A while ago I started getting into Bikram Yoga - yoga done in a hot room (usually 40°C), always with the same sequence of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. The first class I took was brutal and incredibly challenging. After the class I was pretty sure I wouldn’t go back. Ever. But I did. I believe in giving something another go even if it’s challenging - even more of a reason to go back. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. Quite the opposite.
Once the initial exhaustion wore off I educated myself on the benefits of Bikram Yoga and gave it another go a couple of days later. The second session felt a bit easier already, maybe partly because I had a rough idea of what the next 90 minutes would look like. I kept going back and started doing Bikram Yoga a few times per week.
It was still challenging, but the more I went the more I loved it. However, there aren’t only benefits to Bikram Yoga, in fact there is scientific evidence of some dangers it can pose. I’ll get into those in a bit, but let’s start with the personal benefits I’ve experienced.
Not only was I exercising, I also sweated so much that it appeared as if I could literally feel my body detox. The heat also made me stay present. There was just no space or energy left to worry about anything else, my mind and body were in the exact same space, focused on the posture, or completely relaxed and focused on my breath in between sets. It was like meditating and working out at the same time. I actually saw it as my daily meditation session (as I talked about in more detail in my post on daily routines). And of course it felt even better once I was done, when the windows were open and I could feel a fresh breeze of cool air on my body, when I rehydrated and had a shower. It was both relaxing and energising.
Those are the personal benefits I’ve experienced. Then I did some more research on the various health benefits of Bikram Yoga, which are below:
The heat in the room helps to protect your muscles and lets you stretch deeper during the 26 postures. It also assists the body in eliminating toxins - as I said above, it seems as if you can feel your body detox.
Bikram Yoga also aids in lifestyle and general health improvements - it reduces stress, improves sleep and deep breathing.
Lastly, one of my favourite benefits is that it helps with injuries, back pain, and bad posture. This is especially great if you lift weights and feel a bit tight and sore after working out. I found that practising Bikram Yoga especially a day after doing deadlifts really helped to stretch and relax my back muscles.
Now, as I said, there are also cons to Bikram Yoga. Research has shown that your internal body temperature and heart rate could reach super dangerous levels in the 40°C room. The following explains it quite well: Bikram Yoga “gives you a heat-on-heat response, which can lead to heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. When internal heat rises, vasodilation occurs in the blood vessels in the skin and you begin to sweat to cool the body to keep the body within the normal range of body temperature. So you are sweating to cool the body down, you have an increase in blood flow, but the room is heated to over 40 degrees celsius, therefore you have no way of actually cooling your body down, which can cause a disruption of internal body temperature.”
Up until recently I wasn’t quite sure yet whether to take sides, but some of the personal benefits I felt kept me going back, without overdoing it. If I felt dizzy and sick I’d lie down and take it easy. And I also always made sure to drink enough water, that’s key. After training I rehydrated by drinking at least one litre of water as well as coconut water for electrolytes.
I’ve stopped doing Bikram Yoga now, but still feel it is worth sharing the research I’ve looked into and the benefits and disadvantages I’ve experienced. It did become a bit too much and felt over the top for me, so I’ve gone back to some basic stretching and simple yoga poses I’m doing at home - until I try another Yoga variation.
If there’s a Bikram Yoga studio nearby you, give it a go anyway. It will be hard at first, but stick with it for at least a few classes and see how you go. The more you practise, the easier it will become - you may start to love it, or decide it’s not for you. You’ll only know by trying yourself.
Have you done Bikram Yoga before? What benefits and drawbacks have you experienced personally?