Bikram yoga, also known as "hot" yoga, was created by Bikram Choudhury and is derived from hatha traditions. The foundation of Bikram yoga is 26 postures meant to work every part of the body evenly in studios with temperatures of 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity The high temperatures are meant to improve flexibility by heating muscles and ligaments faster than exercise alone. It also promotes sweating which flushes toxins and metabolic waste from the body. Through the detoxing process, poses, better circulation and a calmer mind, your digestive system functions more efficiently and ailments may be reversed.
Since your body cannot distinguish between life-threatening situations and stress caused by non-dangerous situations, stress triggers the body's fight-or-flight response -- inhibiting normal digestive processes. The stomach does not process food quickly and produces more acid. Intestinal activity may slow, causing constipation. During yoga, the body's feel-good neurotransmitters, endorphins, are released into the bloodstream and your focus shifts from stressful events to poses and breath-work. The emotional and physical affects of yoga help restore balance to your body and mind.
Poses and Digestion
During Bikram yoga, poses like the twisting pose and forward bend stimulate digestion. Your stomach will empty its contents, fresh nutrients and oxygen are sent to the digestive system, and the intestines begin a wave-like series of contractions known as peristalsis. When your intestines function efficiently, nutrients are absorbed more effectively, elimination is smooth and waste products are expelled from the body. Lack of motion can slow these processes leading to disorders such as intestinal inflammation and constipation.
Elimination of Toxins
Toxins in the body can slow digestion and cause inflammation of the intestines. It can also cause gas pain, bloating, intolerance to foods and weight management issues as well. Toxins are accumulated in the body through poor diet, lack of exercise, environmental factors like pesticides, and medication. The high temperatures of hot yoga make you sweat -- automatically flushing these toxins from your system. The poses also boost the metabolism and circulation, causing fresh oxygen and nutrients to circulate through the body and expel toxins.
A Word of Caution
Ask your doctor before starting hot yoga. Certain medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, pregnancy, respiratory ailments and obesity can make hot yoga dangerous. During menstruation, use caution with all yoga poses and high heat, as these can lead to medical complications. Hot yoga can help people with many medical conditions, including obesity, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. Hot yoga also causes loss of fluids, so make sure you drink plenty of water before and after your class.
- Bikram's Yoga College of India; About Bikram Yoga
- Mayo Clinic; Crohn's Disease: Lifestyle and Home Remedies
- WomenFitness.net; Improve Digestion with Yoga
- Pure Balance Health Center; Fall into Health: The 4 Steps to Great Health Through Detoxification; Dr. Thomas Bayne
- "Yoga Journal"; Facing the Heat; Shari Waxman