There is no dispute that practicing yoga on a regular basis has amazing health benefits for everyone that sticks to it. Proven by decades of studies and personal results, yoga reduces high blood pressure, chronic back pain, and has beneficial effects on the heart, the lungs and the attitude. Here in the West, we have long been practicing a form of yoga which loosely translated (from the Hindu) is “Hatha” (sun, moon). The idea is to balance your body and your spirit. The focus of Hatha remains exercise, breathing and meditation.
At last count, Yoga master and author, Bikram Choudhury has over 2000 yoga studios internationally. It is now the fastest growing form of yoga in the world. Although there are other forms of Hot Yoga (Moksha, Hot Power Yoga, Baptiste Power Yoga), Choudhury claims that the one true yoga (Hatha) is his own distinctive Bikram Yoga. It’s devotees include celebrities and athletes alike. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Kobe Bryant, George Clooney, Beyonce and Ashton Kutcher are all on the list.
Yoga is always good for your health. Bikram Yoga is even better. Bikram has additional mind-body-spirit healing effects that are getting a lot of attention these days.
Bikram Yoga is practiced in a room heated to 105°F (40.5°C). It includes 26 specific poses (asana), 2 breathing exercises and the Bikham dialogue given by a certified instructor. The unique combination of the heat, the breathing, the poses and the no variation dialogue are designed to work on physical, emotional, and psychological illnesses found in Western society. Yoga when regularly practiced works on health issues like arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, insomnia, and high and low blood pressure. Bikram Yoga has all of the benefits of yoga…on steroids. It amplifies and intensifies healing, toning, mental alertness, and has powerful preventative medicine effects.
10 Plus Benefits of Bikram “Hot” Yoga
Detoxification: Bikram in particular and Hot Yoga, in general, is all about the “sweat” factor. The precise poses in Bikram Yoga, provide a deep tissue and organ massage and the heavy sweat flushes out the toxins that have been building up for a long time.
Muscle Flexibility: Your heat-warmed muscles are more flexible, when stretched. The heat is also a factor in healing and preventing injuries.
Weight Loss: In a 90 minute Bikram Yoga session the body burns up to 1000 calories. That’s a lot of calories in a short time! Visible results are often immediate, and within 10 sessions there is a significant physical transformation. Muscles are toned when the fat turns to muscle in the heat. The specific poses are said to work on your digestive system and metabolism resulting in more long term energy and less appetite.
Arthritis and Back Pain Relief: When you combine heat with bone, joint and nerve extension and compression, you get pain relief. People who suffer from chronic arthritis, as well as, other bone and back problems are delighted with the results. The poses are designed to create a healthier spine and nervous system.
Asthma, Breathing Problems and Allergies: Bikram has had positive results in strengthening the lungs and relaxing the muscles and nerves. It also removes toxins and allergens from the body, naturally preventing allergic reactions, which are the basis of some breathing problems
Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, Immune System: Healthy circulation of the blood involves every system and every organ of the body. The extension-compression dynamic of the asana postures releases fresh oxygenated blood and helps to rejuvenate the arteries. There is an improvement in healthy blood flow which impacts both high and low blood pressure, high cholesterol and the T cell function (immune system).
Depression, Anxiety, and Emotional Balance: This “moving meditation” has positive side effects on emotions. The integration of both sides of the brain improves memory, learning, coordination focus and balance. Regular practice works on the nervous and endocrine systems to reduce depression and increase a sense of well-being.
Skin and Aging: The skin is hydrated and moisturized by sweat pouring from the skin’s pores opened by the heated environment. When the elasticity improves wrinkles disappear, and skin is healthier and younger looking.
Spiritual: The practice of Bikram Yoga cultivates character development by increasing faith, patience, concentration, self-control and other virtues. Bikram Yoga creates a more balanced body, a calmer mind, and a more joyful spirit.
So with all these great benefits of Bikram Yoga what’s the downside? Actually, it’s all about the heat! That same fat burning, skin toning, pain reducing 105 degrees is what the opponents of Hot Yoga are pointing to. Critics are concerned with muscle cramps, dehydration and heat exhaustion. Fortunately, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) did a study, which in 2013, claimed that Hot Yoga is safe, as long as you hydrate.
Many yoga studios don’t recommend Bikram Yoga for women who are pregnant (especially the first trimester) and for young children. The physical demands and emotional intensity along with the extreme heat, might not be for everyone. But if you are looking for dramatic results, you have nothing to lose by giving it a go. Just make sure that you drink plenty of water before your session.