Bikram yoga was founded by Bikram Choudhury, founder of the Yoga College of India. It is a form of Hatha yoga, which dates back to the 15th century and consists of 26 asanas, or postures. Bikram yoga also focuses on breath control, which is called pranayama in Sanskrit.
Bikram yoga classes are typically 90 minutes long, and are held in a room with a minimum temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 40 percent humidity. The reason the rooms are kept so hot and humid is because it keeps the body from overheating, contrary to common thinking that the extreme temperature makes it harder to stay cool.
The high temperature of a Bikram yoga studio helps improve heart rate for a better cardiovascular workout, and allows for deeper stretching. It also thins the blood to clear the circulatory system, and detoxifies the body by the opening the pores. Extended participation in a Bikram yoga class can help improve flexibility and muscle tone, as well as build strength.
In Bikram yoga, just as much time is spent on pranayama as is spent on the asanas. The concentration on the breath helps the student relax, and teaches him to quiet the mind. It also helps dissolve anxiety and stress.
Because Bikram yoga studios maintain such a high temperature, practitioners run the risk of overheating or becoming dehydrated during a 90-minute class. Students may also become nauseous, dizzy or disoriented. It is recommended that students drink at least 16 ounces of water two hours before the class. They should also drink water frequently during the class.
Some yoga teachers discourage their students from drinking water during the class since it doesn't fully replace the salts and liquid lost from sweating. If water consumption isn't accompanied by potassium or sodium, the practitioner may experience hyponatremia, a metabolic condition in which there is not enough sodium in the body's fluids and cause sudden death from a heart attack. Follow the advice of your physician in this matter.
Some people should not participate in Bikram yoga. Pregnant women, the elderly and people with any kind of medical condition should consult a physician prior to participation.
Tayla Holman started writing in 2006, specializing in technology, health and wellness, and diet and nutrition. She is a graduate of Hofstra University, earning her B.A. in print journalism and English.