Bikram yoga is a specific form of yoga that encompasses 26 postures and a room that is hot and humid. The process of contorting the body for the different poses, coupled with the heat and humidity can cause significant discomfort in many parts of the body, including the chest wall. Pain in or near the ribs can be the result of many conditions of varying severity. The characteristics of the pain may help distinguish among the different causes, but with any sort of chest pain a health care provider should be contacted to rule out serious health problems, such as heart disease.
As Well And Good NYC notes, one common rib injury induced by the twisting motions of yoga is called rib subluxation. Subluxation of a rib is similar to a very mild rib dislocation but it can be thought to be akin to "jamming" the rib, which limits its ability to move. This process can come on suddenly and cause extreme pain after it happens. A subluxed rib is sometimes treated by a chiropractor, who will try to free the affected rib and return its range of motion. After the rib has been realigned, rest is required to allow the injured area to heal.
Another potential cause of rib pain during Bikram yoga is costochondritis, which is caused by inflammation of the cartilage that connects the ribs to the breastbone. The Mayo Clinic explains that costochondritis causes pain and tenderness that may be located on one side of the chest and which is worse during the deep breathing that can occur in Bikram yoga. Costochondritis will usually subside on its own, though non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs -- such as ibuprofen and naproxen -- and stretching exercises can help ease the pain. Other treatment approaches can be used for costochondritis that does not improve with these measures, but they require the supervision of a physician.
Intercostal Muscle Problems
Between the ribs are a series of muscles, known as the intercostal muscles. During exercises that require twisting, these muscles can become strained, resulting in pain and tenderness, Body Motion notes. Although the strains can vary in severity, measures to rest the affected muscles and reduce inflammation will speed healing. Alternately, the pain felt in the ribs could be due to cramping of the intercostal muscles. According to the Mayo Clinic, performing exercise in hot and humid environments, such as Bikram yoga studios, can induce muscle cramps. Muscle cramps will usually go away on their own.
The most troubling cause of rib pain during yoga -- and also the one that should prompt you to see a doctor -- is called angina pectoris. Angina pectoris is chest pain that is felt when a portion of your heart is not getting enough blood, the Patient Education Institute explains. During times of intense exertion, including during periods of strenuous yoga, the oxygen demand of the heart increases. Coronary artery disease limits the oxygen supply of the heart, which can cause a lack of oxygen and chest pain during exertion. Because this can be a sign of a serious heart condition, cases of chest pain should always be checked by a medical professional, especially if the pain occurs during other strenuous activities.