Practice makes perfect. This is true of many things in life, and it is the promise of Bikram yoga. The more you practice, the better your body will become at doing the particular asansas. Your muscles will start to retain them as part of their memory, and you'll learn the nuances that help you get a little deeper or twistier.
That being said, Bikram yoga is no easy feat. Performed in a 105-degree room set at 40 percent humidity, the 90-minute set practice of 26 postures taxes you and could leave you feeling spent. Additionally, just because you can practice daily, doesn't necessarily mean you should.
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When deciding how often you head to Bikram yoga class, consider your practice level. Beginners might be eager after their first class to dive in head first and hit as many practices as possible. You'd be wise to temper your enthusiasm, however. Although Bikram yoga promises greater results for your circulatory, digestive, nervous, lymphatic and skeletal systems the more frequently you practice, the heat and new movements can take a toll on your system.
It's not unusual to feel sore after your first class or after any class. Allowing these sensations to subside before heading back is just good body management.
Also, an overly enthusiastic jump into Bikram can quickly lead to burnout. You might want to practice every day — until a week or two has passed and the novelty has worn off. Spacing your practices out means you start each one with a positive attitude and eager, open mind.
Despite the Bikram propaganda, you're probably best off practicing three times per week rather than daily, as is sometimes prescribed. In eight weeks, this was frequent enough to produce changes in muscular strength and flexibility specifically associated with the yoga postures — such as lower back and hamstring flexibility and deadlift strength — according to a study published in a 2013 issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
More Practiced Yogis
Again, a daily practice is possible, but settling into three or four practices per week is a pretty doable goal for most exercisers. Although Bikram yoga devotees might claim Bikram is all you need for a fit, balanced body and health status, science shows otherwise. Your body benefits from variety, which includes other fitness modalities as put forth by the American College of Sports Medicine, such as cardiovascular activity, neuromuscular training and strength training. Plus, varying your yoga practice generates a healthy mind and body. This means, regularly attending Bikram along with restorative, yin or lower-key Hatha practices.
The aforementioned 2013 study, for example, showed that a regular Bikram practice did not measurably improve cardiovascular fitness. You need walking, jogging, cycling or some other aerobic activity for that.
Although a review of the research published in a 2105 issue of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine reported that Bikram performed three times per week for eight weeks does improve balance and range of motion, it doesn't have a notable effect on upper-body strength. Resistance training using rubber tubing or iron weights is going to be more effective in promoting and preserving muscular strength.
The Bottom Line
If you have time to practice Bikram daily for 90 minutes and fit in other workouts, it's probably safe to do so, provided you hydrate and fuel appropriately. But, this pattern requires great willpower and a lot of free time. It's also a schedule that can lead to burnout and boredom.
Bikram yoga is full of rules and does tout the importance of discipline. Weigh your commitment to the practice against other life priorities. If relationships and recovery start to suffer, you're probably practicing too much for your schedule. Also, if you're excessively sore, dragging yourself to practice, feel drained and have trouble sleeping, it might be a sign you're overdoing your Bikram practice.
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