Bikram Yoga: Not All It Is Claimed To Be

Photo by lululemon athletica via Flickr

A few blocks from my house, there is a Bikram yoga studio that I have walked past multiple times on my way to and from work.  And I have always wondered as I look into the steamed up windows whether there were any benefits to the average person of doing yoga in such extreme heat. Why would people choose this type of yoga over the traditional varieties?

What is Bikram Yoga?

First off, Bikram yoga is a style of yoga that is performed in a room that is typically heated to 105 F/40.5 C with a humidity of 40%.  Bikram classes are very rigid and strict in their routine and consist of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises that run for exactly 90 minutes.

Are there benefits to doing yoga in extreme heat?

From a scientific standpoint there is none.  In fact, exercising in a hot room with high humidity can actually be detrimental to one’s health.  Extreme heat puts extra stress on the body, which can lead to heat related illness, such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke if the body is unable to regulate the heat. That’s why people tend not to exercise during the hottest part of the day, especially in humid climates.

What happens to your body when you exercise in hot weather?

When you exercise in hot, humid climates, your core body temperature has a tendency to rise.  To help cool your body, your natural cooling system (skin, blood vessels and sweat) work to bring your body temperature down.  You start sweating, your blood vessels dilate and your heart rate increases, moving blood away from your muscles to circulate near your skin to help cool you down.  If the humidity is high, your sweat has less opportunity to evaporate from your skin, which in turn pushes your body temperature higher.  And if your body is placed under this stressful environment for too long, your natural cooling systems can fail, resulting in a heat related illness.

Are the claims of Bikram yoga fans true?

On the internet you will find lot of positive health claims for Bikram yoga made by the people that favor it.  Some may have some truth to them, but most have no scientific basis. Here are some that I ran into over and over again:

  1. Heavy sweating helps to detoxify the body: Actually, toxins leave the body via urine and feces after they are broken down by the liver and filtered by your kidneys and intestines.  Sorry, sweat has nothing to do with it. The main function of sweat is to cool your body down when it is overheated and not to detoxify you.  If you want to detoxify, eat healthier and give your body time to purge the toxins naturally.
  2. Warm muscles allow your body to burn fat easier: Actually, if you want to burn more fat, warm muscles have nothing to do with it.  Your best strategy is to increase your muscle mass by weight training and perform more aerobic activity. More muscle mass means more calories burnt during activity.
  3. Heat improves stretching and flexibility: You can get a deeper stretch if your muscles are warmed up first.  But you can get the same benefit by stretching after a 20-30 minutes aerobic workout.  Also stretching too deeply while the muscles are warm can lead to injury, so you have to beware of over stretching.
  4. The discomfort of a heated environment helps to increase willpower and mental strength: Well, anything uncomfortable that you have to go through in life will make you mentally stronger if you survive it. You don’t gain any special mental toughness specifically because you are exercising in a hot room though. It is just one avenue someone might pursue.

The bottom line:

When it comes to objective measurements, Bikram yoga appears to have few added health benefits to recommend it over standard yoga.  Unfortunately, it may also be more harmful for people that are unable to regulate their body temperature in the hot, humid environment it demands.  That’s not to say that no one can attend a Bikram yoga class safely, however, if you do attend one make sure not to ignore any signs or symptoms of heat related illnesses, such as muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, weakness, headache, dizziness or confusion.  And during the class make sure to  wear light, loose fitting clothing and drink lots of water before, during and after to stay hydrated, since you will no doubt be sweating excessively.  The important thing is to take appropriate precautions to stay safe while enjoying your hot yoga class.

Sources used: Mayo Clinic and Medicinenet.com

Comments (80)

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  1. Yogini says:

    This article is so, so, so very funny that I don’t even know where to begin. I will say that I think the author should have interviewed actual Bikram students to see why they attend the class because this article does actually embarrass the author a little bit. There is absolutely no mention of what the postures are and why they are done in a certain order. You can’t compare it to “standard” yoga because it really isn’t even in the same category. Bikram yoga is not only about the heat, I’m sorry that’s what the general public thinks. It’s a *part* of the practice. The funniest line? “Bikram yoga appears to have few added health benefits to recommend it over standard yoga.” LOL! So awesome….lol.

    • Talli van Sunder says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond to my article. I’m glad you found the article humorous. Unfortunately, you failed to detail the amazing, scientifically proven benefits that the postures of Bikram Yoga have been proven to provide. I have actually spoken with multiple students of this form of yoga and didn’t find any reason to discuss the postures. As a doctor of physical therapy, I found many of the claims given as still unproven. If you have some scientifically proven claims of how these postures performed in this specific order provided health benefits above and beyond other forms of yoga, I would love to hear them and if the research is rigorous I would be more than happy to detail them in a separate article on this site. I am, however, not interested in anecdotal evidence or name calling. I will assume that you were responding in good faith and look forward to your polite response back with the facts that you know, so that we can discuss the benefits that you attribute to Bikram Yoga, which you haven’t yet mentioned. Once again, thank you for visiting our site.

      • Anon says:

        I’d like to thank you for writing this article! These people are borderline cultists, and can NEVER back up their health benefit claims with any evidence! Show me some peer-reviewed studies about the benefits of bikram yoga, and I will gladly believe you! Until then I’ll continue to believe that it is all in the mind of these fanatics.

  2. Isabel says:

    I always wondered how this type of exercise in a very warm environment would work. Thanks for the information.

  3. I have practiced many various yoga forms for over 40 years and all are quite good at contributing to overall health of body and mind. But it was not until I became a hot yoga teacher and practitioner 15 years ago that I began experience the advantages of this heated yoga practice. Its NOT just about the heat, not by a long shot. Many people attest to increased flexibility and a sense of calm after any yoga practice – all good. Hot yoga students of mine go way beyond this – they have attested to relief from migraines, fibromyalgia, lupus, surgical scar tissue, back pain of all kinds, knee pain, joint pain, scoliosis, arthritis, high and low blood pressure, digestive ills including IBS, the list grows constantly. More and more hot yoga students achieve what their doctors said would be impossible (one parachute accident victim who broke her spine in two is now fully recovered….another who broke both collarbones now has full range of motion on both arms…another avoided knee surgery with hot yoga practice) Hot yoga works not just by applying heat but with a systematic “tourniquet effect” of squeezing and releasing blood flow to various internal organs, joints, etc and this is where hot yoga truly differs from other forms of yoga. That is why turning up the heat in a hatha yoga class cannot be called “hot yoga.” The main purpose of yoga is to align and heal the body in order to be able to sit in meditation. As such, there is no system like yoga that works on aligning all aspects of the physical body, internal and external. The Hot Yoga sequence leaves no body part untouched – from bones to skin, as they say, in just 90 minutes – and this is part of its unique holistic approach. There is simply no other yoga like this. Yoga (about 5000+ years old) has never relied on western medicine (about 250+ years old) to confirm its benefits. If you practice hot yoga, and are one who experiences dramatic changes as a result of consistent hot yoga, or if you are simply someone like me who simply enjoys extreme health at 55, you will also not need an RX from an MD to be a hot yoga enthusiast.

