To Practice Bikram Yoga or Not – There’s Really No Question For Me
No, no, and no.
A Bikram Yoga class is held in room heated to 105 degrees fahrenheit with 90% humidity pumped in.
I have taken a few Bikram classes. Like you, I wanted to see what the fuss was all about.
I walked into a stinky room with gusting blasts of humidity and an oppressive heat smothering the room. I’d say this was unusual, but I tried 3 different studios and had the same experience. The level of stink only differed depending on when the last class was held.
I spent the first half of the class with my mantra “I will not throw up. I will not faint.” I repeated this over and over and over and over and over and over.
The second half of the class I spent wondering when this hellfire scorching would end.
I tried the classes repeatedly for several weeks as I was assured that I would acclimate to the heat (nope), that I would find I could rise above the physical discomfort (let me explain…), and that I would see great changes in my body (further explanation needed…). *
Needless to say, I quit Bikram Yoga after about a dozen classes.
Why Do People Endure This Practice?
The 3 most often cited reasons for practicing Bikram and Hot Yoga are that the heat helps to warm up the muscles so that you can experience more in the poses.
They also claim that the exorbitant sweating detoxifies the body.
And lastly, you will lose weight because the heat makes your heart work harder and you will burn more calories.
Um, kinda, no, and nope.
Why I Don’t Think 105 Degrees Is Worth It
Yes, you definitely feel less stiff in a warm room, hence the migration of Snow Birds to Florida and Arizona from the frigid midwest winter.
However, if you live in Chicago during the winter (feel sorry for us), you may experience temps in the negative range.
Now, imagine walking your body which is wrapped in several layers to buffer yourself from the brutal forces of nature to walk into a 105 degree room.
That can mean over a 105 degree change in the weather in the matter of seconds. Where does this ever occur anywhere else? How do you think your body adapts to that? Oh, and remember, you have to walk back OUT into that -22 windchill when class ends…how will the muscles feel then?
But what if you live in a more temperate climate?
Honestly what concerns me more about the heat and its impact on stretching is that people begin to feel like gumby and move deeply into poses that, when performed in a more moderate temperature, would allow them to feel if they are beyond their personal safety range.
Over stretching tendons and ligaments is hazardous to your anatomy. They don’t snap back. Overstretched tendons and ligaments cause weakness in your joints leaving you vulnerable to injuries.
Especially if you are new at yoga, I strongly recommend at least a year of a Hatha based program so you learn how your body moves in general and what is safe and unsafe for you. Again, this is just my opinion, but if you don’t know the difference between Locust, Cobra, and Up Dog as well as other standard poses (and trust me, many don’t) before you go into these classes, you are placing yourself at risk.
On the next point, while sweating helps clear out your pores, it does not do major body detoxification. Your liver and kidneys are in charge of doing that job and they do it well.
The sweating will help you definitely lose water weight while you take one of these classes. And, once you drink a glass or two of water, you will gain it back. Long term weight loss remains attached to a healthy calorie load for your body. Will Hot Yoga help? Sure. So will a walk. Or any other kind of yoga class.
As for the perceived exertion in this heat, there have been several studies that show you don’t expend any extra calories due to the heat. (The nausea and vomiting on the other hand might help but that’s up to you…)
Why I Now Refuse To Go To A Bikram Class
Google Bikram Choudhury and make your own decision. I won’t give him my money.
Also, in midlife, I’m hot enough more often than I’d like anyway 🙂
Yes, rising above physical discomfort in yoga can be a huge part of practice. I practice pranayama to navigate my practice with as much equanimity as possible. Sometimes I just cuss, but mostly I try to stay mindful. ANY yoga practice teaches you to distinguish between pain and discomfort and how to regulate emotions in that moment. You don’t need exorbitant heat to learn this lesson. Bound side angle is usually plenty on its own for me.
Any consistent asana yoga practice will improve your body physically. Again, excessive heat isn’t the reason why you’ll lose weight or gain muscle; it’s the postures:-)
If you have high blood pressure or MS, you should definitely talk to your doctor before you take a Bikram or Hot Yoga class.
What do you think? What are your experiences with Hot Yoga? Are you a fan of Bikram yoga? What do you like/love about it? How do you feel about its founder? Share your comments with me below!