In studios around the world, Hot Yoga is a popular style. Practitioners believe that performing asanas in a well-heated room helps to cleanse both the mind and body, and heat the muscles to facilitate better range of motion.
The Difference Between Bikram and Hot Yoga
Terminology for Hot Yoga and Bikram Yoga is not interchangeable. They really are different practices.
Bikram Yoga originated with yogi Bikram Choudhury in 1974. Choudhury developed a series of 26 asanas to be performed in a particular sequence in a heated room of 80-105 degrees Fahrenheit. The classes are usually 90-minutes long and include specialized breathing exercises as well.
Hot Yoga is a form of Hatha Yoga performed in a heated room. Practitioners of this style still experience many yoga benefits, but may not be aware of Choudhury's philosophy or exact practice. Instructors of Hot Yoga are not always trained in the Bikram method.
The Benefits of Heat
According to HeatYoga.com, practitioners of the style believe the heat extends the ability of the ligaments, tendons and muscles. Immersing yourself in Hot Yoga practice is said to:
- release toxins
- improve flexibility and range of motion
- increase the chances of weight loss
- develop muscle tone
- build the immune system
Proponents of the practice also believe that it reduces the symptoms of certain chronic illnesses, such as thyroid disorders, arthritis and circulatory problems.
A Few Notes of Caution
Although anyone at any age can perform the poses, this style of yoga does require the practitioner to be in better physical condition and have a high tolerance for heat. In fact, some instructors advise that those new to Hot Yoga sit through a few sessions to acclimate to the heat before actually advancing to postures.
According to a 2017 article published by the International Journal of Yoga, it's critical to keep the body hydrated before, during and after practice. Drink water, not caffeinated beverages. Along with the recommended eight-to-ten glasses of water daily, yogis practicing this form must consume enough water to replenish the body because of the extensive sweating.
Hot Yoga is not advisable for those brand new to yoga or pregnant. Beginners may find concentrating on learning proper form difficult in the excessive heat. Expectant mothers experience a rise in the body's core temperature to levels that may compromise the well-being of the baby.
Hot Yoga Considerations
Most practitioners of yoga are very considerate in general of equipment and the boundaries of other yogis. However, there are a few key points of Hot Yoga to remember:
- While Hot Yoga does not automatically turn into a nude yoga session, bear in mind that it is essential to allow the skin to sweat freely during practice. Thus, many practitioners will be wearing little clothing. Operate on a level of respect at all times.
- Some studios may provide mats and towels for practice, but it's better to have these personal items for your own peace of mind and out of consideration for others. Sweating next to each other is one thing; sharing sweat is a completely different matter.
Finding a Class
Before starting any form of exercise, talk with your physician and research the practice. In addition, it's always best to first perform any yoga path under the guidance of an experienced teacher, who will not only teach you about the history and theory of the style, but also instruct and correct your postures and other physical attributes important to the practice and to avoid injury.
Many yoga studios, fitness clubs and spas feature Hot Yoga, but if you're specifically interested in Bikram Yoga, remember to ask if there is an instructor certified in that method.
To find classes in your area, try these online resources:
No matter what form of yoga you choose, you're adding a healthy alternative to your life.
Give Hot Yoga a Try
To expand on your yoga experience, it's helpful to try other styles. Hot Yoga may be just what you need during cold or damp weather to keep your body functioning at its best capacity. You may also want to practice this style as part of a biannual detoxification program. Remember to adhere to the cautions listed above, and maybe even keep a journal of your practice to see if you notice any significant changes.