What Is Bikram Yoga?

If you’ve ever heard the term “hot yoga,” they were likely referring to Bikram yoga. Here is some information about this unique style of yoga practice…

Bikram-style yoga, commonly called “hot yoga,” is an interesting type of yoga that incorporates heat into a long-format yoga class with some unique benefits. Read on to find out more about Bikram yoga, and why hot yoga classes have become so popular in recent years.

In the 1970s, Bikram Choudhury from Calcutta, India pioneered a form of Hatha Yoga into a routine of 26 yoga postures (asanas) and two breathing exercises that are usually performed in a high temperature/humid environment – 980 to 1050 Fahrenheit or 370 to 400 Celsius – each with around 40% humidity. A typical 90-minute workout can burn around 595 calories or 2,500 kilojules, so as you can imagine, this form of yoga is pretty intense!

Working in a hot and humid environment is supposed to provide the following benefits during Bikram yoga:

  • Warm up the muscles to allow for deeper stretching without injury
  • Increase flexibility
  • Detoxify your body through sweating and increased blood flow
  • Thin your blood for better circulation
  • Increase your heart rate for a better cardiovascular workout
  • Improve muscle strength and tone
  • Create a “blissed out” mental state (some people report a sort of “runners high” after experiencing the intensity of a Bikram yoga class)

The postures used in hot yoga are designed to systematically massage your internal organs, flush toxins out of your cardiovascular system and stimulate your endocrine and nervous systems, along with stretching and toning of muscles and ligaments to increase flexibility. Many people also swear by this style of yoga for weight loss, as it provides an intense workout with high calorie-burning potential.

Be forewarned: Your first session of Bikram yoga can be overwhelming. Many students feel nauseous or dizzy in their first class due to the high heat, humidity and intensity of the workout. However, most studios have salt and potassium tablets available that can help alleviate the dizziness. Others report a disoriented feeling after the first few classes. This may be your body’s way of showing it is starting to cleanse and detox itself through your workouts. All of these symptoms should disappear after a few workout sessions as your body acclimates to the extreme environment. Making sure to stay well hydrated throughout the day and not eating for at least two hours before your session can help to reduce any negative effects and help your body adjust more quickly to the intense workouts.

The 26 exercises in Bikram yoga are best performed in a sequence as each one builds upon the one before it. As you move through the series of standing and seated poses, the goal is to exercise, massage, and move all of the muscles, nerves, ligaments, glands, and organs throughout your entire body, bringing your body into a strong, healthy, and well-balanced state.

Bikram yoga’s success is credited in part to the postures that compress and expand blood vessels, thus treating them more like muscles. This process increases the oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange in the cells, thus reducing disease and sickness and increasing your physical well-being. Studies have shown that Bikram yoga is great at helping speed up the recovery of damaged tissue. And because it is low-impact, people of all ages, even those with joint problems, can enjoy its benefits.

If you are interested in trying Bikram yoga for yourself, try searching the internet for classes in your area. While it is possible to do Bikram yoga at home, it is more difficult than other forms of yoga due to the specific temperature requirements and environment needed.

Not sure if hot yoga is for you? Take the Yoga Quiz to find out which yoga style might suit you better!


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