Bikram Yoga

Those who like it hot will love this physically demanding style

How can Bikram yoga nourish your soul?

As a search for Bikram yoga online will reveal, it’s generally regarded as the most challenging form of yoga. This strictly regimented series of 26 asanas (poses) and 2 pranayamas (breathing exercises), practised in a room heated to about 40°C, was developed by Bikram Chadhoury in the 1970s. While he was teaching in Japan, he was inspired to apply the element of heat into his yoga sessions and noticed that the physical demands of practising in a heated room meant greater exertion.

Choudhury emigrated to the US in 1973 and opened a studio in Beverly Hills. By the 1980s, hot yoga was booming in Hollywood and Bikram was a celebrated yoga instructor to the stars. At present, Bikram hot yoga is popular all over the world. 

Benefits of Bikram yoga

Each of the Bikram yoga positions targets different parts of the body with the aim of improving overall health. For instance, the Ardha Chandrasana or Half Moon Pose strengthens the abs and muscles around the spine, while the popular Dandayamana-Dhanurasana or Standing Bow-Pulling Pose is intended to improve strength, flexibility and blood circulation.

Although the liver and kidneys are the body’s main organs for filtering out toxins, sweating has been found to be a pathway for traces of poisonous heavy metals to leave the body. Working out in a heated room causes you to sweat a lot, which is how Bikram yoga works to assist your natural detox processes.

As with most forms of yoga, Bikram will help you become more flexible over time. Practising Bikram yoga for a period of eight weeks has also been reported to reduce perceived stress and show positive changes in several measures of physical fitness, including cardiorespiratory endurance, arterial stiffness and glucose tolerance

Bikram yoga weight loss is one of the discipline’s key reported benefits. One study designed specifically to assess energy expenditure during a Bikram yoga session found some people burned almost 500 calories in one session, although the average was closer to 300 calories.

Bikram yoga can assist in relieving symptoms related to:

  • Back pain
  • Breathing
  • Circulation
  • Clarity/Focus
  • Concentration
  • Detoxing
  • Digestion
  • Energy
  • Movement
  • Nervous system
  • Pain relief
  • Posture/Spine
  • Respiratory conditions
  • Self-esteem
  • Sleep Issues
  • Stress management
  • Tension relief
  • Vitality
  • Weight issues

What to expect from a Bikram yoga session

Hot yoga classes usually take an hour and a half. Each of the 26 poses is repeated twice and the asanas are held for between six and 60 seconds each. An instructor will guide you through the poses and breathing exercises until you are able to do them on your own. 

Since you will be in a heated room, bring water, extra towels, and don’t forget your own yoga mat. Wear something close-fitting as this will allow ease of movement once you start sweating. As with other forms of yoga, it’s recommended that you don’t start your session until at least two hours after a meal; this is particularly important with Bikram as you’re likely to drink a lot of water, making your stomach feel uncomfortably full. 

If you find yourself out of breath or dizzy, sit down and work on your breathing until you catch up, and be sure to let your instructor know. Due to the physically demanding high-temperature environment, there is a risk of dehydration and heatstroke, so don’t hesitate to leave the room if you start feeling unwell.

As with any exercise or wellness program, please consult your medical professional before commencing yoga. If you have an injury or other health issue, or any concerns at all, also speak to your yoga instructor, who will advise you whether the high-temperature environment will be suitable for you, and will monitor you closely for any adverse responses.

References

What is Bikram yoga? | bikramaustralia.com.au

Bikram yoga timeline | World Religions and Spirituality

Where is Bikram Yoga from? | Bikram Yoga Zurich

“Bikram” and the Fraught, Telling Tale of a Yoga Phenomenon | The New Yorker

Hot and Bothered: The Hype, History, and Science of Hot Yoga | yogainternational.com

Yoga Postures & Benefits | bikramyogaseacliff.com

Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury in Sweat | Journal of Environmental and Public Health

The Effects of Bikram Yoga on Health | Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine

The Physiological Responses to Bikram Yoga in Novice and Experienced Practitioners | alternative-therapies.com

6 Tips to Stay Safe in Hot Yoga | yogajournal.com