The following excerpt by thegoodbadpeople answers the question of "Does Bikram yoga incorporate any meditation?"
Bikram’s philosophy derives from the philosophy of traditional yoga
he began learning at age 3, in Kolkata. His guru was Bishnu Ghosh,
brother of Paramahansa Yogananda, who wrote Autobiography of a Yogi, in which that guru lineage is further explained.
The core principles of the philosophy revolve around the observation
that in order to sit very still and meditate quietly until achieving
self-realisation, one must have a disciplined connection between the
mind and the body. If not, it is simply far too painful to sit still for
that long. Especially in lotus pose. Plus it is really, really, really
distracting, due to the dramatic performances of the mind that monkeys
around trying desperately to get your attention. Which it is super
excellent at doing. And presumably self-realisation takes a pretty long
time to achieve. If ever.
So the story goes that the practice of hatha yoga (the practice of
postures, or if you prefer the Sanskrit, “asana,” which loosely
translates to “posture holding stillness, breathing always normal”)
developed to limber up the body and prepare the mind in preparation for
meditation. In lotus. For a really, really, really long time. Maybe even
Bikram yoga, like all posture yoga, is hatha yoga, which means the
yoking of the body and the mind, creating what Bikram likes to call “a
When he tells the story of agreeing to his guru’s request that he
bring traditional Indian yoga to the west, Bikram emphasizes the
directive to not change it in order to make it more accessible to
westerners (that is, easier with the help of blocks, straps, chanting,
dim lights, music, pastel walls, sleeping, etc.). Instead, he was meant
to give them the real deal: a physically, psychologically, emotionally,
and spiritually challenging practice that enables practitioners to
strengthen the five aspects of mind: concentration, determination,
self-control or willpower, faith, and patience, in that order.
Improvement in one facilitates improvement in the next. Eventually. Or
in the future.
Bishnu Ghosh was involved with yoga therapy as well, a therapy that
functioned in accordance with Ayurveda to address health issues. In
other words, a treatment involving the prescription of yoga postures,
similar to physiotherapy or the like.
sequence of 26 postures (including two breathing exercises) was
developed to address the common ailments and complaints of the western
individual. The sequence works the whole body through compression and
release to improve the blood and move it systematically through every
part until every system is addressed. Bikram speaks of five main systems
of the body: respiratory, circulatory, digestive, skeletal, and
nervous. Together, they sustain the sixth and overarching system that
governs homeostasis: the immune system. The Bikram series addresses each
system, with some extra focus on backward bending, considered to be the
healer of the spine. And of course the spine houses the central nervous
system, which refers to the entirety of one’s physically mitigated
material experience, and so! a happy spine means a happy life.
So, in Bikram yoga, you have one and a half hours in a hot and humid
room that is brightly lit and lined with floor-to-ceiling mirrors. You
are wearing not much, and neither is your neighbour. All are sweating.
Maybe some crying. Maybe you. You are requested and repeatedly reminded
to regard your own self in the mirror. For very very very very very many
people, this is extremely hard to do. But everyone who keeps trying
starts to get used to it. Maybe even–a little bit–they start to enjoy
it. And everyone gets benefit: everyone together. Bikram says the
darkest place is underneath the lamp, and the hot room offers the
experience of stepping into that bright place so you can see what
monsters lurk there, and eventually stop running away.
With practice, you begin to learn concentration, determination,
self-control, faith, and eventually, if you’re very very, very very very
very lucky, patience. You learn to try the right way, to try again and
again, to try harder, and to not give up. And you have to remove
yourself from your complaints that try to stop you from doing all of
this: it’s too hot, it’s too hard, I can’t do it, I’m soooo bad, I’m toooooo sick, I’m toooooooooo special, nobody loves me.
With practice, you learn a little objectivity that requires putting
that stuff aside for the moment and just doing your yoga. So: your body
improves, your mind improves, and you start to have a relationship with
yourself that is founded on the moving meditation of your body, with
your breath, according to your mind. Posture by posture, class by class,
by trying the right way, trying harder, and trying again and again, you
start to heal your relationship with yourself.