08 July, 2011
Health Effects of Bikram Yoga
Founded by Bikram Choudhury, the "bad boy" of the yoga world, bikram yoga's popularity has skyrocketed in recent years, as noted by the "New York Times." Also known as "hot yoga," this form of yoga uses 26 postures, or asanas, to reportedly arrive at a variety of health benefits.
Bikram yoga is practiced in an extreme environment. The ideal temperature for bikram yoga, according to founder Bikram Choudhury, is 105 degrees Fahrenheit, with a 40-percent humidity factor. Classes are always 90-minutes-long and include the same set of 26 postures, which are performed in a fluid cycle. Unfortunately, despite the large number of health benefits that bikram yoga is supposed to provide, very little scientific evidence has been done to prove or disprove these claims.
The extreme heat of the bikram yoga studio is intended to warm up the muscles and help students to better attain a deep stretch. In fact, Bikram Choudhury originally discovered the benefits of heat while teaching a class in Japan during cold winter temperatures. After a student complained about the cold, Choudhury allowed her to bring a space heater into class, and the students discovered that high heat settings improved their flexibility. Bikram yoga is also said to aid in weight loss, due to the amount of sweating during a yoga session. The official Bikram Yoga Web site provides a number of testimonials about additional health benefits, such as reduced chronic pain, stress relief, cardiovascular benefits, eating disorder recovery and immune defense.
Needless to say, the extreme temperatures of the bikram yoga can cause undesirable side effects. According to the Bikram Yoga official web site, it is normal for bikram yoga students to feel nauseous, dizzy and tired after their first yoga practice. This is usually related to dehydration, which can easily occur if water intake is not adequate. In a "New York Times Health" article, Dr. Robert Gotlin of the Beth Israel Center in Manhattan expresses concern that hot temperatures will encourage students to stretch further than their muscles are capable, which can cause muscle damage.
To maximize health benefit and minimize the chances of negative side effects, drink plenty of water before, during and after your Bikram yoga practice. According to the Bikram Yoga Web site, you need an extra 64 to 80 oz. of water each day that you do a Bikram yoga workout. Sea salt and potassium supplements may also help reduce feelings of nausea, dizziness and tiredness. Always attend classes that are taught by a certified instructor for the most authentic and safest class environment.
- "New York Times Health"; When Does Flexible Become Harmful?; Lorraine Kreahling; March 2004
- "Yoga Journal"; Facing the Heat; Shari Waxman
- Bikram's Yoga College of India: Bikram Yoga Basic
- Bikram Hot Yoga Vancouver: About Bikram, Creator of Hot Yoga
- Bikram's Yoga College of India: Bikram Yoga Testimonials
- Bikram's Yoga College of India: Bikram Yoga FAQ's
- Denis Raev/iStock/Getty Images