Bikram yoga is a type of yoga that relies on a series of 26 asanas, or postures, performed in a hot room. Bikram yoga studios are heated to about 105 degrees F and about 40% humidity. Practicing yoga poses under these conditions helps loosen your muscles, lubricate your tendons and joints, and stimulates your lymphatic system to eliminate toxins.
Bikram Yoga Explained
Bikram yoga, or hot yoga, is a school of yoga founded by teacher Bikram Choudry. It’s performed in rooms heated to more than one hundred degrees F, and with humidity levels of between 40 and 60%. Bikram yoga is a rigid practice that consists of a series of 26 asanas or yoga postures. About half of these postures are standing postures, while the other half are performed on the floor; there are no inversions, but pranayama, or yogic breathing practices, are performed during the practice.
Therapeutic Benefits of Bikram Yoga
Practitioners and teachers of Bikram yoga believe in the practice’s healing benefits. The high levels of heat and humidity in Bikram yoga studios loosen your muscles and lubricate your joints and ligaments to allow for greater degrees of flexibility than you would normally experience. Teachers and practitioners alike claim that this strengthens the muscles, joints and ligaments and can help heal joint and muscle injuries and soothe the symptoms of chronic joint or muscular conditions.
Practicing the Bikram yoga sequence under the conditions present in hot yoga studios also increases your blood flow, so that your body’s tissues receive higher levels of oxygen and nutrients. The higher temperatures also help improve respiratory and cardiovascular health.
One of the most well known side effects of Bikram yoga is that is makes you sweat, a lot. The high levels of heat in hot yoga studios stimulate your lymphatic system to help flush out toxins, which can be of therapeutic benefit to those recovering from physical injury. The heat also strengthens your immune system, increases your metabolism and can help correct hormonal imbalance.
Risks Associated with Bikram Yoga
Like any form of strenuous exercise, Bikram yoga is not without risks. Due to the high degrees of heat and humidity under which Bikram yoga is practiced, practitioners run the risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and fainting. Anyone practicing Bikram yoga should drink lots of water before, during and after the class. Anyone practicing Bikram yoga should not be afraid to lie down and rest for a few moments if the class becomes too strenuous or they feel faint; if the heat of the Bikram yoga studio begins to feel overpowering, leave the class.
Like practitioners of other forms of yoga, Bikram yoga practitioners are at increased risk of muscle, joint and ligament injury. When muscles, joints and ligaments are heated they become more flexible, but Bikram yoga practitioners should still be careful not to push themselves to the point where they might sustain muscle, joint or ligament injury.