    • Talli van Sunder says:

      Let’s start from the end. Since yoga didn’t exist side by side with what we call Western Medicine (which I like to call evidence based medicine), it makes sense that Yoga wouldn’t rely on it to confirm its benefits. Yoga doesn’t seem to need facts to justify itself. It is really more of a belief system for many. As a religious-like experience it doesn’t need any verification of actual results. This site, however, is not a spiritual site. It’s a science based health site, so I can’t take religious style claims at face value. I need to question those claims and search for scientific proof of their validity.

      Next point. If you severe your spinal cord, you’re done. Finished. It can not be healed by anything. That’s something that modern medicine is trying to figure out. Yoga can not fix that.

      Third and last point that I want to address, is the continuing list of ills that it can treat is meaningless until I can see the science. There are many things out there that want to claim to cure everything this side of death. Once I see proof, I’ll be 100% on board. I don’t want to be skeptical because I like natural treatments for diseases and conditions. As a physical therapist, I’m all about exercise, movement and good nutrition. For me, medicine is what you go to when there is no more natural, scientifically proven method that works. I can’t jump on board with something just because a lot of people say that it helped them. People want to believe, so they do. I want to believe, but I can’t until I see proof. That’s part of my responsibility since I write articles to help people looking for objectivity.

      I’m glad that you enjoy teaching hot yoga and that it works for you and others in a variety of ways. Thank you for visiting our site and taking the time to comment!

      • Roodoo says:

        Scientist are so black and white. How often do you hear of experiments that prove this and that and then come across evidence that what we thought was true for centuries was indeed false. Have there been any scientific reports done on yoga practice or are they just applying the general rules of science? I believe that in order to come out and write a piece on how yoga is not any more beneficial than more traditional ways of staying healthy (Ie, regular excerise and eating healthy) you would have to go out and do the research yourself. I am lucky enough to know many doctors and physical therapists and none of them would ever be so foolish to write a piece on how hot yoga is no more beneficial than in a well ventilated room. I truly believe that you were sick and tired of hearing about the benefits of hot yoga and could grab some attention (which you have) by writing how its in fact (scientifically proven as you say) no more beneficial than other forms of yoga. I mean every MD or physical therapists could easily say the same… So why are there so many of then who recommend it to their patients??

        • Talli van Sunder says:

          Thank you for taking the time to come to the site. Unfortunately, you obviously didn’t follow the article. I’ll have to make it easier to follow next time. Or maybe you stopped reading part way?

          I merely stated facts about exercising in unsafe conditions. I’m sorry if you disagree with facts. There are no benefits to exercising in a poorly ventilated room as you stated. Please don’t exercise in a room without ventilation. Lack of oxygen could damage your brain.

          I was not sick and tired of hearing about Bikram Yoga. As for attention, I don’t really care about that. I was merely concerned for people who blindly wander into a potentially dangerous exercise situation who are then guided by uneducated yogis that are either fed nonsense about pushing through unsafe medical situations or who are so afraid of losing money from lost students that they tell people that negative medical effects are actually positives. Telling people to push through dizziness from heat and water loss is equivalent to telling someone to stop drinking water or any other liquids when in the sun and that the resulting lack of urine or blood in the urine is just your body saying thank you. In other words, stupid and dangerous.

          As for your huge amounts of MDs and PT’s endorsing it, I call BS. I know many of both. In fact, I am a Doctor of Physical Therapy. Some among those medical professionals I know do participate in Bikram Yoga (and know the risks and warning signs of doing so), but at a lower percentage than the general population. Oh and by the way, some of them smoke and drink too much. So, based on that info, would you advocate for those, too? As far as I know, science is against those. Does that mean that by default you are for those?

          Ok. I made my points. Now I’ll remind you of the point of the article. Do Bikram yoga if you enjoy it. Be careful and knowledgeable about the risks and take care of yourself. Know that the yogis are no more knowledgeable about health than you are, in most cases. So, don’t just trust their advice blindly if you feel unwell. If something doesn’t feel right, stop. Also remember that there are no proven magic cures by Bikram Yoga for many of the medical conditions that have been claimed by Bikram Yoga practioners. If Bikram believes that he can cure things, he can get a large scale, scientifically based study to prove it. Until then, it hasn’t been proven to be more effective at treating most conditions than jumping on one leg in a puddle while patting your head. Wait. Is that a thing? Maybe I should run out and start a class based on that.

          • mj prescott says:

            I’ve been practicing Bikram Yoga (having started with no prior experience with non-hot yoga) since Autumn of 2008…I’ve only as of late begun to question, and rather doubt the value of, what I feel to be such harshness in the Bikram studio…your article was just what I needed to affirm my concerns…Thanks so much for qualifying my choice to dispense with further torture! I shall now establish a yoga practice in a safer, gentler setting.

          • Mahya says:

            I’m really late on my reply here. I just think since this is on one of the first pages of google when you search for Bikram Yoga benefits and effects, that it is relevant enough for me to reply. I only want to say, you seem misguiding in your opinion and you have some unfair opinions on what the class itself is actually like. It does come off as an ignorant bias. I don’t mean that offensively or harshly. I’m just saying in my personal experience of taking classes, it is nothing like you theoretically describe. Bikram Yoga is still Yoga, not P90X. There are no teachers telling you to PUSH through pain, or not take water when you need it. You are completely encouraged to lie down and rest, to feel your body, and go with what YOU need for YOUR practice.

            That is the thing with yoga. You are your own guru. It’s not a religious thing, no. It is a spiritual thing, though. So it’s not really a place for most scientists to go into and study. Again, not to be offensive, but a strict scientific brain won’t really understand this, anymore than an “uneducated yogi” will understand many of the more intensive facts related to your field. You see what I’m saying? If something is a spiritual experience and helps someone, it’s not really right for you to tell them it’s false, cultish, and wrong. Why not let them have their happiness?

            Also, your article wasn’t as harsh and rude as your comments have been in reply to some of the yogis. That is mainly what I am commenting on. Your comments, not the article.

            You insulting Bikram ignores experiential evidence of people that Bikram Yoga does help. If your puddle class helps hundreds of thousands of people, go for it, darling. Even if you can only comprehend it having a “placebo” effect, it would behoove you to be more understanding of other’s ways of life. That’s what Yoga is. It’s not meant to be an exercise, or some trendy health craze. No. It’s a way of life, and it is what you make of it.

      • Tan Mel says:

        I wanted to increase my flexibility. I’m a fit, physically strong female,who cycles daily and works out with weights every other day. Attended bikram yoga and was very dissapointed with lack of communication from a teacher, I had to copy what others were doing. Further more, I come from a semi-pro background and can tell you that in any new sport one has to ‘build up’ their level. None of the easier options were available!! Oh yes, I could bend over my previous attempts but now I am on a sick pay with strained mid back. I can see loads of positive benefits too but one ‘monologue reading’ teacher and a room with 50-90 yogis cannot provide anyone with correction, etc. I say no more.

    • Matt says:

      I have lifted weights for about 20 years, and have always had pain in with my elbows. I tried physical theropy, massage, stretching, etc, for the past 20 years to get rid of the pain, and the pain has never gone away for more than a day. I started doing Bikram yoga about 2 months ago. I do it about twice a week now. After my first week of doing Bikram, the pain in my elbows disappeared, and has not come back for seven weeks. I can’t explain why Bikram works, I just know that it does.

