Bikram yoga, often referred to generically as hot yoga, is a physically and mentally challenging workout that combines the flexibility and strength training of yoga with the endurance training of more vigorous workouts. Bikram yoga requires practitioners to carry out a series of 26 postures while using controlled breathing techniques in a heated studio. The addition of heat and humidity creates unique clothing requirements for Bikram yoga practice.
Bikram yoga studios are heated to between 95 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit, and humidity typically hovers betwen 40 and 60 percent. Performing a 90-minute sequence of whole-body yoga poses in such high temperatures carries a serious risk of overheating and dehydration. Sweating, a critical component of Bikram yoga, is the body's method of regulating temperature, and clothing should facilitate sweating by not holding perspiration against your skin. When selecting clothes, also consider your personal level of comfort. Though the less clothing, the better in most Bikram studios, if you are self-conscious about your body, you may not be able to focus on the postures during the class.
Fabrics that are lightweight and dry-weave allow your body to release body heat and cool through sweating while allowing a free range of motion. Quick-dry fabrics prevent your clothes from becoming heavy with sweat, an issue that not only restricts your movement but increases your chances of uncomfortable chafing or rashes. Rayon, spandex and olefin are all suitable fabrics for men's sportswear. Cotton is a popular choice for long-fitting yoga pants, but cotton is highly absorbent and not ideal for wicking away sweat. Likewise, polyester is a common component of men's shorts, t-shirts and tank tops, but tends to hold heat and has limited breathability.
Tops and Bottoms
If you are comfortable going shirtless, skipping a top completely is a man's best option for Bikram yoga. If you prefer to be a bit more covered, at least at first, opt for a lightweight, breathable tank top or t-shirt. Avoid shirts that are too baggy; they may restrict your movement and make it difficult for an instructor to see your form. Avoid yoga pants or any long pant; Bikram studios are too hot to comfortably wear even loose-fitting pants. Spandex running or cycling shorts without any padding are an ideal option because they allow a complete range of motion while wicking away sweat. Much clothing designed specifically for yoga uses cotton blends that are not suitable for hot yoga, but clothing designed for running is usually lighter weight and better suited for Bikram yoga. A bathing suit is also a good option for men.
What Not to Wear
Bikram yoga, like most yoga, is a shoe-free space, so leave your sneakers at the door. Keep your accessories to a minimum: Skip the watch, chains and belts. Don't layer your clothes; you are guaranteed to be shedding the layers, and stopping to adjust will only disrupt the flow of the postures. Avoid any waistbands or elastics that pinch your skin. Not only are they distracting, but they can impede the flow of blood and increase your chances of becoming lightheaded.
Hannah Wahlig began writing and editing professionally in 2001. Her experience includes copy for newspapers, journals and magazines, as well as book editing. She is also a certified lactation counselor. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Mount Holyoke College, and Master's degrees in education and community psychology from the University of Massachusetts.