A hot yoga, or Bikram yoga, session moves through 26 poses in a room heated to near 105 degrees F, with a humidity level of around 40 percent. The practice, named after creator Yogiraj Bikram Choudhury, can help improve strength, flexibility and balance, while helping decrease your risk of conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Despite the many benefits of Bikram yoga, it should not be considered a valid substitute for regular cardiovascular exercise.
Hot yoga, along with power yoga, moves quickly from one pose to the next, giving you a more rigorous workout than traditional Hatha yoga. According to the American Council on Exercise, such intense forms of yoga only provide a mild aerobic benefit. The best way to gauge whether your yoga session is giving you an aerobic workout is to take your heart rate. Calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. If your heart rate during a yoga session stays between 60 and 80 percent of your maximum heart rate, you'll reap cardiovascular benefits.
Bikram Yoga for Fitness
The combination of heat and yoga poses characteristic of Bikram yoga can promote relaxation, flexibility and strength, but the practice shouldn't be your only form of exercise. Jessica Matthews, certified personal trainer with ACE, recommends combining yoga, including Bikram, with other aerobic and strength training activities for a balanced fitness program.
Many exercisers turn to Bikram yoga instead of cardio exercise under the misguided belief that the intense heat and profuse sweating will help burn fat. Heat and humidity may cause sweating, but they do nothing to eliminate fat from your body. If you notice a drop in your weight after a hot yoga session, you're probably seeing a water weight loss, and you'll gain it back once you replenish the fluids lost during exercise. The only way to drop fat is by burning more calories than you eat, and while Bikram yoga does burn calories to boost your deficit, it's not a miracle fat-loss solution or a substitute for regular aerobic exercise.
Bikram yoga raises health concerns that are not typically an issue with other forms of yoga. The extreme heat and humidity can raise your internal temperature and stress your body's ability to cool itself. To prevent dehydration and prepare your body for practice, always drink plenty of fluids at regular intervals before your class and throughout the yoga session. If you've never done Bikram yoga before, ease yourself into it by performing aerobic exercise in a hotter-than-normal environment first, gradually adding time to your sessions.
- Vanderbilt University; Bikram Yoga -- What's it All About?; Lauren A. Weddle; November 2005
- American Council on Exercise; I’m Considering Taking Yoga Classes….What Are the Benefits of Practicing Yoga?; Jessica Matthews
- Health Services at Columbia; Minimum and Maximum Heart Rate for Aerobic Exercise; May 2009
- American Council on Exercise; What’s the Best Way to Get Acclimated to Hot Yoga Classes?; Cedric Bryant
- Health Services at Columbia; Steam Room Vs. Sauna; May 2009