  4. I am a personal trainer, I have a degree in health and wellness and I have practiced yoga for 10 years. I understand that people do yoga for different reasons other than the real intention of preparing for meditation. I do not see how bikram yoga fits into this category but to each his own. Anyway, bikram is a franchise with one goal, making money. Any traditional yoga teacher with links to India would tell you this goes against everything they believe and are taught and they are not supportive of the bikram style.Through my studies I have NEVER read that stretching in extreme heat improves flexibility anymore than a room temperature setting. If ths were true, athletes would have been doing this for years. I, too, would like to see studies proving that more toxins are released. I have also experienced heat exhaustion from working out in extreme heat and there is nothing pleasant about it. There are so many more peaceful and relaxing styles of yoga available that are safer. I have also found that people who do bikram seem to be those extreme types. I personally believe the word yoga should not be used when referring to this style of workout vs traditional yoga which is preparing for the stillness of the mind. Let’s take the word yoga out and call it something else, please. Also, Bikram has required anyone who uses his name on their studio in the past to pay him a fee (not sure if he still does this) that goes against traditional yoga once again. I am not against bikram I just don’t believe it belongs in the category of yoga styles. If you Study the history and ancient teachings of yogis you will not be able to argue with me. I’m grateful for articles like these out there. There is so much misinformation regarding yoga these days. Btw, More benefits come from the deep slow breathing techniques and longer slower stretches not from trying to catch your breath by moving through poses fast in extreme heat. I am not discouraging people from bikram but let’s at least tell the truth about what it is.

  5. Shannon says:

    As a scientist, an atheist, a skeptic, and an athletic hobbyist, I get a lot out of hot yoga. I also have a great deal experience with biofeedback and my personal physiology, so my gut-feel is often quantified by measurement using professional medical equipment.

    Like any exercise, it has specific strengths and weaknesses.

    It seems to me that, much like a balanced diet, balanced exercise and balanced life experiences can’t really be called into question regarding their health benefits. A little sunlight is an important thing, and yet I could do what you’ve done and write an article about all the harms of sunlight. Or protein. Or lipids. Ad nauseam.

    Your unbalanced article and sensational headline, seeking attention of readers by bashing this trend, is no better than club owners promoting the trend for profit.

    The cautions you mention about elevated core temperature could apply to any physical exertion. The cautions regarding carefully monitoring your vitals while participating could also apply to any activity. If you are implying that the instructors or even the social environment might compel students to ignore such symptoms, then obviously that’s an issue with individual instructors.

    Specifically regarding sweating: No reasonable health practitioner denies that sweating has many health benefits. In conjunction with a deliberate replacement intake of healthy substances (clean water and necessary minerals), of course it will have at least a minor ‘detoxifying’ benefit. No, of course it does not remove toxins in the manner of other specific metabolic processes, but certainly it removes certain types of near-surface waste from your largest organ more effectively than any other process can. Additionally, it indirectly increases immune, circulatory, and lymphatic function, all of which assist in removing toxins. After millions of years of evolution, a major function like sweating quite probably has acquired more than the one isolated benefit of cooling the body.

    Additionally, cycling your body’s core temperature occasionally certainly *has* been shown to have health benefits, not the least of which is a natural antibiotic effect. There also is some evidence that the very vascular effects you mention can increase vascular tone. Even if stress is increased during the activity, an elevated core temperature has been shown to reduce stress for an extended period after temperatures return to normal. For some people, that alone might provide a self-sustaining decrease in stress, achieved through a sense of fulfillment, accomplishment, or well-being.

    I’m curious if the author of this article, in the process of research, especially considering the disinterest in ‘anecdotal’ evidence, attended a respected hot yoga class? If so, did you find your stress levels elevated during and after the session?

    • Talli van Sunder says:

      Thank you for reading the article. From reading your comment, you seem to agree with me and not disagree.You have not disproved a single fact. I did not bash hot yoga. I just stated that it does not provide the benefits that it purports to have. I did not say that nobody should do it. Please reread the article if you disagree. As a skeptic, I just questioned their claims and found them wanting. If you enjoy hot yoga, please do it safely and fully informed as I stated in the article. Also, as to your comment about anecdotal evidence, as to my attending a class and taking that information as a basis for my article, please see the definition of anecdotal as given by dictionary.com. I’ll paraphrase: “Based on personal observation, not systematic scientific evaluation.”

    • Marie says:

      I attended a bikram class not to long ago. it was my second time to go in 3 weeks. i had brought enough water, but somehow around the 30 minute mark my heart was pounding and the dehydration i was feeling was to the point where i thought i could feel my brain cells cooking. it was not the best of sensations. the whole time all i could think about was the instructors push for us to take the 90 minute challenge and stay in the room. if we were to feel dizzy to simply lay on our backs. but that didint help..anxiety grew and i couldnt breathe. the heat was too much. my personal experience should be a warning to those who attend these classes to pleeaaase put electrolytes in your water. i am an athletic person and i wont lie the challenge was awsome. when you look at the amount of sweat you produced, it makes you feel amazing! however, there is a limited amount of toxins actually secreted in one session…so it is important to look at this exercise in a critical way and not look up to this bikram like some kind a magician. after a bit of research, he seems like just a nother money hungering guru.

  6. Kim says:

    Thank you for this relatively objective article. I was considering trying Hot Yoga, but as I am not really a big Yoga enthusiast (OK, I really cannot stand it, but I was thinking of something to change up my routine). I figured Bikram Yoga may be a direction to try, and I never do anything without researching and discovering if it is truly right for me. I am a runner, and I love it! I weight train with a personal trainer and spoke with him about it, but he had as little information as I did. As a creature of habit, I find my daily routine of going to the gym (too hot to run outside) is getting a little dull. If Bikram Yoga offers no more benefits of Hatha Yoga, which I already know I don’t like, can you recommend a workout that will ensure I add some flexibility and balance exercises to my routine? I prefer classes because I am inherently lazy at doing stuff I am not fond of.

    • Tan Mel says:

      I would suggest to try a Body Balance class. It runs by qualified Les Mills instructors, who compulsory attend 2 workshops a year to stay on a register. It works improving one’s Balance, Strenghts, Flexibilty, Core strength. You will follow yoga and some Pilates sequences, each exercise has a beginner option which Hot Bikram yoga did not offer! I would give it a few tries as for ‘active’ sports enthusiast require some patients with it, you would find that it is not as easy as it looks. Tan

      • cathy says:

        Hi there,

        these are all interesting responses. I am interested in the earlier comment about here being no beginner option in Bikram – every posture, as is expressed to beginners, requires you to only go as far as you feel comfortable eg. not into a pain response. This is the beginner pose. Building up incrementally, but also reassessing each posture if you need to do less in any class = self regulation. You are not as much pushed – you push yourself to the level / degree that is appropriate for you. This is a challenge for all of us. Whether it be eating food, drinking alcohol, working, staying up late at night, we all self regulate in every aspect of life. Many of us are not so great at this, at least not all the time. The same principle is applied to Bikram.
        In relation to the comments on other yoga being meditative, Bikram yoga is a moving meditation fullstop. Another one of the benefits (holistic) that cannot be measured, or simply hasn’t been measured by science. I am a fan of science but l am also a holistic practitioner in other fields, of which measurement hasn’t caught up with. Healing in mere physical form is relatively measureable, you broke your leg, an ex-ray shows its mended. Holistic healing = Bikram yoga. So according to science l am interested to know what the scientific measurement tools are that are able to measure any of the multiplicity of benefits of Bikram yoga.
        Part of the self regulation in Bikram is not to listen to the monkey mind. If you come into a hot room with any ambivalence around wanting to be there initially and/or participate then your monkey mind in meditation will give you the mental-bio-feedback to suit. This is one of the great challenges of Bikram. Bikram is a holistic practice and hence is possibly for people who wish to address any of this kind of healing in their own lives. It is not just an exercise routine. This creates a great deal of controversy alone.
        I am however interested in knowing of medical studies l can read on the impact of the heat on the body’s organs please if you can direct me to this information that would be very helpful.

