For centuries Yoga has been practiced to improve health, flexibility and wellbeing, while promoting tranquility, stress reduction and inner peace. Bikram Yoga, a series of 26 poses and breathing exercises, takes those principles one step further by requiring the series to be done in a studio heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit with 40% humidity to facilitate added benefits.
Bikram Yoga was created by Bikram Choudhury in the early 1970s and is based on traditional hatha yoga. Bikram Yoga instructors say practice is safe and beneficial for people of all skill levels, from beginners to Yogis, but if you’re interested in trying more basic Yoga first, check out this beginner’s yoga course.
All official Bikram Yoga Instructors are trained by Bikram Choudhury himself, and must complete more than 500 hours of study to ensure they are qualified to teach this form of Yoga.
Physical Health Benefits
The heat and humidity of the Bikram Yoga gradually loosens muscles and allows the body to safely stretch deeper and longer than is possible with traditional exercise.
Bikram Yoga is said to provide full-body benefits including:
- the tourniquet effect, which involves stretching, balancing and pressure application to flush the circulatory system and rid the blood of toxins
- weight loss from improved metabolic and digestive functioning
- increased joint mobility and range of motion
- strengthened skeletal system from balancing against gravity and greater absorption of calcium
- boost to the lymphatic system by massaging lymph nodes and distributing white blood cells throughout the body
- compression, extension and flushing of the spleen, intestines, lungs and endocrine glands
- stimulating the nervous system through compression and extension to improve neural functions
Those who practice Bikram yoga say that it is perfectly normal to feel nauseous, dizzy or faint during the first few classes. This can usually be avoided by increasing your water intake to a minimum of 80 ounces per day, and doubling that amount if you consume caffeine or alcohol, or eat mostly processed foods. Because of the extreme amount of perspiration produced by the body during Bikram Yoga, you loose electrolytes which can be replaced through drinking coconut water or taking supplements that contain adequate levels of sea salt and potassium.
Mental Health Benefits
While physical endurance is important to gain the full benefits of Bikram Yoga, mental strength and endurance is also equally important. The endurance necessary for Bikram Yoga encourages discipline, determination, and self-confidence. With regular practice, instructors claim Bikram Yoga also synchronizes the nervous and endocrine systems, which play a key role in hormonal and emotional balances.
Those who practice frequently say Bikram Yoga improves their sleeping habits, increases their energy, and brings about an elevated, more stable mood. As with most types of yoga and meditation, Bikram Yoga facilitates stress and anxiety reduction, and has even been shown to improve symptoms of depression.
Bikram and Detoxification
An important part of Bikram Yoga’s detoxifying process is breathing. The classes begin and end with breathing exercises designed to flush the body of impurities and flood the lungs and muscles with fresh oxygen. This Introduction to Ashtanga Yoga course can teach you more about the importance of power, breath and control while practicing yoga.
You may feel extremely tired after your first few Bikram classes. Instructors say this is a completely normal reaction to the powerful cleansing and detoxification happening in the body. The extreme sweating caused by Bikram Yoga flushes and cleanses the body. The high heat and humidity allows the skin’s pores to open and expel toxins. It also thins the blood, which flushes the circulatory system.
If you’re interested in detoxification through yoga and are up for a challenge, try this 30-day yoga detoxification challenge course.
- pregnant or nursing
- suffering from hypertension or heart disease
- on medication that reduces the body’s ability to safely deal with heat
- recovering from an injury or surgery
While students are encouraged to remain in the heated studio for the full 90 minutes, sitting or laying down is acceptable if any nausea or dizziness is experienced.