According to its devotees, Bikram yoga benefits are many, and they exceed those of other types of yoga.
One of the most structured and practiced forms of hot yoga, Bikram was popularized in the West during the early 1970s.
Comprising 26 postures, or poses, and two breathing exercises, these focus on every part of the body, including the muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, glands and internal organs.
Poses are executed in the same order in 90-minute sessions that take place in a room heated to 105 degrees with a humidity level of 40%. This hot and humid environment is said to increase blood flow and circulation to the muscles. It is also said to deliver health benefits above and beyond that of yoga done in an unheated room.
Read on to find out about the top 10 Bikram Yoga benefits as seen by proponents of this somewhat controversial form of yoga.
*NB Hot yoga, including Bikram, should not be undertaken by children or pregnant women and anyone who is prone to dizzy spells.
People who are over the age of 60 who haven’t done hot yoga before should consult with a medical professional before taking a Bikram yoga class. Likewise, anyone who suffers from high or low blood pressure and anyone with diabetes.
Video Covering the Main Benefits of Bikram Yoga
10 Bikram Yoga Benefits
1. Increased Fat Burning
The hot, humid environment Bikram yoga classes are held in, combined with the length of the sessions, is said to be excellent for encouraging fat loss.
According to the online calorie counter and weight loss/fitness journal FitDay.com, Bikram can burn up to 630 calories an hour. This is around 360% more calories than traditional Hatha yoga, which burns approximately 175 calories an hour.
With Bikram yoga sessions being 90 minutes long, by doing just one class, it is possible to burn around 945 calories. Claims of weight loss of a couple of pounds after just one session are true to a certain extent. Most of this, however, will be due to water lost through perspiration. After rehydrating, your body’s water level will be topped up. But, by doing regular workouts, you will lose weight and lower your body fat percentage. Reducing the number of calories you take in will speed up the weight loss process.
*The exact number of calories burned will depend on your age, weight, height, BMI and the intensity at which you execute the poses.
2. Improved Muscle Strength
Another of the Bikram yoga benefits is that when performed regularly, it delivers total body strengthening.
With every pose engaging multiple muscles, a full Bikram yoga sequence delivers a very effective total body workout.
3. Better Balance and a Stronger Core
Some of the poses undertaken in Bikram yoga require a high degree of balance. This is because many of the poses are executed standing on one leg.
Examples include Dandayamana-Dhanurasana (Standing Bow Pose), Dandayamana-Janushirasana (Standing Head To Knee Pose) and Garudasana (Eagle Pose). Also Padangustasana (Toe Stand Pose), Tuladandasana (Balancing Stick Pose) and Tadasana (Tree Pose). Master these, and you will significantly improve your balance, stability and core strength.
4. Greater Flexibility
One of the major Bikram yoga benefits and a benefit of yoga, in general, is greater flexibility. Executing the various poses stretches the muscles and joints, increasing their range of motion. As a result, when practiced regularly, yoga can reduce muscular tension and help lower the incidence of injury. It can also ease aches and pain and improve day-to-day quality of life.
The heated environment Bikram yoga is practiced in is said to allow the muscles to elongate further and more easily than when the same postures are executed in a room of normal temperature.
5. Improved Posture
Many Bikram yoga poses stretch and elongate the spine and in doing, so promote proper spinal alignment. By practicing this style of yoga regularly, you will straighten and strengthen your spine and improve your posture. This, in turn, will help you avoid spinal problems in the short and long term.
6. Increased Mental Clarity and Sense of Calm
One of the most advantageous Bikram Yoga benefits is the degree to which it enhances the mind. Each of the 26 postures helps to improve focus significantly.
Over time, you will be able to concentrate solely on your breathing and movement and be completely “in the moment.” As a result, your stress levels will reduce and your mental clarity will improve.
Some of these benefits will be noticeable from your first session. As you continue to practice Bikram Yoga, the effects will become more pronounced. Your mind will be clearer, and you will feel calmer both during your sessions and afterward.
7. Improved Blood Flow
The steamy, heated environment of a Bikram yoga studio allows tight muscles to loosen up. This increases blood flow throughout the body, enabling it to more swiftly and deeply penetrate body tissues and organs, improving the function of the circulatory system.
A further benefit to increased blood flow is that it enables extra oxygen and nutrients to circulate. This results in a stronger lymphatic system and a healthier immune system.
The hot, humid room which Bikram Yoga is performed maximizes the output of perspiration.
When we perspire, we expel toxins. We can avoid some harmful toxins by eating “clean” natural foods and avoiding foods containing additives and artificial flavoring and coloring. Unfortunately, it’s harder to avoid inhaling toxins emitted from cleaning supplies, furniture, electronics, pesticide residue, etc.
Limiting our exposure to air-born toxins will, over time, help to decrease the overall level of toxins in our body. We can hasten the process by practicing Bikram yoga, which enables the body to cleanse itself and remove impurities through our circulatory and respiratory system.
9. Protection Against Chronic Disease
One of the most significant Bikram yoga benefits is that it offers protection against chronic disease. High stress levels are a primary cause of chronic disease.
People who regularly do Bikram yoga tend to be less stressed and more centered. They also have less incidence of chronic disease. Exercise in itself, adds another degree of protection.
10. Enhanced Breathing
Throughout Bikram yoga sessions, much emphasis is placed on the importance of correct breathing techniques.
The first and the last exercises in the sequence, which respectively go by the names of Pranayama (Standing Deep Breathing Pose) and Kapalbhati In Vajrasana (Blowing in Firm Pose), focus on breathing correctly to help strengthen the lungs. With stronger lungs, comes increased vitality.
2 Bikram Yoga Drawbacks
90 minutes is a long time to be exercising in a hot and humid environment. Perspiration will be pouring off you and beginners, in particular, will often feel weak, tired, dizzy and even nauseous during workouts.
Perspiring due to heat exposure and intense and sustained physical activity can cause our kidneys to save water and therefore retain any toxins that may be circulating, rather than expel them.
For this reason and to avert a medical issue, it is important that you drink plenty of fluids the day before a Bikram yoga class. You should also take small regular sips of water during sessions.
Bikram Yoga Benefits Summary
While there are a number of Bikram yoga benefits, it also comes with some drawbacks. And, according to its detractors, claims of detoxification and prevention of chronic disease are largely unsubstantiated.
If you are thinking of trying Bikram yoga, my advice would be to try another form of yoga first. It’s also a good idea to try another type of hot yoga, such as Vinyasa hot yoga. Vinyasa hot yoga classes take place in a room heated to between 78 degrees and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. (The temperature varies, depending on the studio.) Classes run for either 60 minutes, 75 minutes or 90 minutes, so you can start with a 60-minute class and see how you go.
If you find Vinyasa hot yoga takes too much out of you, you’re unlikely to enjoy Bikram yoga, which is far more challenging. If you find that you like hot yoga, as many people do, and you want to experience the benefits of Bikram yoga to the fullest, it’s recommended that you do ten classes a month.