Bikram yoga is a form of yoga during which practitioners do 26 poses, typically during a 90-minute session, in a room that is heated to 105 degrees F and 40 percent humidity. Novice participants may experience cramping, particularly in the feet. The heat associated with Bikram yoga can quickly drain the body of fluids and electrolytes, which increases cramping. However, there are several steps you can take to reduce cramping.
Drink plenty of water before a Bikram yoga session. Dehydration is a common cause of muscle cramps, according to the Mayo Clinic. Additionally, hot yoga can quickly drain your body, and it is likely you will sweat a lot during a session. An electrolyte drink may also help reduce cramping because it lessens the severity of electrolyte and fluid loss. Drink electrolyte drinks before, rather than during or after, Bikram yoga. During and after your yoga session, continue to drink plenty of fluids.
Take breaks between postures to massage your feet. This helps loosen up tense muscles and can greatly decrease cramping, poor form and exhaustion.
Keep your toes flat, rather than curled, while standing. This is especially important during one-leg postures, during which people tend to curl their toes to maintain balance. If you find yourself reflexively curling your toes, try spreading your toes instead. This ensures the development of proper muscle strength, and will help you maintain proper form.
Support your ankles with a small, rolled-up towel or washcloth during sitting and standing postures. Foot cramps sometimes occur when the ankles are too weak to support the body, and many people overcompensate by tensing up their feet. The extra support reduces this tension.
Practice postures at home in normal temperatures. Yoga school Bikram Yoga Fitzroy points out that foot cramps commonly occur as foot and leg muscles develop the strength necessary to maintain form. By regularly practicing postures, you increase muscle memory and help your body gain the muscle strength it needs to support your weight without cramping.
- Taking breaks between postures can help reduce cramping. It will also help you maintain the energy and stamina necessary to complete a Bikram yoga session.
- Transition slowly from one posture to the next, focusing on adopting proper form from head to toe.
- If you feel severe, sharp pain during Bikram yoga, or if the cramping gets worse over several days, consult a physician.
- Avoid doing Bikram yoga when you are sick, injured or very hungry. When your body is already weak, you're much more likely to experience minor cramps and even possibly serious injuries.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.