  7. nancy says:

    While everyone made some passionate points about the benefits of ‘hot yoga’, I would have to agree with the author. Since empirical data is what all published medical journal articles are based on, I’d have to wait for the hard facts. Sometimes when we’re too passionate about something, it’s difficult to be objective.
    I agree with the one response who states that our athletes would have already been doing this. Good point!!
    Additionally, I’d like to point out the qualifications of the author. Physical Therapy is a pretty extensive/competitive program. If she’s at the doctoral level, I’m going to listen to her.

  8. Sagar Sen says:

    Every scientific experiment is controlled with bounds on the factors considered in the experiment. Simply because there are possibly an infinite number of short-term and long term factors. Most results in “evidence based medicine” are not without side-effects or exceptions. For instance, the Polio vaccine itself has carcinogenic elements: http://ukpmc.ac.uk/abstract/MED/10472327
    So much for a disease that is claimed to be solved and cured by medical sciences.

    As far as the practice of Yoga is concerned and that of Bikram Yoga here are some statements from my experience:

    a) I have been a competitive rower for 8 years. I started the practice of Ashtanga Yoga 5 years ago and Bikram 2 years ago (sporadically). This practice has had immense reversal effects to all the damage done by an “olympic sport”

    b) There are very few scientific studies pertaining to Yoga when compared to scientific studies in performance for swimming, rowing, and many other olympic sports. Competitive sports have financial backing for scientific study while Yoga unfortunately does not. Which country is better than another is not determined by how good someone is at doing Yoga. Therefore, the lack of studies needs to be taken up the national scientific funding bodies to promote research in Yoga.

    c) Most scientists I have met in my vicinity and in my travels are not self-conscious about the functioning of their bodies. They wear thick glasses and try to look like professors in sci-fi movies. I cannot expect them to be inclined to do research in Yoga. Some of them cycle a lot and run around all day but end up destroying their bodies. Some of them mistreat their graduate students with mad-scientist like mood swings which is totally contrary to the calmness of mind that Yoga brings in. They also are involved in policy making.

    d) If you fund me for the next 5 years @ 200,000 euros a year I will make scientific studies necessary to prove the benefits of Bikram Yoga. The funding I have right now is to study public domain software 😉

    e) The temperature of 40 degrees mimics the conditions you find in many Indian cities. Bikram used to practice in these conditions and wanted to recreate the context in cooler climates without the bad effects of the suns rays. Besides thousands of people go to saunas that are at 60-80 degrees. Why don’t you comment on that first?

    f) Statistics..over 800 schools, thousands of instructors around the world, my class barely has room for me to stand today. Its a world-wide phenomena where people are doing it since they feel good! A “feel good’ that nobody cares to measure.

    • Sagar Sen says:

      Nobody cares to measure because medicine and body wrenching sports that are promoted have kept most people in the darkness. Its time to set oneself free and take command of his mind and body from the inside and not from tangible objects called pills and equipment that is sold outside.

    • Talli van Sunder says:

      We’re not discussing whether or not medications are good or bad. We avoid discussing medications on this blog because there are so many side effects. We advocate natural methods of maintaining one’s health. We do however want people to look at what they do for their health objectively. Bikram Yoga advocates a level of heat and humidity that many people aren’t acclimated to. If you were from that area in India, then exercising in those conditions would be less of a problem. It’s similar to, but obviously not as extreme maybe as traveling to Mexico City where elevation is over 7,000 feet and running when you are used to running at sea level in a cooler climate.

      We’re advocating understanding yourself and what Bikram Yoga might mean for you and then making a choice based on that, not on hype or random anecdotes provided by yogis with an interest in gathering more students. People are predisposed to confirmation bias and we want to counteract that a bit, not condemn Bikram Yoga.

      As for the scientists you have met…that has not been my experience. Often, the ones I have met have been more interested in their health than the average person, not the reverse. Of course, since neither of us have data on that, we can just skip that discussion. 🙂

  9. Ian MacKay says:

    One thing I would like to point out is that when saying things like “there is no scientific evidence for (insert claim here)” it would be prudent to say whether there have actually been scientific investigation into such claims or not. Just because a claim hasn’t been proven by science doesn’t necessarily make it false. It means two possible things: that it has been disproved by science or it simply hasn’t been investigated yet. From the above article I don’t know which possibility it is. Since Bikram yoga is relatively new, then perhaps there’s been no opportunity for a scientific study?

    I have gone to about 75 sessions so far and personally I think its a great practice. My only criticism of it is occasionally the instructors like to crank the heat. I don’t know if its my northern European blood or what, but I can’t handle high temperatures like some other people can and tonight I think I may have suffered minor heat exhaustion. The good thing about my studio is that the morning classes usually have lower temperatures, so I may start to go to those instead.

    If anyone knows some more scientific/objective information about Bikram yoga, as a PhD science student I would be very interested to check it out.

    Here’s my perspective on the four claims listed above by Bikram proponents:
    1: I don’t know about detoxifying, but sweating has a very soothing effect especially during a yoga session I had one time I during a hangover.

    2: I have lost alot of fat over the past 2.5 months of Bikram yoga, and I eat quite a bit. I don’t know if its related to warmed muscles, but I just know it works for me. As far as gaining muscle mass, I am not too interested in that because I used to lift weights alot and I think it may have made me stiff all over my body. Jogging makes me very stiff too. Probably because of multiple surgeries I have had. And my muscles are getting toned by Bikram anyway. Less need for weights.

    3: As far as the concern goes for over stretching, one can say this for any activity: be aware of what you’re doing and don’t over do it. Another thing don’t try to outdo others in the room in terms of stretching deeply. Personal excercise should never be about ego and competition. If your instructor is promoting a sense of ego (which I have never seen from around 20 different instructors anyway), then just ignore them.

    4: The willpower gained is obviously great. As far as this claim by Bikram proponents having no scientific basis, well neither do any similar claims of proponents of any sport. I don’t think this discredits those claims though.

    • Talli van Sunder says:

      Thank you for sharing your possible heat exhaustion. That is all that we want people to be aware of. That and that the claims listed have no scientific basis. I’ll let each person judge how likely the practice of Bikram Yoga is to deliver on each claim and whether or not it is a pursuit they would like to engage in.

