Bikram yoga has famous and fit fans all over the world. It promises to provide holistic healing and is billed as a serious calorie burner. But what is Bikram? And could it help you towards your fitness goals, or would it just waste your time?
Is it a new fad or phase?
Bikram yoga may seem new, but it has actually been around since the 1970s. It’s based on traditional hatha yoga, which has been around much longer.
As with all exercise forms, there are followers who come and go. But it is not uncommon to find people at Bikram classes that have followed the yoga style for years. This is particularly true of those that combine it with regular yoga sessions.
How is Bikram yoga different to regular yoga?
Bikram yoga focuses on just 26 poses, including breathing exercises. It is done in a room heated to 40 degrees and 40% humidity.
Those that follow Bikram yoga can also enter into the Yoga Asana championships. This is controversial in the yoga community but is encouraged by the Bikram founder, Bikram Choudhury.
As with regular yoga, there are many health benefits to practising frequently. Studies have shown that yoga helps to keep you calm. It encourages the logical side of the brain, so your capacity for clear thinking over panic improves.
The exercises are also very good for improving strength and flexibility. You use only your own body so you will find the practice can be easier on your joints than other weight training. In this way, Bikram can also be better than regular yoga, as the heat eases the joints.
Choundry asserts that Bikram can cure a number of health issues – more so than other yoga styles. However, there is no medical evidence to support this.
Why does the heat make a difference?
The heat allows your muscles to heat up and allows you to stretch yourself further (literally). Studies indicate that the heat and humidity allow for improved flexibility.
As you can imagine, it also makes you sweat more. This can be good for losing fat, water weight and excess salt. In a similar way to boxers or weightlifters using a sauna to ensure they make a weight class by ridding themselves of excess water, Bikram students may also find the scales drop far quicker than with general yoga.
However, those that practice Bikram for long periods of time (e.g instructors) must be careful to stay hydrated and to keep their salt levels correct.
Is it the same as Hot Yoga?
The heat levels are often the same, but a teacher must study a Bikram Choundry approved course before being able to be classed as a Bikram teacher.
Often, hot yoga classes will follow more than just the 26 Bikram poses. The poses themselves cannot be copyrighted or limited to one company. So you could find that your Hot Yoga class is very similar in style.
Your instructor will probably be able to highlight the classes that are most similar if there is no official Bikram studio near you.