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Bikram Yoga: Not All It Is Claimed To Be: Part 2

yogaOn March 8, 2012, I wrote a blog post about the claims and potential dangers of participating in Bikram Yoga. To my surprise, I got a lot of feedback. That’s why I’m posting an update on this topic a little over a year later. Surprisingly to me, the article was very polarizing. A significant number of people commenting were appreciative of my objective assessment of Bikram Yoga as a medical professional. Another significant amount of people were instead very angry and combative with only a few in between.

I was, and am, very surprised by the second group (the angry and combative ones). Some treated their Yoga practice as a religion. This means that logic played no part in their arguments. Science didn’t matter and anecdotal evidence trumped all. Another group seemed to think that anything I said that didn’t validate their beliefs in Bikram Yoga was tantamount to hate speech and they therefore had the right to attack me personally with no regard to the actual content of my article. This was very strange to me, because I didn’t write the article to prevent people from participating in Bikram Yoga. My only intent was to balance out some of the claims that the Bikram yoga community is making so passionately, but which have no scientific basis. That and to alert people that might be susceptible to certain health issues that they should take care when undertaking Bikram Yoga or another form of hot yoga.

There are quite a few comments on my previous post, but if you read through them you will see that very few of the truly angry ones were approved. Am I a censor? Am I trying to slant people’s perceptions? No. I just don’t reward trolls and purposely rude and nasty people. Especially not those that post things that prove that they either didn’t read or failed to understand what was actually in my article. Those posts clutter up the blog and provide no useful insights to people reading the article. I thought about closing the comments, but left them open with the intent of fostering dialogue. Not ridiculous attacks, but actual dialogues Anyone wishing to make an informed statement in a courteous, professional manner is¡ welcome. Anyone wishing to share a personal anecdote is also welcome. Courtesy is key. Discourtesy doesn’t get me riled up. I figure that whoever wrote that comment must have had a bad day, forgive them and delete it.

Oh and before I forget, another reason I’m writing on this topic today is that I was quoted in an article on Hot Yoga in the online edition of Outside Magazine. I encourage you to go check that article out. I really enjoyed being interviewed for the article and I’m honored to have been quoted.

Comments (2)

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  1. Isabel van Sunder says:

    I have a friend that does regular yoga weekly and she enjoys it.

  2. T.G says:

    Thank you for your articles…I no longer feel like I am the problem with Bikram not “fixing me”.

    I began doing Bikram Yoga a year or so ago. I am in my late 40’s and in more than decent shape. I was however having some skin rash and hive issues. (I would intermittently break out in large patches of hives and rashes on my arms legs and stomach).

    When I first arrived at the studio and inquired into whether I should even do Bikram (or would it further tax my system) I was told by the instructor at the desk that Bikram would be great in curing my skin problems as the sweating was detoxifying.

    Over the last year I have been off and on in my practice and I would break out in these hives during each Bikram session… again being told that that was “good thing” as the toxins were being “released”.

    The studio I attended has the philosophy that there is no such thing as “too much” Bikram. They run these challenges to get people to do 50 classes in 60 days and they have award ceremonies for those who complete the “challenges”. Which sometimes means that people have to double or triple up classes in a day to meet the challenge if they missed numerous days in the the 2 months. That much sweating yoga in a day(or even once daily)did not seem healthy to me. So I never participated the challenges.

    My health issues continued to worsen and I was only doing hot yoga 2 and sometime 3 times a week. When I would ask the instructors about my “issues”… I was told to “get in the room” more often and push through the joint and skin issues. That seems to be the Bikram party line.. do more yoga, get a better and faster benefit.

    Over the last two month I have been seeing an MD and an Ayurveda Practitioner. I have had a battery of tests for both the eastern and western side of medicine and both of my Doc’s suggested I no longer do Bikram. My spleen, liver, and stomach are distressed and they indicated that “forced sweating” is compromising my system further. My MD wanted to know if I was addicted to the practice like many others she has seen, or if I would be open to just giving Bikram a 4 month break and see if my exhaustion, joint issues and skin issues begin to improve.

    After reading some of the comments from your last article and how angry and adamant those who believe in Bikram became… (which is an interesting response from those who are suppose to be in a loving, peaceful and spiritual practice) I now see why my MD approached the subject in the way that she did.

    In looking into Bikram further, specifically what level of education and training is required to become a teacher. What I found is that one has to have been practicing regularly for 6 months at a “certified” studio,and then be referred by that studio to go through a 9 week intensive teacher training.

    I think it is dangerous for those who are having health issues to be given the party line “Bikram Speak”(to just do more yoga as it will cure all kinds of things)… from a person with 9 weeks training in Bikram poses and a smattering of anatomy.

    Never once in the year I was practicing off and on and sharing with the studio owner my joint and skin issues did she suggest I should see a doctor and see if Bikram was contra-indicated for my particular condition.

    It turns out I have Urticaria and the “forced sweating” is not aiding in detoxing, but rather contributing to more outbreaks.

    I am sure Bikram is not “harmful” to all people and I see many who enjoy the practice garner benefits.
    I am also sure it is not “helpful” to all people and all conditions… as they claim that it is. (just as with any other exercise or practice like running for instance, it can be harmful to some people and helpful to others).

    Because I actually enjoyed the classes, the friendships and camaraderie at the studio. I wanted to go and believe that it was good for me. But now I will certainly listen to the medial professionals.

    I guess I would say…Take Bikram for what it is, an intense exercise! If while practicing you are experiencing better health and more vitality GREAT! it is a good choice for you. But it is not a beneficial “cure all” for everyone and can actually be harmful as well.

    The only problem I see with it is the way that it is presented. That there are “only benefits” to Bikram and if you are not seeing them then you need a deeper and more regular practice.

    Remember, the studio is not just a great spiritual place. It is also a business and they have an interest in getting their members to do more yoga…Like 50 classes in 60 days.

    Listen to your body not the rhetoric!!!

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