      Also, to your comment on the age of Bikram Yoga, it isn’t new per se, being in practice since the early 70’s, but it isn’t a practice with centuries behind it either. There have been some studies about heat exhaustion and some about Yoga. Maybe there is a way to find the right data to reach a preliminary result that can be used in the development of a more specific long term study specific to Bikram Yoga. Perhaps Bikram might fund one himself one day to back his claims…

  10. sandy says:

    I know of at least 3 people who have died in Bikram yoga classes. Two, in San Francisco, had heart problems to begin with. They did inform the instructor and were allowed in anyway. Both students fell into comas after class and never revived. The third student, outside the US, simply died of a heart attack during class. The instructor, who is devastated, told me he was a regular student. For some reason these deaths are kept quiet and you have be there or know the instructor to hear about them. The point is, Bikram yoga is not for everyone. It really can be deadly.

  11. Ricky Meade says:

    Have you ever tried Bikram Yoga? I was skeptical as well. However, I have experienced great health benefits: lost weight, improved flexibility, increased energy, and overall feeling good. I think its the best workout I’ve ever done.

    Bikram combines a cardio work out with a meditative yoga practice. If you aren’t looking for that, don’t do it. And, what’s the point of writing about something you’ve never tried?

    As far as detox, it forces you to sweat and consume a lot of water. This forces your kidneys and liver to function. This in turn detoxes you, just as you stated. I guess you could get the same effect from drinking a lot of water, but why not add in a great workout?

    (This part is not meant to be offensive, I am sorry for your loss person above.) As far as Bikram induced death- well, I’m sorry to say it but people with heart conditions die doing all kinds of exercise. I feel your pain, I had a friend who collapsed after an Iron Man last summer, died before he hit the ground. People die doing exercise, that doesn’t mean its bad for you.

  12. smoore says:

    Interesting discussion. I am a personal trainer that decided to try Bikram yoga to ‘experiment’ for myself. After participating in 6 sessions, I thought I would see if there was any scientific evidence and came upon this article. Thank you for answering my query.
    I’m still lukewarm on Bikram yoga. There are challenging aspects to the asanas for sure, but I don’t think it is a great workout per se. I think it probably is as good a workout as other yoga classes. You are sweating because it is hot, not because your workout is that hard.
    I guess if it is getting people to stretch when they otherwise wouldn’t and they enjoy it, then it is not all that bad. But I think I will go back to other yoga methods and stretching for that component of my fitness.

    • JC says:

      I’ve been to about a week and I would have to agree with you that I prefer other yoga methods. The heat makes your body work a lot harder to hold something as simple as arms above your head, and I feel stronger, but there’s a lot I don’t like about it. I don’t like the amount of times you hear “leverage”, “compression”, “pull” in there. It’s very forceful. And in poses like fixed form and tree, you’re bending your knees into unnatural positions. I did do a lot better with my knees when I figured out how to lock and firm it rather than hyper extend like I see a lot of people doing. But after my unlimited month I will be returning to vinyasa because I just like it a lot better!

  13. Jim says:

    Hi! I can only tell you that Bikram yoga is nothing incredible. Bikram only “patented” his sequence of postures. There is nothing new to his series of postures, nothing that cannot be found in any yoga book. As for the one comment about it leaving “no part of the body untouched”, if you want to be picky, it does ignore the chest/shoulders and you can usually pick out a Bikram practitioner in a crowd of yoga students by the one with the flabbiest chest muscles. Even though I love yoga I’ve stopped practicing because doing Vinyasa Hot Yoga I ripped both of my shoulder muscles (rotator cuffs), and then when I started Bikram my knees began to give me really big problems. Bikram yoga IS REALLY HARD ON THE KNEES! Be warned. The temperature itself is dangerous. I’ve actually felt as if I was about to die and had to leave the studio a couple of times. They do not regulate the heat properly, and when people are all in there the heat goes up above their outrageous 106 degrees or whatever. I would not recommend it. Especially if you are in your 50’s and beyond, it’s just plain dangerous.

  14. Jemima says:

    My 3 month experience doing Bikram yoga were unfortunately negative. The best thing about attending the classes was the sense of self achievement of actually going to and staying in the classes.

    I ended up with constant pain in my ankles, I had spells of nausea which I think were due to the loss of minerals in my body. My back ache also got much worse and it didn’t help my shin splints. When I spoke to the teacher he had absolutely no idea what to say, he didn’t have any medical knowledge – all he knew was the lines he had been taught. I tried speaking to another one of the teachers, she had no clue either. It seems to me that the teachers are taught lines to say but can’t really explain the science behind the lines. From reading a range of other articles I don’t think that there is actually any proven medical benefits of doing bikram yoga.

    One good thing, my skin improved, this is probably due to the sauna like conditions in the hot room and down to the fact I was drinking so much water before, during and after the classes.

  15. Kim says:

    I attend Bikram Yoga as it releases every bit of stress I’ve ever had in my life, I feel incredible after sessions, My skin is absolutely amazing from sweating all the time! And I have an effortlessly toned beautiful body.
    Don’t really care about any claimed health benefits I just love it.
    Don’t know if it can heel things etc but I do know that my body and mind feels a hundred percent

  16. shilpa says:

    I agree with Kim. Yoga will give your body internal and external tone that is healthy. Bikram yoga is good for you. I’ve studied yoga and his system is nails it. Yoga has been around for 5,ooo plus years and it is not a religion. It’s scientific. Western medicing is fearful to learn that there is something better out there that they can’t explain. Bottom line is there are two types of people out there. Those who practice and see results and those who will never practice and never see results because they are waiting for proof. It’s sad.

  17. NO-Hot-yoga says:

    I was given a month of unlimited Bikram classes from a friend who joined Bikram. I felt sick the first class from being too hot, nauseous, dizzy, and didn’t make it through the first class without lying down and trying to get my heart rate back to normal, which is hard to do in such a hot and humid room. I was told my only goal for the class is to stay in the room for the full 90 minutes.

    I just attended my 5th class yesterday and I sit here typing this with sore muscles and couldn’t sleep well last night because my heart felt like it was still racing from that class (8am class), so I question why exercise in extreme heat? You read and hear all the time about NOT exercising in extreme heat in the summer months, so why would this be any different?

    I will not be back as I do not like the torture of the heat and I do not really feel better. I think it’s a false feeling of feeling good because anything would feel better after being tortured, right? If I hit you on the head for 90 minutes and then stopped hitting you, wouldn’t you feel better after the hitting stopped? That is essentially the arguement for continuing to go to hot yoga as it feels good AFTER the class is done. Well I want to feel good while I exercise too.

    I wondered if there had been any deaths from doing this yoga in the heat. I read what Sandy posted about 3 deaths above. I am not surprised.

    After attending 5 classes I noticed that each class had about 20 people and that 90% were slightly overweight to very overweight. Most were 50-70 years old too. These are the people who would be harmed the most in this heat.

    I also find that breathing is difficult in the heat, especially in a room full of people who are sweating profusely. One day I became sick from the smell of the sweat which smelled like someone was sweating out the beer and wine they consumed the day before! I nearly vomited from that!

    I will not be attending any more hot yoga.

  18. soma murthy says:

    I am an engineer with a PhD degree; obviously, I am always interested in learning about the scientific basis of any claim. It looks like it is lacking for Bikram yoga.

