So little time, so many different yoga styles to try. If you’re sampling different types of yoga to find the best match for your needs, you’ve probably encountered Hatha yoga, which is common in the United States. You may have also tried styles such as Kundalini, Ashtanga or Vinyasa, among others. And then there’s Bikram yoga, a unique form that’s practiced in heated rooms. If you’re looking to narrow your choices, you’ll want to know the difference between hot yoga and the other yoga styles.
Hot yoga is performed in a room heated to between 90 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Bikram yoga is always practiced in hot rooms, but you may find other forms of hot yoga, often referred to as “fusion” styles because they combine elements of standard yoga with hot yoga principles. Bikram was developed in the early 1970s and features 26 poses plus two breathing exercises performed during classes that last for about 90 minutes. The heat is designed to increase the students’ range of motion and also leads to more sweating, which is supposed to help detoxify your body.
When you’re comparing hot and cold yoga, the yoga forms that aren’t practiced in hot rooms are lumped together in the “cold” category. The term “cold yoga,” however, is a bit of a misnomer. While intensities vary from one yoga class to the next, the typical standard yoga class works you hard enough to warm up your body, even if the air temperature is around 70 degrees F. The types of poses you perform, and the speed at which you perform the postures, will vary between yoga styles, and even between teachers of the same style. Ananda is typically performed at a slow and gentle pace, for example, while Ashtanga yoga is more vigorous, moving you through one pose right after another.
All forms of yoga emphasize the connection between the body and mind, and many teach meditation techniques. In a typical yoga class -- whether hot or cold -- you’ll perform some warm-up moves before proceeding to practice a variety of positions, known as asanas. Cold yoga classes typically include some breathing exercises, as does Bikram. While Bikram incorporates a specific series of poses, the postures aren’t unique to hot yoga. You can encounter Bikram poses such as the Eagle, Triangle or Tree pose in many cold yoga classes.
The main difference, of course, is the heat that makes hot yoga unique. Performing yoga in a hot studio burns more calories because your heart works harder to regulate your body temperature. You’ll also see a short-term weight loss from a hot yoga session due to sweating away fluids, although these fluids should be replaced. A cold yoga teacher has hundreds of poses and variations from which to choose, while a Bikram instructor must stick to 26 postures. Other forms of hot yoga, however, may incorporate different poses. Some cold yoga practitioners claim that hot yoga is less healthy than colder varieties because the body essentially burns more useful muscle glycogen than fat, and because the temporary increase in flexibility may cause hot yoga practitioners to perform moves that can cause an injury in the long run. Hot yoga supporters counter that the increased flexibility created by the heat makes hot yoga safer.
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