Bikram yoga, or “hot yoga” as it is also called, is a type of yoga that is done in a heated room that averages between 95 and 105 degrees. It was named for yoga master Bikram Choudhury, who founded the Yoga College of India in Beverly Hills back in 1974. The theory is that being in such a warm and also usually humid environment makes the body more flexible.
When I first read about Bikram yoga several years ago to help research an article I wrote for our local newspaper, I honestly wondered why anyone would pay money to go work out in the heat. It struck me as very uncomfortable and unpleasant. But after interviewing the owner of the studio as well as several of her unabashedly enthusiastic students, I realized that there really seems to be something to the heated room element that is inherent to this style of yoga.
Bikram yoga classes typically involve going through a series of 26 poses, or asanas and two breathing exercises. Each position flows to the next one, which proponents say can help your body release toxins and well as tensions. According to Wikipedia, blood circulation is affected a lot during class because of compression and extension of the muscles. These two movements work together to bring oxygen throughout the whole body. While students are doing one of the poses, circulation will actually be temporarily cut off. This in turn stimulates the heart to pump more blood. The pumping of fresh blood is called extension. Once you finish the pose and you come out of it, the new oxygen-rich blood can help the arteries that were being compressed.
By the time the 90-minute class is over, most students will feel both tired and energized. The idea is that the heat combined with the poses will help your body clean out its lymphatic system, and then even more toxins will come out in your sweat. Drinking a bunch of water before, during, and after class can help reload your body with good liquids.
As you sweat your way through the poses, the stress-caused hormone cortisol can also leave the body.
Bikram yoga has a devoted group of students who swear by the health benefits that this hot form of yoga has to offer.