    Just because, science/evidence based validation does not yet exist, doesn’t necessarily mean the claims are untrue; they are just not proven. Given this state, my own decision to do Bikram or not is not going to be based on the claims by Bikram enthusiasts but is going to be based on personal experience.

    My daughter has been going to Bikram for about a year and she had been pushing me to do it as well. I started eight days ago and have gone every day.

    Let me provide some specific points of personal experience/observations for those interested.

    1. The temperature doesn’t bother me at all. It is quite comfortable for me surprisingly.
    2. I sweat profusely but it is a great feeling really. The trick is to drink a lot of water, not just before, but throughout the day. In fact, don’t drink or eat 1 to 2 hours before starting yoga. No need to have a sip during either for me.
    3. Some poses are difficult but I have been able to make a fantastic progress with every pose. There are several tricks here, a) make gradual slow movements, b) go only slightly above your comfort zone; it does not matter what others are able to do, c) listen carefully to what the instructor is saying, d) breath scrupulously according to instructions, e) listen to your body and mind.
    4. I have heard that people have elated feelings after the yoga; I don’t have such experience, but it does feel good.
    5. My need for sleep has dropped dramatically, I am able to do lot more work now.
    6. I have actually gained a few pounds, but it does not bother me since I am not overweight.

    All in all, despite the lack of scientific evidence, in my own experience, Bikram yoga is ALL positive and NOTHING negative.

    So, I have decided to continue Bikram.

    • Soma Murthy says:

      An update: My comments above were written after a week of starting Bikram yoga. Now, I have completed uninterrupted 42 days – have gone every day. Listening to the instructor more intently. Practicing with staying in the stillness, breathing during yoga, focus. Basically, I have moved from physical to mental aspects of yoga.

      I need less sleep now, see big improvement in general health.

  19. Nikki says:

    When I go on a run my knees hurt for days. I get so winded I can’t catch my breathe for at least a half an hour after I stop running. Afterwards my legs hurt so bad that I have trouble walking/sitting for days. I am not a runner, so I don’t run.

    I love hot yoga. It works for me. I feel great during a class and afterwards, so I do hot yoga. If I feel like I am getting TOO hot (which I never have during a hot yoga class) I would step outside the classroom. Everyone knows you should stay hydrated before, during and after any exercise, and hot yoga is no exception. Most classes are open to many levels of yoga students. Because of this they often suggest poses that I don’t know/don’t feel comfortable doing, so I don’t do them. It’s a pretty simple concept. Do what you feel comfortable doing. Know your limits. The instructors will try to encourage you to push yourself, much like a personal trainer would encourage you to do “just a few more reps!”, but the instructor is not walking around with a whip demanding you do every pose for as long as he or she says.

    My point is if it works for you than do it. There isn’t one work out that works for everyone . I am not a good runner, but I don’t doubt that other people find great pleasure and satisfaction in a good run.

  20. Jason says:

    I’ve been doing BY for about five months now, and while I can’t support any hard evidence that this type of yoga is better than any other type of form of yoga, I can tell you that my lower back has never felt better. I’ve been working out most of my adult life – whether it be in the gym or when I was in the military – so I’m not new to excercise. About 7 years ago I suffer a lower back injury and had never been the same since.

    I saw orthopedic doctors, pain management doctors, physical therapists and chiropractors – I received many different diagnoses – an MRI revealed I had bulging discs. I was always in pain, even when I didn’t have a lower back “flare up”. For years I was in pain. Since attending BY my back feels like brand new – it feels like its never even been injured! I do attribute that to BY. Though I agree that there is the potential to injure yourself in class – it’s important to know your body. For me, I take it easy on the forwards bends. I don’t have the physique I did when I went to the gym, but having no pain is an easy trade off.

  21. shareefa says:

    I study bikram yoga at least 3 times per week and I really enjoy it, however I believe the writer has a very valid point and clearly have more facts than the yogis who are basing most of their information on spiritual feelings…

    I think its important before the yoga community start becoming precious about thier craft to weigh up the possibility of there being some danger in this fad, and get all the facts before blindly defending this practice.

  22. cat says:

    i would have to question whether the environmental impact of this high carbon consumption form of yoga can be justified by any of the proclaimed benefits? all the energy used for hearing studios, providing shower, washing all mats, clothes and towels every time can’t be a hope thing!

  23. dan says:

    I have been doing bikram consistantly up until three weeks ago,I have been getting constant pains in feet also I do not feel it has been good for my knees.

  24. jay says:

    Hot Yoga is not for everyone, but is by far the best workout for me. My body feels strong, mind clear, and my cariovascular endurance has increased significantly. I understand that medical journals will never endorse an exercise that can take money away from doctors and physical therapists.

    • Talli van Sunder says:

      I don’t usually comment on comments like this, but I can’t help myself. First off, hot yoga doesn’t impact doctors or physical therapists at all. It might impact chiropractors, but that’s not important. All that is important is whether or not it helps people and whether or not it might be dangerous to certain people. As for the cardiovascular endurance part of your comment, you do understand that cardiovascular endurance is gained by working your heart out, not sweating in the heat. I know you’re not serious, but I don’t want anyone that reads your comment to get the wrong idea. I’m guessing you were trying to be ironic. I understand that’s really cool to do on the internet these days. Some people coming from other countries have a hard time with English irony though.

  25. bikramforweightloss! says:

    I loved your article and agree with many of the points you’ve made. My wife and I have done many forms of yoga primarily for weightloss. Most yoga forms just didn’t do it for us. We also had a gym membership for a year and went 3 times a week, but we just couldn’t lose the weight. 30 days of bikram I lost 18 pounds and my wife lost 15 pounds! Although we are both fans of bikram yoga, we also love other forms of yoga for more of the mental concentration aspect.

    • briscoj says:

      It’s called water weight. You’re sweating it out, similar to how a fighter loses 15-20 lbs the night before a weigh in. You’re just doing it on a longer timeline. Do some cardio vascular exercise and some mild weight training. Build your metabolism into a raging fire and you’ll never have to worry about weight again, and be able to stay properly hydrated at the same time.

  26. Loll says:

    I am puzzled about the sweating comment, it is not beneficial to sweat it is is just water? But how come people go to sauna and have gone for ages? There must be some science behind that

  27. Missy1982 says:

    I enjoy Bikram because it is wonderful for my mental health. 90 minutes of Bikram twice a week has done more for my anxiety issues than anything else I’ve tried, including all other forms of exercise. I don’t really care if the benefits can be scientifically demonstrated. For me, it works, and if it’s some kind of placebo effect, I’m game!

  28. Kees says:

    It depends very much on your bodytype how you will perceive and endure the heat during class. It looks as if skinny types with high metabolisme suffer more from the heat then more rounded types. I do yoga for a living and found Bikram yoga of added value to my other yoga practices, but not more then ones a week. It definitely increases flexibility also during normal temperatures yoga. Also the excessive heat makes your head empty of worries, which is a kind of artificially induced meditation. And living in a cold climate, the sauna effect is welcome. But to get a tuned healthy body, you can also do 108 sun salutations with coordinated breathing each day and that will make you sweat a lot too.

