What Is Bikram Yoga?
Bikram Yoga is a style of yoga that is performed in a heated room and consists of 26 asanas (postures) which include 2 breathing exercises.
Supporters of Bikram Yoga claim that the heated environment provides distinct health benefits although critics have questioned its safety. This article will take a detailed look at Bikram Yoga along with its pros and cons.
If you would like to try some of the Bikram Yoga poses (with or without the heat) you can find a class on YogaDownload.com. This is my favorite place to find new yoga types and classes to see what fits my needs and what doesn’t.
Bikram Yoga Explained
Bikram Yoga was developed by Bikram Choudhury in 1946, although it didn’t become popular in the West until the early 1970s. Bikram Yoga classes run for 90 minutes and take place in a room which is heated to 104 °F (40°C) and has a humidity of 40%. The 26 asanas are each performed twice during a 90-minute class. The section below lists each of the 26 Bikram Yoga asanas:
- Pranayama (Standing Deep Breathing Pose)
- Ardha-Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)
- Utkatasana (Awkward Pose)
- Garurasana (Eagle Pose)
- Dandayamana-Janushirasana (Standing Head To Knee Pose)
- Dandayamana-Dhanurasana (Standing Bow Pose)
- Tuladandasana (Balancing Stick Pose)
- Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Paschimotthanasana (Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose)
- Trikanasana (Triangle Pose)
- Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Janushirasana (Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose)
- Tadasana (Tree Pose)
- Padangustasana (Toe Stand Pose)
- Savasana (Corpse Pose/Dead Body Pose)
- Pavanamuktasana (Wind Removing Pose)
- Pada-Hasthasana (Sit Up Pose)
- Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
- Salabhasana (Locust Pose)
- Poorna-Salabhasana (Full Locust Pose)
- Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
- Supta-Vajrasana (Fixed Firm Pose)
- Ardha-Kurmasana (Half Tortoise Pose)
- Ustrasana (Camel Pose)
- Sasangasana (Rabbit Pose)
- Janushirasana With Paschimotthanasana (Head To Knee Pose With Stretching Pose)
- Ardha-Matsyendrasana (Spine-Twisting Pose)
- Kapalbhati In Vajrasana (Blowing In Firm Pose)
The Benefits Of Bikram Yoga
Bikram Yoga offers all the benefits of other styles of yoga and also has some unique additional plus points due to the hot, humid atmosphere which are all outlined in the list below:
- Better Balance: Many of Bikram Yoga’s poses require you to support your body on one leg or on the tips of your toes and this helps to develop a strong sense of balance.
- Better Breathing: Bikram Yoga features many exercises that open up your lungs and promote proper breathing.
- Detoxification Of The Body: The combination of a hot, humid training environment and fast-paced exercises, results in plenty of sweat which carries toxins out of your body.
- Enhanced Circulation: Both the heat and the exercises in a Bikram Yoga class help to loosen up your blood vessels and promote proper circulation.
- Enhanced Flexibility: As with all styles of yoga, Bikram Yoga involves poses that stretch out your muscles and joints in various ways and maximize your overall flexibility.
- Healthier Mind: Bikram Yoga isn’t just a physical practice and a 90-minute session will help to calm and clear your mind and make you feel much more relaxed.
- Increased Fat Burning: When it comes to fat burning, Bikram Yoga is the best choice by some distance. It blasts through a substantial 630 calories per hour which is over 3 times more than the moderate 175 calories per hour burned by traditional Hatha Yoga.
- Improved Posture: Many of Bikram Yoga’s poses stretch out your spine and back. Over time this has a permanent positive impact on your posture.
- Protection Against Chronic Disease: The improved physical fitness and reduced stress levels that come from practicing Bikram Yoga on a regular basis offer significant protection against chronic disease.
- Stronger Muscles: Bikram Yoga works all the muscles in your body and this boosts your overall strength levels.
The Drawbacks Of Bikram Yoga
Despite its many benefits, Bikram Yoga does have some drawbacks compared with other styles of yoga which are highlighted in the list below:
- Heat-Related Complications: The higher temperature and humidity levels in a Bikram Yoga class can potentially lead to a number of complications including dehydration and hyperthermia (overheating of the body). It can also exasperate existing health conditions and interfere with certain medications. Therefore, it’s essential that you consult your doctor before starting Bikram Yoga and consume plenty of water during each session.
- Increased Injury Risk: The heat in a Bikram Yoga class naturally loosens your joints and muscles and allows you to stretch that little bit further. However, this can actually be a blessing in disguise and make you more likely to overstretch and injure yourself compared with other styles of yoga.
- Not Suitable For Beginners: The high heat, humidity levels and the fast-paced nature of a Bikram Yoga class can be a shock to the system. Therefore, if you’re new to yoga, Bikram Yoga probably isn’t the best style to start with.
