Bikram yoga -- or hot yoga -- invigorates the body by combining traditional yoga moves with balmy, sweat-producing temperatures. Bikram studios are kept at a steamy 105 degrees Fahrenheit -- hot enough to scare away newcomers. But with the right clothing and equipment, Bikram yoga provides a challenging workout for both the beginner and novice yoga enthusiast.
"Fitness" magazine suggests purchasing clothing made from sweat-wicking material and avoiding cotton clothing for Bikram classes. Cotton attracts sweat. Because of the heat, women may prefer sports bras to full workout tops for this class, and men may go shirtless. The key to enjoying a session of Bikram yoga is wearing as little as possible while being modest. Any extra clothing clinging to your skin has the potential to increase your body temperature, making you uncomfortable and apt to leave. Staying in the session, even in a resting pose, will ensure you receive the benefits Bikram offers.
Yoga pants vary in prices depending on the fabric. Most pants are affordable -- Luxe and Lycra blends being at the high end of the yoga pant market, at an average of $100 a pair -- and are made from rayon-spandex or a cotton-spandex blend. Since these fabrics hold moisture, they are not an ideal fit for Bikram yoga. Instead of full-length yoga pants, purchase shorts or Capri pants, opting for body-hugging styles made with a high nylon content. You may also look for a newer fabric on the market made from coconut shells, cocona, that has the same sweat-wicking properties as nylon.
For Your Feet, Hands and the Floor
Traditionally, socks, shoes and gloves are not used in yoga, and the practice of Bikram is no exception. While you will want your feet bare during the muggy yoga session, you do want to select some important floor gear to avoid an accident. "Fitness" magazine suggests you invest in a slipless yoga towel to go over your regular mat. All of the added moisture from the room and your sweat will create a slippery surface on the already smooth mat. Placing the slipless towel on top of the mat creates a safe workout area for your bare feet and hands.
Stay Hydrated in the Heat and Take Precautions
Classes last up to 90 minutes, and it's important to enter hydrated and stay that way. Shari Waxman, writer for "Yoga Journal," urges you to get your doctor's sign off before trying this form of yoga. For those susceptible to heat, Bikram can result in dehydration and heat stroke. If you begin feeling the signs of heat exhaustion or stroke -- headache, dizziness, cramping, vomiting, weakness, confusion or seeing spots -- leave class and seek medical attention. Luckily, these can be avoided, Waxman explains, by wearing minimal clothing and staying hydrated. Two hours before your Bikram yoga class drink 16 ounces of water. Keep a large bottle of water with you during class, taking sips throughout and hydrate during breaks. For every hour of yoga, drink an additional 20 to 40 ounces of water. Remember that caffeine dehydrates. Avoid it on days you practice Bikram yoga.
Having studied at two top Midwestern universities, Catherine Field holds degrees in professional writing and patient safety. Writing since 2000, Field has worked with regional newspapers while publishing fiction online. She conducts medical communication research at a Midwestern medical institution and is slated to write a book based on her research findings.