.

Shirl: I have expanded lung capacity, which has allowed me to kayak and bike for very long periods of time without shortness of breath. I also had laser knee surgery a few years ago and my knees are much more flexible with regular Bikram workouts. Unlike other exercise routines, this yoga feels like it is toning my muscles from the inside out.

Tim: As a firefighter, maintaining health is a big issue for me. I have better flexibility all around, especially in my back and hamstrings; I have lost inches and a few pounds. In the beginning, I was very skeptical, yet this is a solid workout that has improved my health.

What do you get out of your practice?

It is my life! It keeps me healthy, happy and balanced with less stress. I cannot imagine life without Bikram Yoga as I continue to explore new ways to do the postures.


Helen can be reached at Bikram Yoga, 273-2030 or you can go to for a complete class schedule.

Suzie Daggett is the TV host of Healing INsights on NCTV, and the publisher of INSIGHT, the Directory of Healing Arts Practitioners; she can be reached at 265-9255 or on the Web.

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