If you're looking for a difficult workout, Bikram yoga will likely pass the test. Commonly known as hot yoga, Bikram yoga is a demanding 90-minute workout performed under extreme conditions. Created by yoga guru Bikram Choudhury, hot yoga has increased in popularity in America in recent years. Nevertheless, detractors assert that Bikram yoga is too difficult and too dangerous for many, if not most, people.
Bikram yoga consists of a precise sequence of 26 exercises, 24 poses called asanas and two breathing exercises. A Bikram class is conducted in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The heated room enables muscles to loosen more easily and allows you to sweat profusely, which is said to remove toxins and purify the body. Hot yoga challenges you to perform the poses correctly and hold them for lengthy periods of time.
Bikram practitioners advocate the use of heat. Some yoga instructors, at the behest of their students, even raise the temperature higher than 105 degrees, according to "The New York Times." They claim that the heat enhances stretching and increases joint movement, reducing the risk of injury and aiding circulation. But the extreme temperature is a challenge for most Bikram students, especially beginners. Excessive sweating can result in dehydration and make you lightheaded and dizzy. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and even heatstroke, which can be lethal, can occur in such heat.
Choudhury, a yoga champion in India, is a demanding teacher. An article in "Yoga Journal" says he insists that students exceed their limitations when practicing Bikram yoga. This includes holding poses in painful positions. MayoClinic.com states that the assuming these postures requires forcing movements and holding them for lengthy periods of time. The poses, coupled with the heat, are supposed to increase the heart beat and fatigue the muscles.
Bikram yoga poses don't include headstands, handstands or even the popular Downward-Facing Dog pose, which Choudhury believes are too difficult for beginners. Nevertheless, the stressful nature of Bikram workouts can lead to injuries.The extreme heat of Bikram yoga also poses risks of overstretching injuries, including muscle, cartilage and ligament damage.
Well-known yoga instructor Glenn Black told "The New York Times" that most people should give up yoga altogether, since many commonly taught poses are too risky. MayoClinic.com states that people with heart disease or a history of heat intolerance should avoid Bikram yoga. Pregnant women should stay out of the hot yoga rooms as well. If you opt to try Bikram yoga, drink lots of water before, during and after class. If you feel lightheaded or sick, stop your workout and lie down or step out of the room.
- Yoga Journal: Facing the Heat
- MayoClinic.com: What's Different About Hot Yoga Versus Other Types of Yoga?
- Journal of Strength & Conditioning: Bikram Yoga Training and Physical Fitness in Healthy Young Adults
- The New York Times: Some Like it Hotter
- The New York Times Magazine: How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.