If you enjoy the heat and want to boost your flexibility while also getting a sweat on, Bikram Yoga is definitely something you should try. Just make sure you drink plenty of water before, during and after the class to keep your hydration levels high and avoid any potential complications related to the heat.
10 Bikram Yoga Tips For Beginners
Bikram Yoga is an enjoyable and challenging style of yoga. However, if you’re trying it for the first time, there are a number of things you can do to enhance your experience. This article will focus on this area and list 10 Bikram Yoga Tips for beginners.
Tip 1 – Drink Lots Of Water
With the high levels of heat and humidity, staying hydrated is extremely important when practicing Bikram Yoga. Failing to take on adequate fluids before, after and during the class can lead to dehydration, hyperthermia (overheating of the body) and various other complications.
To avoid these complications, follow the suggestions below:
- Before The Class: Make sure you’re drinking lots of water throughout the day that your class takes place and then stop drinking a couple of hours before the class begins. By doing this, you’ll have plenty of fluid in your body but also ensure that you won’t need to use the bathroom during the class.
- During The Class: Drink plenty of water but don’t gulp down large amounts. Instead, take small sips at regular intervals.
- After The Class: Drink something that contains electrolytes (coconut water, fruit juice, a smoothie or a sports drink) immediately after the class and then follow this up with regular glasses of water for the remainder of the day.
Tip 2 – Arrive Early
If you’ve never tried Bikram Yoga or other types of Hot Yoga before, the heat will be a shock to your system. By arriving 10-15 minutes early, you can acclimatize to the heat without any distractions and allow your body to adapt before the main Bikram Yoga class begins.
Tip 3 – Eat A Light Meal 2 Hours Before The Class Starts
Bikram Yoga is physically demanding and if you haven’t eaten enough before the class begins, you’ll find that you quickly run out of energy. On the flip side, if you eat too much before the class starts, you’ll feel sluggish and lethargic as you exercise.
To strike the right balance, eat a light meal a couple of hours before your Bikram Yoga class is due to start. A healthy salad, a wholegrain sandwich, a smoothie or a portion of yogurt and nuts are all great pre-class meal options.
Tip 4 – Don’t Leave The Room
As mentioned above, the heat and humidity of a Bikram Yoga class can feel overwhelming. When this happens, many beginners are tempted to leave the room to escape the heat and let their bodies cool down. However, leaving the room is not helpful and actually increases your chances of passing out.
So even if you have to sit or lie down on your mat, stay in the room and focus. By doing this, you’ll allow your body to get used to spending a full 90 minutes in the hot environment of a Bikram Yoga class. After a few sessions, you’ll fully adjust to the heat and get used to performing the various poses in this environment.
Tip 5 – Focus On Your Breathing
Proper breathing is one of the most important aspects of Bikram Yoga and something that is emphasized throughout the 26 poses. However, when we start to struggle, we often forget about the importance of controlled breathing.
To remedy this, actively focus on your breathing above anything else for the first few classes. Once you’ve done this a few times, it will become second nature and you’ll be able to consistently control your breaths without even thinking.
Tip 6 – Let The Instructor Know You’re A Beginner
Many beginners don’t feel the need to let the instructor know that it’s their first time practicing Bikram Yoga but this is a big mistake. By telling the instructor you’re a beginner, they’ll be able to give you extra attention, help you with any poses that you aren’t familiar with and most importantly, keep an eye out in case the heat gets too much for you.
Tip 7 – Rest If You Need To
If you’re new to Bikram Yoga, there’s no shame in taking plenty of breaks. Taking it easy and slowly adjusting to the heat is much better for your body and your progression than doing too much and passing out. So pay close attention to how your body feels throughout the class and if you need a rest, simply sit or lie down.
Tip 8 – Shower Before The Class
Lotions, oils, makeup, and perfumes can make your skin more slippery when you start to sweat and also diffuse into the air. Not only can this make it more difficult for you to hold poses during the class but it can also be distracting for other students. To avoid these potential problems, have a shower before the class begins and wash away any lotion, oils, makeup or perfume that you may be wearing.
Tip 9 – Wear The Right Clothing
For the best experience during a Bikram Yoga class, you should wear as little clothing as possible. If you’re female, tiny shorts and a tank top or even a bikini are ideal. If you’re male, go for small shorts or swimming trunks.
Tip 10 – Cool Down Slowly After Class
After 90 minutes in the heat, it can be very tempting to leave the room quickly and jump in the cold shower. However, cooling down too quickly is not good for your body. So take your time leaving the hot room and once you’ve left, sit in the locker room for a few minutes and relax before you hit the shower.
By following these 10 tips, you can ensure that your very first Bikram Yoga class goes smoothly. Now all that’s left to do is give it a try. So get signed up for a class and put these beginner Bikram Yoga tips into action.