  29. hayla says:

    Hi – I have been a keen and regular exerciser all of my adult life. I also have scoliosis and in the last 10 years have had to be careful what I do. I have three times done trial periods of hot yoga but for different reasons had to stop – moving, travel etc. Every time I have had these spells I have lost stubborn kilos, become stronger and more flexible, been happier and more relaxed, and most importantly my back has been pain free. I am currently on week 5 of bikram yoga (my first stint with bikram), and I absolutely love it. I cannot tell you how much medication,treatment & exercise – physio, osteo, pilates, gym, swimming etc – I have done over the years to try to deal with my back pain and to strengthen it. NOTHING can even remotely compare to the bikram. I am mindful not to push myself too far at bikram – I agree with other advice here – listen to instructor carefully! I don’t mind the heat and after 2-3 sessions you feel a lot more relaxed with the sessions in general. Sure it might not be the right thing for everyone but for me it’s the best thing I’ve ever found. Anything that can get you off medication and pain free can’t be bad if you ask me! Maybe try a few sessions and then see what you think?

  30. Anon says:

    I first did Bikram many years ago, before it grew in popularity like it has now.

    But now, I’ve gone back to it as I have Fibromyalgia and the start of Arthritis too and i’m only 32.

    During a bad spell of Fibro I would be bed ridden, my body too tired and sore to move. I was on all kinds of drugs to stop those flare ups so I could function with life.

    With Fibro, one of the challenging things is to keep on exercising even when in the middle of a flare up. This is easier said by the doctors than actually done.

    Since getting back into Bikram, most of the aches and pains of my body have disappeared, the aches of the Arthritis in my knees don’t exist unless I run around after my son. I haven’t had a flare up again, my body feels normal for once and i’m not poisoning myself with the anti-inflammatories, steroids and pain relief every day, instead it’s just heat, stretching and lots of water.

    So until you have walked in mine or anyone elses shoes of suffering with Fibro (or any other disease affecting the body), until you have a debilitating disease, don’t judge every body as to just doing Bikram as it’s the latest ‘fad’. For some of us, it’s the only exercise we can do that doesn’t cause us days of pain afterwards.

    Not only that, but my skin looks great, I am as toned as what I was in my early 20’s and Bikram gives me a nice lean look, which is nice, because I build muscle easily, so any weight bearing exercise gives me muscle that I really don’t want as a female.

    I look better, I feel better and for me that is the most important thing and I am doing all this naturally – drug free, compared to the doctors loading me up on medication to try and stop the pain and flare ups, as well as the constant visits to osteos, chiros, getting regular massages. Plus i’m much happier (I mean who wouldn’t be without all the pain), relaxed and calm and I love the natural high I get after a class – it’s amazing!

    To the people who have doubts about Bikram, you do what ever exercise you do because it suits your lifestyle and your needs, just like those of us that do Bikram, we do it because it suits our lifestyle and our needs. So stop bad mouthing / doubting the affects of Bikram, because it isn’t always going to have a positive effect on everyone, just like running doesn’t have a positive effect on me, but those of us that really suffer – it has a positive effect on us. Leave us to our exercise and we’ll leave you to yours.

  31. CRing says:

    Scientific evidence that there is indeed benefits from exercising in extreme heat.


    “Researchers say heat acclimation improves one’s ability to control body temperature, increases blood flow through the skin, and expands blood volume allowing the heart to pump more blood. Researchers also concluded that the heat may produce changes in the exercising muscle, including enzymatic changes that could improve the amount of work done by the muscle”

    • Talli van Sunder says:

      That is an interesting point, but is more in the vain of how exercising at high altitudes helps you to perform better at low altitudes. It doesn’t show that exercising in high temperatures is actually beneficial to your health. What it shows is that if you were in some hypothetical yoga competition that involved stamina, someone who trained in high heat might perform better than someone that practiced at cooler temperatures if the competition took place somewhere with lower temperatures. This is a study geared towards cycling though, which involves a lot more physical exertion, so it’s questionable if even these results would translate. It might though, so thank you for the link and your participation in this discussion.

      • CRing says:

        Thank you for your reply. I’m curious to know what your own personal experience with yoga is? Have you practice any form regularly and/or attended a Bikram class? I ask this because you said cycling involves a lot more physical exertion than yoga. I think as with any sport it depends on what effort you put into it. Here is a graph of a student’s heart rate during class.


  32. scothna says:

    I have read this article and agree completely with the author. I started Bikram Yoga April 2012. I enjoyed the sense of achievement after each class unfortunately that’s where the benefit began and ended. On joining I stated that I suffered from Sciatica and a problematic lower back. However the instructors seemed not to be cognisant of this all the time and even they were pleasant they were a bit zealous. Six months later I was doing a workout and in particular the Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose (Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Janushirasana) my left leg was shaking as I was in the pose. I finished the workout and went home that night. The next morning I could not get out of bed with excruciating pain in my left butt. I could not sit only stand for two weeks and I was out of work during this time I am writing this now seven months later and I still have pain in the area and struggle to get out of bed each morning. As I stated before I had a weakness in my back which was manageable now it is exacerbated big time and is entirely due to me doing bikram yoga. I learnt that if you have lower back pain ’rounding down your back’ is one of the worse things you can do. When you bend a credit card the middle will eventually snap. Advising people with lower back pain to do this is reckless beyond belief. I wish I had read this article first as I would have never set foot in that yoga studio and would be better off today. What makes one suspicious of this form of exercise is the refusal of its followers to entertain any doubt despite the fact that bikram yoga has no clinical basis whatsoever.

  33. Peter says:

    I have been practising Bikram yoga for two years. I know it is true that there is no body of evidence supporting its effectiveness, or even safety. It it also likely that many of the things said by Bikram practitioners are hokum. But here’s the thing. I don’t care because I know it has dramatically changed me. A 57 year old man who was in steep decline has changed shape, lost weight, no longer has any aches and pains, has gained mental strength and alertness and lost a chronic cough – and hasn’t had a cold for 18 months. An anecdotal sample of one – not scientific but 100% true to me. And I know so many others at my studio with similar studios. All anecdotal evidence so I guess if you are sceptical you can dismiss it all. But I would say if you do, you are really missing out on the opportunity to change your life.

  34. Jamie says:

    To each their own. All I care about is that Bikram has changed my life. I swear by it.

  35. Hugh says:

    I came to this site as I have been practising Bikram for a couple of months and wanted to research some of the side effects. Most of the information on the web seems to be polarised – you either love or hate it; recommend it or condemn it.

    Like everything in life, it has its pros and cons. Whilst I do not believe all of the claims made by Bikram zealots about the benefits – detoxification; the benefits of heat in relaxing muscles etc, I do not see what is the harm in doing it within the limits of your own body and I have certainly become more flexible and toned as a result of doing it. I also drink a lot more water and a heck of a lot less beer since I started it!

    The biggest danger, so far as I can see, is that people are unrealistic about their own limitations before going to class and are too eager to push their bodies beyond the safe limits without any real appreciation of the risk. There are a couple of postures which I do not fully complete due to pre-existing injuries and that is fine, it is my choice and nobody yells at me for it.

    I am lucky in that my studio has first class instructors who are well attuned to the abilities of their class, maybe this is not always the case, but I have never experienced a problem.

