Bikram yoga, or hot yoga, is a series of 26 yoga postures performed in hot, humid conditions. It was created by Bikram Choudhury, who opened his first yoga studio in the U.S. in the 1970s. Today, approximately 7 percent of America's 30 million yoga practicitioners use Bikram's yoga style. Every Bikram studio follows the same general format, rules and etiquette. If you're looking to integrate this form of yoga into your lifestyle, know what's expected of you before you step into the 105-degree Fahrenheit yoga room.
Food and Drink
Because food in your digestive tract can cause problems during intense physical activity, avoid eating two to three hours before your Bikram yoga session. Continue hydrating yourself, however, before class due to the high heat and sweating that occurs in each 90-minute session. Drink three to four liters of water on the day of your yoga session, and bring a bottle of water to your class. Most Bikram instructors, however, will tell you not to drink in the class until after the eagle pose, which is the fifth posture in the 26-posture set.
A Bikram yoga room is hot and humid. For your own comfort and health, wear light, breathable clothing that allows you to move and stretch easily. Some yoga clothing manufacturers market clothing with moisture-wicking technology specifically intended for use in Bikram yoga and other forms of hot yoga. Do not wear footwear, however, and avoid using scented products on your body such as cologne or moisturizer.
To help your body transition, attend Bikram yoga daily for the first two months of your new yoga routine. After this, you can ease into a schedule that's comfortable for you. Note that upon starting a Bikram yoga class, you are strongly encouraged not to leave until the 90-minute class is completed. While you may take a break from the postures and lie down on the floor of the classroom, leaving the room distracts other students and is frowned upon.
Once you're in the yoga room, total silence is required of all students and only the teacher is allowed to talk. The one exception is clapping at the end of class, but only in rare instances such as when a teacher congratulates a new student on completing his or her first class.
While some yoga styles allow the movement of mats, Bikram bans the turning or moving of mats once the class begins. Thus, set up your mat correctly before the session begins. Ideally, place yourself in a position so that you can see yourself in the mirror — all Bikram rooms are lined with mirrors — and aren't blocking the view of the people behind you.
Consider the rules of Bikram yoga as they relate to your physical condition. This kind of yoga may not be suitable for people of certain ages and medical conditions. The elderly should not participate and pregnant women should consult a physician prior to adopting this routine. Watch for signs of dehydration such as nausea, lightheadedness and dizziness. If you do attend class and begin to feel unwell, follow your instincts and remove yourself to a more comfortable environment.
Joshua Duvauchelle is a certified personal trainer and health journalist, relationships expert and gardening specialist. His articles and advice have appeared in dozens of magazines, including exercise workouts in Shape, relationship guides for Alive and lifestyle tips for Lifehacker. In his spare time, he enjoys yoga and urban patio gardening.