Often referred to as hot yoga because it's practiced in a heated room, Bikram yoga is a sequence of 26 Hatha yoga postures designed to develop strength and flexibility along with providing cardiovascular exercise. Considered one of the most physically strenuous yoga practices, the Bikram sequence burns a significant number of calories through its full-body workout.
Devised by yoga advocate Bikram Choudhury in the early 1970s, the Bikram sequence has become a common fixture in the yoga world. While little extensive research has been conducted on the specific benefits of Bikram yoga, the sequence has been attributed to burning more calories than any other style of yoga, according to Elysium Yoga, a website that promotes the practice of yoga. In the United States, Bikram Choudhury has aggressively enforced copyright laws over the practice and instruction of his 26-posture sequence, resulting in a number of lawsuits.
Bikram Yoga follows a sequence of 26 postures, half of which are devoted to a series of upright postures. The yoga postures used in the Bikram sequence cause a considerable cardiovascular workout which, when conducted in the regulated 105 degree temperature with 40-percent humidity, can sometimes lead to dizziness and nausea. The class differs from many other types of yoga because of its use of instructors who, instead of demonstrating each posture in the sequence, maintain an ongoing dialogue.
According to the calories burned calculator created by QuickFit Yoga, an individual weighing 150 lbs. can expect to burn about 1,000 calories during each session of Bikram yoga, which is roughly the equivalent of running 6 mph for 90 minutes. While this is a general number, individuals weighing 120 to 160 lbs. can expect to burn at least 350 to 700 calories per hour doing Bikram yoga.
Bikram Choudhury’s website contains a number of testimonials claiming health benefits as diverse as eliminating sciatica to reversing Type-2 diabetes. While there is little definitive data to buttress some claims, the efficiency of Hatha yoga in increasing flexibility and muscle strength are well known benefits. According to Choudhury, the sequence burns calories and increases health by speeding up circulation to each of the muscles and organs compressed and extended during the yoga postures. Along with burning calories, the system claims to systematically restore health to every muscle, joint and organ of the body.
Just as any intensive cardiovascular workout, the possibility of dizziness and nausea is present throughout the Bikram yoga sequence. Exercising in a room hotter than 100 degrees can present a hazard, so it's incumbent upon students to be aware of how their body is functioning. Because of the heat of the room, students performing the Bikram sequence are able to work deeper into postures than they would otherwise be able to do, causing some beginning students to accidentally overextend themselves (often while holding their breath during a posture).