‘Hot’ yoga is normally associated with a particular system called Bikram yoga, set up by Bikram Choudhury in the early 1970’s. All Bikram classes are the same (rather than have different types or ‘levels’) and run for 90 minutes where a teacher talks the yogis through 26 postures including 2 breathing exercises, one at the start and one at the end. The reason it is described as ‘hot’ yoga is that Bikram yoga is ideally practiced in a room heated to 40 °C (104 °F) and a humidity of 40%.
Yes, that’s 40 °C !
Only Bikram certified teachers can teach Bikram classes and so, of course, there are variations that have developed under the heading ‘hot’ yoga that use similar principles and postures but are not the same as Bikram Yoga.
So what are the benefits of hot yoga?
Most people who attend Bikram yoga classes will tell you from their own experience that, after getting over the surprise that you can actually last 90 minutes in 40 °C while doing challenging exercises, the long term effects are that you feel stronger, lighter, more flexible, your skin is clearer and you generally feel ‘fresher’…perhaps not immediately after the class, but in your daily living there’s more of a spring in your step. You may even find that your appetite changes to wanting to eat fresh food rather than processed food and if you have an injury of some kind there are many many examples of people who feel that yoga, whether ‘hot’ or not, has healed them. Here’s an inspirational video that shows what a strong commitment to practising yoga can lead to:
For those of you who like scientific proof of the benefits of hot yoga, here is the conclusion of some research reported by the Department of Health and Exercise Science, Colorado State University in 2013, as a result of monitoring some yogis who attended Bikram Yoga classes:
Yoga subjects exhibited increased deadlift strength, substantially increased lower back/hamstring flexibility, increased shoulder flexibility, and modestly decreased body fat compared with control group.
This is a fairly limited list of benefits and many who attend Bikram yoga, and some of the other systems that have developed out of it will say there are many more benefits they experience besides just musculoskeletal efficiency.
One of the main consequences of practising any form of hot yoga is the copious sweating which helps to detoxify the body, leading to clearer skin, weight-loss and fewer ‘nasties’ in the body because they have been flushed out during the practice. To help with this, and in getting through the class itself, yogis are advised to drink plenty of water around 2 hours before the class so that they are hydrated when ‘entering the heat’. The heat in the room, and consequently the body, supports greater flexibility of the muscles and so yogis can go deeper into the positions. Here’s a video of a class of yogis doing the 26 Bikram yoga postures, condensed into just under 2 minutes!
Many natural, organic health practices are dismissed when there is a lack of ‘scientific proof’ and on this site we try wherever possible to list any proof that has been established for any of the claims made. But we also give credence to personal experience and this link takes you to a very long list of testimonials from people who say that practising Bikram yoga has led to recovery from, in many cases, very serious illness.
Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class
But it’s not all Bikram……
In the UK, in London, a new form of hot yoga, Fierce Grace, has been developed by Michele Pernetta who introduced Bikram Yoga to the UK in 1994 after returning from LA where she had been a personal student of Bikram Choudhury for many years. Unlike Bikram Yoga there are 5 different classes within the Fierce Grace schedule to suit the different needs and preferences of yogis who attend. I go, not as often as I’d like, but I go and after initial resistance to change from the standard Bikram classes I have found that the ‘Core’ class is the one that has helped me most with a difficult hip and some mobility challenges I have which arise from it. For me, this has been the benefit of developing a range of classes to suit different needs as ‘Core’ helps me even more than the Bikram classes used to. For more information about Fierce Grace click here.
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What are your thoughts about, or experiences of Hot Yoga, whether Bikram Yoga or some other system?
Let us know below…….