Bikram yoga, also nicknamed “hot yoga”, is a yoga style created by Bikram Choudhury in the early 1970.
Although many of the twenty-six yoga poses used in Bikram yoga are reminiscent of other traditional yoga styles, Bikram yoga is practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.5 degrees Celsius), with an ideal humidity of 40%.
The purpose of the heat, according to Bikram, is to help students stretch and open the body further than they could in a room heated only to room temperature. Bikram also claims that the heat helps prevent injuries, such as pulled muscles.
Benefits of Bikram Yoga
Bikram believes that besides opening the body further than usual and preventing injuries, his “hot yoga” also helps the body detoxify, due to intense sweating, and improves blood circulation.
The process of extension and compression, he says, delivers fresh oxygen to every joint and muscle within the body.
Each asana (yoga pose) cuts off circulation temporarily to a certain part of the body – this is compression. When the individual finishes that pose and comes out of the posture, new oxygenated blood rushes into the area.
Fans of Bikram yoga believe this process of pumping fresh blood into an area can remove bacteria and other toxins from the body. While theoretically all yoga operates in this way, the heat forces the heart to work harder, increasing the speed of circulation and of metabolism.
Proponents of Bikram yoga claim that it not only increases overall fitness, but also cures serious illnesses. Some students state that Bikram yoga has helped them to heal everything from insomnia to cancer.
While these claims may not be scientifically corroborated, there are certainly some students who believe Bikram yoga has cured them of otherwise incurable diseases.
Safety Tips for Practicing Hot Yoga
If you decide to try a Bikram yoga class, you should drink plenty of water the day before and attend on an empty stomach.
It’s not unusual for beginners to the practice to experience dizziness, nausea, and light-headedness. Pregnant women should not practice hot yoga.
Furthermore, make sure you have a certified instructor.
Bikram has settled many lawsuits in the US in which yoga instructors not specifically trained in hot yoga were simply turning up the heat in their yoga studios and claiming to hold Bikram yoga classes.
Bring your own mat and your own towel, plus a big bottle of water. You’ll be sweating a lot during this class, and you’ll need all three of these items if you plan to survive the full 90 minutes!