Wondering about the benefits of Bikram Yoga? Bikram Yoga and Hot Yoga are becoming increasingly popular in the yoga industry. You may have heard about Bikram Yoga and want to know more about it. But, before you go running off to the next available class in your neighborhood, there are a few things you should know. Here is a little background and information to help you decide if Bikram is the right yoga for you.
What is Bikram Yoga?
If you are not familiar with it, your first question may be, “What the heck is Bikram Yoga?” There are many different forms and studies of yoga. Bikram Yoga was developed by a yogi named Bikram Choudhury over 40 years ago. The practice uses a specific series of 26 yoga poses and with two breathing techniques. These are combined to give you a complete full body work out and tune up. It’s works your muscular system as well as your internal organs and systems. These poses are done in a 90-minute session. The catch is that it’s in a room with a temperature of 105 degrees, with a humidity level around 40%.
Bikram Yoga became popular in the 1970’s. It is reported that there are over 1000 Bikram Yoga studios around the world. Classes are taught by certified Bikram Yoga instructors.
What is the Difference Between Hot Yoga and Bikram Yoga?
We mentioned hot yoga earlier. It is important to note that there are differences between a hot yoga class and Bikram Yoga class. Bikram Yoga is hot yoga, but hot yoga is not necessarily Bikram.
Bikram Yoga follows a very strict protocol. It uses the exact same 26 poses presented in exactly the same format for every class. Each Bikram class lasts exactly 90 minutes. Bikram Yoga studios are set at 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity. The studios are also carpeted, brightly lit and mirrored. Talking and interaction between students is not permitted. There is also no music playing in the background.
Hot yoga is usually less structured than Bikram Yoga. Different poses may be used and presented in a different order. The temperature of the rooms is more likely to be set between 80 and 100 degrees and it is likely to be less humid. Music is often playing and interaction is permitted. The studios may be dimly lit and mirrorless. Hot yoga classes also may run for 60 minutes rather than 90.
What are the Benefits of Bikram Yoga?
According to the Bikram Yoga website, they claim that:
“It has been proved and experienced by millions that these 26 postures systematically work every part of the body, to give all the internal organs, all the veins, all the ligaments, and all the muscles everything they need to maintain optimum health and maximum function. Each component takes care of something different in the body, and yet they all work together synergistically, contributing to the success of every other one, and extending its benefits.”
Other reported benefits include:
- Increased Flexibility: Yoga is naturally great for increasing flexibility. It is believed that the addition of heat helps the body achieve greater flexibility and sink deeper into each pose.
- Weight Loss: You can burn up to 1000 calories in a 90-minute class. Bikram is also said to increase weight loss through stimulating your metabolism. That means you can burn more calories outside of class, too.
- Cardio Workout: Despite the apparent stillness involved in yoga, you are actually getting a very good workout. As you are balancing in Revolved Half Moon pose, many of your muscles are working hard. This increases your heart rate. The heated room also helps to increase your heart rate during your workout. this particular benefit also presents some risks, which we will discuss later.
- Detoxification: Your skin is your largest organ of detoxification. You release toxins through your pores. Bikram Yoga is performed in hot and humid rooms which further stimulate your body’s sweat glands. This increases the detoxifying effects of your yoga session.
- Stress Relief: Yoga is a great way to reduce stress. Yoga combined with specific breathing exercise for stress can greatly reduce your day to day anxiety.
There has been some debate as to whether or not Bikram Yoga and hot yoga are better for you than traditional yoga. Some argue that the benefits of Bikram yoga are nearly identical to regular yoga. There are important health risk considerations to consider due to the addition of extreme heat. These risks may outweigh the benefits.
Is Bikram Yoga Safe?
When excessive heat is added into anything, there are going to be risks involved. The American Council on Exercise did a recent study on a small group of people doing Bikram Yoga. They found that the core body temperature of the participants reached over 103 degrees. Their heart rates also reached potentially dangerous levels. The elevated heart rate and body temperature increases the risk of dehydration and heat related illnesses. These conditions may be life threatening. While this study is not conclusive, it is a strong indication that caution should be used when practicing Bikram Yoga and Hot Yoga.
Be aware of the signs and symptoms that your body is struggling with the heat. Things to watch for are agitation, nausea, cramps, rapid heart rate, fainting, dizziness, confusion or anxiety. Also, watch for excessive sweating or a decrease in sweating, or cold clammy skin. If you experience any of these, stop your practice immediately and be sure to take immediate steps to cool your body. If there are any signs of heat stroke, seek immediate medical attention (call 911).
Medical Contraindications for Bikram Yoga:
Be aware that certain medical conditions can be negatively affected by high temperatures. If you have any form of chronic disease, illness or infection, are taking medication, have an injury or are pregnant, consult your doctor before taking a hot yoga class.
How to Prepare for a Bikram Yoga Class:
Knowing there is increased heat, you will want to take steps to prepare yourself before your class. Optimize your experience and reduce the risk of heat related illness by following these steps:
- Hydrate: Drink plenty of water throughout the day before your class and after (do not chug right before you begin). Beverages that provide Electrolytes are beneficial as well. Coconut water is great for this.
- Arrive Early: It’s hot in there. Your body will be much happier if you give it the opportunity to adjust to the heat before the class begins. Give yourself about half an hour to arrive, settle in and acclimate to the heat.
- Listen to Your Body: You will naturally feel a bit uncomfortable as you adjust to the heat and may want to quit. This is normal, however just relax and focus on your breath. You should be able to move through it. If you start to feel dizzy or show any signs of heat related illness, stop and take care of your body. These are indications that your body is struggling with the heat. This can become life threatening so do not keep pushing yourself if this happens.
- Food: Your body will have a much more difficult time coping with the heat if it is also busy digesting a meal. Plan your meals around your class. That way you have ample time to digest before you begin. You may a have a light healthy snack (like fruit) a short while before your class, This will give you an energy boost, Just hold off on anything heavy. If you’re looking to lose weight here is a grocery list for weight loss on a budget.
Doing these things will ensure that you maximize your benefits of Bikram yoga. You may also need to work on your flexibility. A lot of us have tight hips from sitting all day which makes a lot of the yoga poses difficult. If you can, learn how to stretch to relieve tight hips. This will make yoga much more enjoyable.