Why People Think Bikram Yoga is Harmful

Bikram yoga is a form of yoga in which a series of 26 standing poses, floor poses and breathing exercises are performed in a very hot room. The typical Bikram yoga studio is heated to about 105 degrees F with humidity at 40 to 60 percent. Proponents of this style of yoga say the intense heat and humidity not only help your body sweat out toxins, but help to loosen muscles and lubricate joints for increased flexibility. Others believe that Bikram yoga might be unnecessarily dangerous; here’s why.

Bikram Yoga Carries Heat-Associated Risks

Practitioners of Bikram yoga are at risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and fainting, due to the high levels of heat and humidity in Bikram yoga studios and the strenuous nature of the workout.

Proponents of Bikram yoga claim that the excessive sweating that occurs during the practice helps your body to detoxify. While it’s true that your body does release some toxins through sweating, anyone trying to treat toxification problems by practicing Bikram yoga is only putting himself at further risk. Your liver and kidneys are the organs most responsible for detoxification. If you become dehydrated, these organs function less efficiently.

Bikram Yoga Can Be Dangerous for Those with Pre-Exisiting Medical Conditions

If you have a pre-existing medical condition, especially if you suffer from a chronic illness like diabetes, cardiovascular disease or a respiratory ailment, Bikram yoga may not be for you. If you are pregnant, Bikram yoga may not be for you. If you’re taking any type of medications, Bikram yoga may not be for you. Certain medications change the way your body responds to heat, which could make Bikram yoga dangerous.

If you are suffering from any type of medical condition or are pregnant, or if you’re taking any type of medication, consult your doctor before taking Bikram yoga classes. If you’ve suffering from any type of heat related illness in the past, talk to your doctor before taking Bikram yoga classes. Past incidents of heat related illness make it more likely that you’ll succumb again.

Bikram Yoga Increases Practitioners’ Risk of Injury

Proponents of Bikram yoga claim that the high heat and humidity loosen your muscles and ligaments and lubricate joints to give practitioners increased flexibility. While it’s true that high levels of heat can increase your flexibility, it’s also true that such high levels of heat and humidity might make you so flexible that you push yourself too far without realizing it. Practitioners of any type of yoga are at risk for muscle and joint injury, and especially lower back injury, due to the precise nature of the practice and the high levels of strength and flexibility required to perform yoga poses. Practitioners of Bikram yoga, however, are at increased risk of injury because they are stretching their muscles far beyond normal limits.


About Author

Posts By content
  • David Geller

    You state that practitioners of Bikram yoga have been known to die. I’ve been practicing Bikram for over 6 years and have never heard of such a thing. Google has not heard of it either. Could you please clarify or edit your statement?

  • jeff moffat

    I am also a long time Bikram devotee, and have never heard of anyone dying from this practice.
    I beleive you need to check your facts.

  • Char

    I have tried Bikram yoga twice, yes I made it through both times. It was pleasing, as a former athlete, to push myself without the amount of physical exertion normally required to make myself sweat and work that hard. I never believed I could have the exhiliration of maximum effort without being a completely toned extreme athlete ever again. This little discrepancy of effort vs. intensity also prevents uncountable injuries to someone like me with fibromyalgia, obesity and diabetes. My only problem is that after my second session, I was able to do less, and by the fourth day my blood pressure skyrocketed so high (at home, at rest) that I am so dizzy that I can hardly stand or move without falling over. I am not dehydrated. I have been dehydrated before, and that involves hyponatriemia and low blood pressure, not high blood pressure–and certainly not while at rest and at home in the late evenings. So far thisw has lasted 24 hours or so with symptoms just now starting to ease off. Once the symptoms are at bay and I think I can go somewhere without passing out, I’ll go back and rechallenge myself at the Bikram Yoga place, maybe a different one, because the one I go to is heated to 110 and sometimes beyond–I’ve seen the temp gauge at the beginning of the class at 110F. When a full class gets going I’m sure it is much hotter than this. My guess is probably 5 to 10 degrees more with all the exercising bodies and no circulation of air. An educated guess is 115 to 120F. I am going to try a couple of other studios to see if they stick to the 105 which would be far more comfy, and see if my blood pressure soars and my dizziness makes it impossible to stand or do anything when it is HIGH rather than low. Any ideas?

  • Mark

    First of all please do not go back to hot yoga without talking to a doctor. At least do more research first. Dehydration is dangerous even for healthy people but it can cause both low and high blood pressure. When you lose blood volume due to dehydration the vascular system contracts to compensate often causing higher blood pressures. Your dizziness is also very disturbing. Again see a doctor. Hot yoga is a short cut. Just because very healthy people can survive it does not make it a good idea. I hope you find something else that works for you. Please be careful.

  • Ammie

    I went to a hot yoga class today, then had a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon. To my great surprise, my BP was 134/101. My diastolic is usually in the 70s. It only got worse as we checked it a second and third time. It didn’t help that my anxiety kept creeping up there with every “bad” reading. Is this a hot yoga phenomena? Of course you can’t feel if your BP is high, and i have trouble knowing if I feel hydrated. I think I’m drinking enough water and I don’t feel thirsty. How many people think to check their BP later in the day after a yoga class?

  • John Bigler

    Same experience here! I’m not new to yoga or Bikram, but after 12 days of the 60-day challenge, doing a couple doubles to make up lost days, the dizziness and nausea, even resting at home at night, caused me to check my vitals — my blood pressure and pulse were both sky high, compared to my normal! I always hydrate before/during/after… but I notice in class that more sweat is running off me than anyone else. I enjoy the Bikram practice when I do 2-3 classes a week, mixing it up with Anusara, Jivamukti, Kundalini, Baptiste and vinyasa practice, but Bikram every day seems to be too much for my body.

  • John Bigler

    Update. I’ve been resting for 4 days. It took longer than I expected for my vitals to return to near-normal readings — almost 4 days. I’m hydrating and will have ice in my water bottles when I return to a Bikram class… hopefully, later today… and I doubt that I’ll be doing any doubles to catch up…