We all understand the benefits of yoga – balance, flexibility, and strength – but is traditional yoga pushing us enough, or should we turn up the intensity and give Bikram a go? The 90-minute classes practiced inside rooms heated to 104 degrees, with 40% humidity, consist of a series of 26 postures. Sound tough? Well, you're spot on; Bikram yoga is a hot topic, with legions of devotees swearing by it and just as many critics claiming that it's way too dangerous. So, let's look at the pros and cons of this sweaty sport.
Bikram works each and every muscle and joint in your body and, as a result helps you avoid injury during training season. Regular Bikram-lovers believe that heat opens up the joints, so you have access to more muscle fibers than with regular yoga.
Since hot yoga increases your heart rate, your body has to work overtime to regulate it, burning loads of calories in the process. In fact, an average Bikram class can burn anywhere from 600 to 900 calories! Plus, the heat revs up your metabolism.
As we're sure you've gathered – this is sweaty stuff. But despite the grossness of spending 90 minutes in a shower of your own making, all of this perspiring adds up to one major benefit. As you sweat, your body gets rid of all the impurities and toxins in your skin, leaving it glowing and gorgeous.
Exercise, deep breathing, and meditation are all celebrated for anxiety-reducing powers; lucky for you, Bikram yoga combines all three. Regular attendees claim they feel less anxious and more relaxed.
Like any workout, you feel full of energy afterwards. With hot yoga particularly, you feel super fresh and renewed because of all the sweating and stretching.
When muscles are cold, stretching is difficult and dangerous. But with the high temperatures and humidity of Bikram, your muscles will become incredibly loose. So, embrace the heat and get deeper into that stretch.
We're not going to lie – this is going to be 90 minutes of sheer unpleasantness. After the first 30 minutes prepare to feel weak, tired and dizzy!
Because you sweat so much in Bikram, your body loses essential water, and you become prone to dehydration, making you feel dizzy and nauseous. If this happens, sip water and lie down, breathing in slowly and deeply. To avoid dehydration from the get-go, drink plenty of water and fluids, ideally with electrolytes, to balance out the water and salt lost through sweat. Some studios recommend drinking up to a gallon of water the day of class. If you get dehydrated easily or have a health condition, which is sparked by heat, check with your doctor before joining in.
We repeat: Bikram is NOT a lunchtime workout. You will sweat. A crazy amount. So, go either before your morning shower or after work.
Unlike other forms of yoga, Bikram can get old, fast. Once you're a regular, you'll go through the same 26 poses each and every class. While there are things you can do to up the intensity – if you like constant change, Bikram may not be for you.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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