Bikram Yoga: What & Why

Turn Up the Heat with this Popular Yoga Style

Bikram yoga, or “hot yoga” seems to be all the rage lately— maybe it’s because turning up the heat on your yoga practice may offer additional benefits not found in a typical class.

Bikram yoga is considered to be the most intense type of yoga, because it is practiced in a roomed heated to 105 degrees, with 40 percent humidity. Developed from Hatha-style yoga by Bikram Choudhury, Bikram yoga classes are 90 minutes long and include 26 postures and two breathing exercises.

According to, Bikram yoga works by creating a tourniquet effect: stretching, balancing and creating pressure all at the same time. Pressure is created because the blood supply in the arteries and veins is being cut off, and when released, the blood rushes through the veins and arteries, flushing them out. Although it is a higher-intensity yoga class because of the heat, Bikram yoga is for any fitness level, including those new to yoga.

The Benefits

Bikram Yoga: What & WhyThe scientific research on Bikram yoga is limited, but practicing this type of yoga in intense heat is said to offer many healthy perks.

• Cardiovascular: As a result of the heat, the body becomes more flexible and the blood vessels expand, helping to add a cardiovascular element to the workout.

• Detox: Sweating helps you to detoxify and can even help improve skin tone.

• Deep Stretching: This type of yoga is great for athletes, or people who have tight muscles, because the heat loosens the muscles, allowing for a deeper stretch. As a result, Bikram yoga promotes balanced strength and balanced flexibility.

• Reducing Pain: The heat can ease many ailments, and scientific research has found that yoga in general can reduce pain.

• Better Circulation: This results because the muscles are contracted and stretched at a cellular, biomechanical level.

• Muscle and Joint Balance: Joint mobility and range of motion increases.

• Weight Loss: It’s been said that Bikram yoga may help normalize your appetite and help diminish unhealthy cravings because the digestion, respiration, endocrine, lymphatic and elimination systems begin to work together harmoniously.

• Emotional Balance: Practicing Bikram yoga cultivates mental faculties like faith, self-control, concentration, determination and patience. Regular practice is said to harmonize the nervous and endocrine systems, resulting in a balanced emotional well-being.

I was perusing the Bikram yoga website ( and came across some intriguing testimonials from people who said they’ve been helped by Bikram yoga in one way or another. One man reported that his health improved with aerobic exercise after he had a heart attack in 1985, but he says his greatest improvements in his health resulted when he started practicing Bikram yoga at the age of 73. These improvements include changes in bone structure and body alignment, increased energy, and a calming effect on the mind. He even became a certified instructor at the age of 77, and credits Bikram yoga with saving his life.

Another person reported that Bikram yoga helped her overcome low back pain as a result of herniated disks. Others report that this type of yoga has helped relieve anxiety, improve self-confidence, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, eliminate migraines and much more.


Although Bikram yoga is for all fitness levels, here are a few tips for those considering trying this type of yoga for the first time:

• Make sure you are hydrated. If you are not properly hydrated, you may be nauseous or dizzy after a Bikram yoga class. You should drink lots of water for several days before. Bring water for class also.

• Being nauseous or dizzy after Bikram yoga could also be a sign of potassium or salt depletion. Try taking salt and potassium tablets before a class.

• Do not eat one to three hours before class.

• Many yoga instructors teach this type of yoga but may not be properly certified, so make sure you learn from a certified Bikram yoga instructor. Bikram instructors must complete an intensive nine-week training session that requires more than 500 hours of study. Visit to find certified instructors.

• A minimum of 10 classes a month is recommended to realize the benefits of Bikram yoga, but be patient. For beginners, it may take three classes for your body to understand the proper approach to the postures, and 10 classes for your body to begin to utilize the postures correctly.

For more information, visit

Lisa Steuer

Lisa Steuer is the managing editor of FitnessRx for Women magazine. E-mail Lisa at