When I think about yoga, I think about feeling expansive and opening up. So when I started practicing Bikram yoga over a decade ago—a hatha yoga discipline—I was confused by the amount of compression postures included in the series. I didn’t really care for the postures, they weren’t as beautiful as some of the postures you see featured on the cover of Yoga Journal magazine, but I’ve come to discover their incredible healing benefits.
The twenty six postures included in the Bikram yoga series were specially designed to open and compress your body over and over. Take note during your next class, you’ll see that nearly every other posture is about compression and flexion, opening and closing.
Compression poses have tremendous health benefits including:
- Compression of your thyroid, pineal and pituitary glands (in forward bends) to help to regulate your hormone system
- Regulates metabolism
- Compression of your lymohnodes helps to flush your body, circulate your lymphatic system and boost circulation
- Stretches your spine, from tail bone all the way to the base of your neck
- Balances out backbends, moving from back bend to compression helps restore the natural flexion of your spine
- Stimulates and massages internal organs including your liver, kidneys, pancreas (regulating sugar digestion) and more
- Helps with digestion, through compressing your stomach and lower abdomen
Hatha Yoga Compression Postures
This is not a complete list, as there are some compression elements to many hatha yoga postures. But I have pulled out a few of the key compression postures from the Bikram yoga series.
This breathing exercise is great for compressing the lymohnodes on the back side of your neck. Read more about Pranayama Breathing HERE.
This posture provides endless compressions for your lymohnodes including your armpits and your inner thighs. More on Eagle posture HERE.
Standing Head to Knee
The final expression of this posture creates a nice compression on the front side of your neck, creating a nice release when you exit the posture.
Standing Separate Head to Knee
Arguably the best front side compression during the whole series, this posture is great for boosting your metabolism and boosting your immune system.
The four postures in this series will create a nice compression all along your spine. The compression strengthens the muscles in your back, alleviates back pain, and flushes your kidneys, preventing unwanted kidney stones.
Rabbit posture is a great example of a compression posture that uses your strength to create stretching along your spine. Play around with this posture, it’s tough but feels wonderful!
Despite it’s name, the first part of this posture (where you have one leg out and touch your forehead to your knee), isn’t about stretching, it’s all about compressing your throat. Since this is one of the final postures in the series, use it to your advantage!
The final, and only, twist of the series, is a great way to ring out your body and internal organs like a wet rag. Picture yourself giving your organs one final squeeze before drifting off into a restorative final savasana.