Can Bikram Yoga Replace Weight Training?

Bikram counts as strength training.

Bikram counts as strength training.

If you're looking to trade in the athletic shoes for a yoga mat, you're in luck; Bikram yoga is a form of strength training, and can replace weights without shorting you on health benefits. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes yoga as a muscle-building activity, and recommends performing such exercises at least twice weekly. One of the more vigorous forms of yoga, Bikram is performed in 105-degree F studios set to 40 percent humidity.

Muscle Strengthening

If you've been to Bikram class, you probably don't need anyone to tell you that this exercise gives your muscles a workout. With 26 poses, each repeated twice, every muscle group in your body will be tired by the end of each 90-minute session. There's also scientific evidence of Bikram's muscle-building power. In a study published in "The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research" in 2012, researchers found that subjects who performed Bikram three times a week for eight weeks had increased deadlift strength.

Bone Strengthening

Just like lifting weights, Bikram can strengthen more than just your muscles. Weight-bearing exercises also help build stronger bones by placing pressure on them, prompting them to conserve calcium stores and even build more mass. This is especially important for women, as more bone mass means a lower risk of osteoporosis later on in life. Other bone-building exercises include walking and running.

Other Benefits

Yoga is a gift for your body that keeps on giving. In addition to strengthening, Bikram also helps reduce anxiety, thereby lowering cortisol levels in your body. Cortisol, called the "stress hormone," contributes to diabetes and hypertension as well as the buildup of visceral fat around your abdominal organs. As your stress diminishes, you may also feel less of an urge to overeat. Bikram will also increase your balance and flexibility, which may spare you from accidents in everyday life. What's more, Bikram can elevate your mood, helping you overcome depression and enjoy life to the fullest.

Precautions

Bikram is serious yoga, and it's not for everyone. If you're not in tip-top shape right now, it's a good idea to start with a gentler yoga style. If you have a heart condition, dehydrate easily or have a history of heat exhaustion, Bikram is also out. If you do brave the heat, bring a large bottle of cold water with you and use it often. Wear clothing that allows you to sweat, since that's how your body cools down to prevent overheating.

 

About the Author

Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.

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