Most yoga practices are gentle, calming and relaxing, but Bikram yoga is intense, demanding and a true cardio workout. During a Bikram session, practitioners are challenged to complete a sequence of 26 poses in a room heated to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The combination of challenging poses and high heat makes Bikram difficult, but the practice is still safe and offers many health benefits.
The Benefits of Bikram Yoga
Like all forms of the practice, Bikram yoga contributes to increased muscle strength, flexibility and balance. The series of postures also encourages stress reduction, controlled breathing and can even reduce the risk of developing chronic health conditions, like heart disease or high blood pressure. The high heat of Bikram studios encourages the heart to work harder during the exercises, making the practice a full-body cardio workout. Throughout the session, the intense moves and heat promote perspiration, which detoxifies the body and contributes to weight loss.
Safety and Bikram Yoga
Like all fitness routines, Bikram yoga does carry some risks. You may injure yourself doing complicated poses or become dehydrated in the high-heat atmosphere. Fortunately, these potential risks are easily reduced by taking certain precautions during a Bikram session. If you have certain health risks such as high blood pressure, back problems or asthma, consult a physician before you begin taking Bikram yoga classes. Your physician can monitor your progress or explain which poses you should not attempt.
Dehydration can happen quickly during a Bikram session. To avoid the condition, drink plenty of water before and during your session. If you feel light-headed, fatigued or flushed, take a break and get some fresh air and water. Replace fluids following the session with a sports drink that contains electrolytes.
Listen to Your Body
The most important part of a yoga practice is listening to your body. The teacher is there to guide you during a Bikram session, but listening to your body is more important than following instructions. If something does not feel right, stop and adjust or wait for the next pose. Ignore what your neighbor is doing and stay in tune with your own body's feelings to avoid strain.
Bikram studios are hot and you are going to sweat. Prepare by wearing nonrestrictive clothing made of light, dry-weave fabrics. Cotton sweat pants or yoga pants will quickly become saturated with sweat and restrict movement. Long pants or sleeves can make it difficult to stand and balance properly, so opt for shorts and a close-fitting top.
Poppy Carpenter graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. In addition to teaching journalism to junior high students, she also covers health and fitness for "PUSH Monthly" and Angie's List.