You love yoga, but hate dieting. Can you maintain your weight? The answer is a solid maybe. If you eat right, you may not need to count calories to keep your current shape. And maintaining your size doesn't always require cutting calories, either, like losing weight does. The Mayo Clinic asserts that diet actually plays less of a role than exercise when it comes to preventing weight gain. (See Reference 1) That said, if you overeat, you will pack on the pounds, no matter how many hours you spend in the Bikram studio. If you're new to Bikram, be sure to get your doctor's okay before starting this practice.
Not for the heat-sensitive, Bikram yoga is performed in a 105-degree room with humidity set to 40 percent. Each 90-minute class includes 26 poses and two breathing techniques, all developed by Bikram Choudhury and based on Hatha yoga. (See Reference 2) A study at Colorado State University in 2012 showed that Bikram increases strength and flexibility; however, researchers found no cardiovascular or aerobic benefit. (See Reference 4) Bikram yoga, like other forms, is a stress reducer and can be soothing if you suffer from anxiety.
The Calorie Equation
No denying that Bikram burns calories; all exercises do. But at 350-600 calories per hour-and-a-half session, it's on the lower end of the calorie-burning spectrum. (See Reference 3) If weight is your primary concern, you could be better off spending those 90 minutes running at five miles per hour, which burns more than 900 calories for a 160-pound person, or doing high-impact aerobics, which burns nearly 1,000 calories at that size. (See Reference 1) To maintain your weight, you must burn as many calories as you eat. So while Bikram may cut it with a moderate diet, it may not be enough if you have a hearty appetite.
Counting calories is a drag, but if you eat right you may not have to. You are already helping your body with Bikram, so why not go all the way and treat yourself to healthy foods, too? Fill your plate with an assortment of colorful fresh or steamed veggies, including plenty of dark, leafy greens. Eat fruit and low-fat cheeses for snacks, and include whole grains such as brown rice and whole wheat bread, along with lean proteins such as shellfish and beans in each meal. (See Reference 5)
Exercise should benefit your health, not harm it; so take precautions with Bikram. This strenuous activity makes you sweat up a storm, losing precious water. Avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of H20 before, during and after your practice. If you feel dizzy, nauseated, confused or weak, stop immediately; these are all signs of heat exhaustion. Most importantly, listen to your body. If the heat starts to get to you, leave the room and find a cold beverage.
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.