Often called hot yoga, Bikram yoga has you moving through a set series of poses in a heated room. This isn’t a form of yoga where the focus is on relaxation; it is considered vigorous and you’ll definitely be sweating. Not only do you torch hundreds of calories during a typical 90-minute class, but you’ll also strengthen your bones and stretch your muscles.
Bikram yoga is all about sweating. This high-intensity form of yoga has you going through a 26-pose series in a room heated to about 105 Fahrenheit with about 40 percent humidity. The poses require well-controlled contractions of all your major muscle groups. They follow a specific order because it opens up your joints, balances muscular alignment and improves biomechanics. The contracting and flexing of your muscles strengthens and lengthens them. By adding the heat, you increase your range of motion and increase your heart rate, which makes you sweat more. This increased sweating is believed to flush out toxins.
Thanks to the heat, Bikram yoga allows your body to relax and move further than traditional yoga. The heat moves stiff joints further without pain or aching, which leads to longer and stronger muscles. A study published in the “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research” in 2012 split 21 subjects into two groups. One group did Bikram yoga three times a week for eight weeks while the other group did no yoga. At the end of the study, the Bikram yoga goers increased their deadlift strength, hamstring and lower back flexibility, shoulder flexibility and decreased body fat more than the control group.
While you don’t exactly stretch your bones, Bikram yoga helps you build stronger bones by increasing your bone mineral density. Sometime in your 20s or 30s, your body reaches its peak bone density. By 35, your body starts losing bone faster than it can build it. Eventually this can lead to osteoporosis, joint disuse and decreases in body movement. A study published in the journal of “Chinese Medicine” in 2010 showed that Bikram yoga is an effective countermeasure for bone loss. The study followed 14 women who did Bikram yoga at least three times a week for three years or more. The bone mineral density of these women was better compared to other normal, healthy women of comparable age and ethnicity.
While Bikram yoga touts loads of benefits, it also comes with some dangers. The heat is not for everyone. Slowly acclimate to the increased temperature by limiting your first session to 15 minutes and gradually increase to 90 minutes. During the class, drink fluids. This means drink 17 to 20 ounces two hours before class, frequently during class and 16 to 24 ounces after class for every pound you lost during class. This can help prevent dehydration.
- Mayo Clinic: What’s Different About Hot Yoga Versus Other Types of Yoga?
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Bikram Yoga Training and Physical Fitness in Healthy Young Adults
- Chinese Medicine: Bikram Yoga as a Countermeasure of Bone Loss in Women
- The Telegraph: Can Bikram Yoga Build Biceps?
- Daily Mail Online: What Hot Yoga Can Do For You
- The American Council on Education: What’s the Best Way to Get Acclimated to Hot Yoga Classes?
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
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