The Best Exercises to Complement Bikram Yoga

Yoga class - Trikonasana Bikram/Bikram triangle left

The movements in Bikram yoga offer more cardiovascular benefits than the various other types of yoga. It is performed in a room where temperatures near 100 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity levels are elevated, which is why it’s sometimes referred to as hot yoga. The reason behind the high temperature is to help rid the body of toxins through sweat while performing the series of 26 poses.

Bikram and Strength Training

Yoga asks you to support your body weight in a variety of positions. This does assist with strength development and will tone your body. However, if you’re looking to build up sizable bulk, yoga isn’t going to help that. Additional weightlifting two or three times a week on alternating days will create mass. Using your own bodyweight can strengthen muscles used during Bikram. Lunges help you get into the triangle pose, which works your quadriceps, hamstrings, hips and adductors, or inner thigh muscles. Accomplishing the awkward pose and the toe stand can be made possible with the addition of deep squats. Planks and chaturanga work your core and arms to get you ready to achieve the locust pose.

Pair Bikram With Cardio

While Bikram has been known to enhance the practitioner's sense of well-being and to supply an effective cardiovascular workout, it doesn't allow you access to the full spectrum of heart and overall health benefits that traditional cardiovascular activities offer. You may want to consider engaging in alternative methods of cardio on days you're not doing Bikram.

Running not only boosts your fitness level, it will improve blood flow as your heart gets pumping; it loosens up your muscles and can calm you mentally. All of which enhance your future performances during Bikram. You could also try biking, swimming and rowing -- these activities elevate your heart rate and ward off diseases like diabetes and osteoporosis. And they help build strength, lower blood pressure and promote weight loss, which can enhance your efforts in Bikram Yoga.

The Yin to Your Yang

Yin Yoga is a form of yoga complementary to all types of Hatha (or yang) practices such as Bikram. Yang practices work the muscles and build heat in the body whereas yin yoga is working the connective tissue around the muscles. Much longer, gentler stretches are held for around three minutes and sometimes even longer during a Yin Yoga session. The stretching and relaxation of areas like the knees, hips and spine promotes flexibility and better circulation, which will translate into better performances during your Bikram practices as well.

Cautionary Considerations

To prevent heat cramps and heat exhaustion, stay hydrated and dress light. Lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting are all signs that heat exhaustion is setting in and you need to stop immediately. Even if you don’t experience any negative side effects, making it a daily routine may not be realistic for most people. Bikram yoga is performed in 100-degree Fahrenheit heat and most classes run from 75 to 90 minutes, so spacing sessions out and participating in other forms of physical activity through the week is a healthy and realistic approach to complement Bikram Yoga.