If just hearing the word "Bikram" makes you sweat, you've probably spent 90 minutes participating in a hot yoga session. Inside studios, dubbed "torture chambers" by founder Bikram Choudhury, temps soar to 105 degrees Fahrenheit as students practice Bikram yoga’s 26 stretch-and-hold poses and two breathing exercises. But the heated room can cause light-headedness, dizziness and even fainting in some people. Tolerating the sauna-like temperatures during yoga class may not be for everyone. Not sure if you can take the heat? You can still practice the same Hatha yoga-based poses of Bikram in normal indoor temperatures.
Choudhury actually developed the Bikram yoga technique while teaching yoga classes in Japan during the chilly winter. He brought in space heaters and noticed his students enjoyed greater flexibility in the poses, according to the “Hindustan Times.” From then on he was hooked on the heat, using it as a cornerstone to the method. Using a heated room is intended to warm the muscles, make you sweat and even detoxify your body. But that’s not without controversy. Doctors don’t see much science behind sweating out massive quantities of toxins, according to a report in the "Globe and Mail."
Ditching the Heat
By ditching Bikram’s hot room in favor of normal indoor temperatures, you’ll still get a stretch, but you might be giving up some of its calorie-burning potential. The sweltering conditions force the body into a higher level of cardio performance burning 30 percent more calories than regular yoga, according to Fitday. But you can still reap other benefits of Bikram -- namely flexibility and balance -- even without the heat. To practice the Bikram yoga technique minus the sweltering temperatures, Choudhury recommends on his website that you wear lots of layers to ensure muscles stay warm and limber. Move through the 26 poses slowly and carefully, and concentrate on breathing even more deeply.
Poses such as Standing Bow require a high degree of flexibility in the legs, and you don’t want to attempt it if your hamstrings are cold. Even without the heat, the Standing Bow tightens your abs, upper thighs and upper arms, according to Bikram Yoga Sacramento. The standing head to knee posture requires holding onto a straight leg in front of you, flexing the foot and bending your head to your knee. With warm muscles, you can still reap the flexibility and strengthening benefits for your hamstrings and legs in normal temperatures.
Bikram yoga’s floor poses such as Rabbit Posture, practiced without heating up your room, can still release tension in the neck, shoulders and back, according to Bikram Yoga Sacramento. The Camel, also performed on the floor, will still give your neck and spine a stretch, and help slim the abdomen and waistline.
Mikel Chavers has been writing and editing since 2006, specializing in health, business, government and technology topics. She got her start as a reporter at “The Business Journal” in Greensboro, N.C., and later covered state government for a national magazine. Chavers holds a Bachelor of Arts in media studies/journalism.