    As someone accustomed to hard physical exercise and endurance (23 years in the Royal Marine Commandos and with several injuries as a result) I find the regime challenging and well considered. I do not do yoga to get in touch with my inner self – and those who come to yoga to find themselves will probably not enjoy it so much. I do it to stay fit, keep flexible and have a hard workout and Bikram ticks all of those boxes.

    Dehydration is a problem, but it is not as if they don’t tell you that when you start the programme, so it should not come as a surprise to people.
    It is not comfortable, it is meant to be uncomfortable! Two cliches come to mind ” no pain, no gain” and “if you can’t stand the heat…..”


  36. Jessica says:

    I do not care about western studies, I care about how my body feels. I saved myself from knee surgery just by doing Bimram yoga. My body feels energetic and vibrant from the practice. Because of yoga my body is free from all pain. Bikram yoga changed my life and I highly recommend it.

  37. Bob says:

    For me personally I think doing bikram everyday is excessively putting stress on the body to my own opninion. So once or twice a week between weight training days I don’t think is a problem. I do like the after effects of practise, feeling a lot calmer, less stressed, sleeping better and quicker muscle recovery from my own observations. But again everyone is different so you just have to try out what works for you. Some people can handle doing bikram every day every week, some can do a day or two, some can’t even handle a session. But for me there are very real benefits I can see from doing in Bikram.

  38. D4D says:

    FINALLY!!! this article is like a breath of fresh air. I am a personal trainer, been in all kinds of sports in my life and none of the sports messed up my knees more than Bikram yoga. The reason i started Bikram yoga was because my circulation was so bad i was always freezing cold (wearing long sleeve sweater in 90F weather) and i thought it would improve my “condition”. In my first class teachers would tell me to do postures even if it was uncomfortable, told me to “keep pushing and your body will open up”. Umm…riiight…6 months later i couldnt walk without a pain, every week i pulled a different muscle and felt always tired no matter how much sleep i got.
    There were a lot of people saying Bikram yoga saved their lives and it changed their lifestyles. Well if you are in a bad physical shape and start ANY challenging exercise program and change your nutrition you will see the results too. Just saying…Now i go to yoga studio mainly for the heat and “meditation”. I ignore what my yoga teachers tell me to do and just skip postures that dont do any good for me. My knees are slowly getting better…My advice- if you wanna try Bikram yoga, go ahead, but LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! “Locking the knee” is not that healthy…

  39. sean powell says:

    Hot yoga is a gimmick, and it’s actually DANGEROUS for your body and head to reach over-heated temperatures, flirting with heat exhaustion and dehydration – neither of which actually helps anyone get a good stretch or a good workout.

    Do a workout at the gym or in a regular yoga class.

    Go to the sauna for the hot sweat, but relax in there.

    A good workout is one where you work all the way up to your point of muscle failure or fatigue that suits your goals. Muscles fail when they overheat. All that hot room is doing is inducing overheating, making your muscles fail before they can reach that point, giving you a worse workout than if you just did a simple “warm up” (not “overheat-up”) and worked in a mildly cool room with some fans on, letting your sweat air-condition your body like its supposed to, so you can work thru to that burn you really want.

    Bikram is BS.

    • Caroline says:

      I believe that if you feel good after doing Bikram, and you lose weight, and your skin improves, and you feel less stressed, and you can cut down on medications because you don’t need them anymore, and your joints feel better, and you are generally more fit than if you didn’t do Bikram Yoga, then you don’t need scientific evidence that tells you whether it is good for you or not.

    • James says:

      Good comments Thank you. I love hot yoga but I am forced to quit because I always feel great during class but exactly five hours after,my blood pressure doubles along with my resting heart rate which is 46 from bicycling. My temperature goes to 103 for exactly four hours then returns to normal. I am just fine the next day but the events are worrisome.

  40. Weight Loss says:

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  41. syama says:

    I am from India yoga I practiced during my childhood but not much aware about the health benefits.
    It is more about family tradition used to do every morning after bath before prayer.

    In my generation yoga is not popular(Now also not much change you cannot see yoga studio like in US) at the same time other forms of exercise is much popular like running,cycling,going to gym as this form of exercise advised by doctor,celebrity preacher,Advertisement etc. In general thug yogies get some money by teaching yoga to westerner(Same with Ayurveda no scientific basis).

    I live in USA and found Yoga is more popular in USA then in India I just wanted to know what is Hot yoga how American got into it and out of curiosity I joined Bikram yoga now it’s 3 months. In my experience Hot Yoga is better and will give you the result more quickly then traditional. (American’s are result oriented and Bikram made it even though yoga is never meant for business..Hope in future Ayurveda will also get the same recognition )

    Note: I have gone through all the comments and observed that those who never been into yoga or Hot yoga they commented that they never benefited.

  42. […] Bikram Yoga: Not All It Is Claimed To Be […]

  43. Janglemuffin Trapnose says:

    Hey brother! I’ve been practicing Bikram Yoga for 10+ years and teaching for about 5. I too am bothered by the claims that are *written into the dialogue* without explanation or verification. However, there is a reason I continue to practice and prefer it over other forms of yoga (though I haven’t met a form I didn’t like). Unfortunately, I’m not sure that I *can articulate* the reasons I’m partial to it. I’m not a zealot, it just works for me, and I encourage people who are attracted to it to see what it can do for them. I actually found your article while trying to find research to back up the claims that I have been trained to recite. I’m going to drop anything I can’t back up, especially after reading this article (so you did a little good, at least ;). I know the practice is beneficial from my own experience (anecdotal, as you say.). Presently, i’m looking for research that demonstrates massage or compression of the thyroid benefits the metabolism in some way, as that is a claim of postures where the chin is compressed into the throat. If I find anything, I’ll come back and post. Thanks again for the article, people shouldn’t believe bold, unsubstantiated assertions!

  44. Liz A says:

    I am new to Bikram (7 days) and will only speak to my personal experince. In the past 10 years I was diagnosed with Lyme, Rocky Mtn. Spotted Fever along with confirmation of a life long auto immune condition that mimics lupus. Lyme disease is one of the many medical issues where there are two distinctive sides to what the scientific/medical community say vs what suffers claim. Reminds me of this article and the back and forth in the comments.

    While gentically blessed with a high metabolism, flexabilty has always been an issue.
    I have had years of very active exercise regimes, involving weight lifting, cardio, running, boot camps, personal training and instruction in Pilates, other yoga forms and weight training. During those times I would spend 5-6 days with 1-2 hours per day training.
    I looked good, felt good but with all the exercise, including stretching, I could not increase my range of motion in many areas.

    Having been inactive for close to 2 years I opted to try Birkam this time . In just one week I went from being able to only bend down and touch just below my knees to fully being able to reach my toes. I have had less soreness and need of recovery time than in any other form of exercise. I did experince dehydration the 1st day which quickly went away once I adjusted my electrolytes with mineral salt and a banana . Sleep patterns were off for the 1st 3 days since I am taking the latest class but how now adjusted.

    Nothing I experienced in regards to symptoms is any different than what I have experienced from beginning any of my previous exercise program , with the exception I feel better and less sore.

    Unlike someone who went blindly into this I did my research. I changed my eating and drinking habits 2 weeks before attempting my 1st class. I knew that I could expect a variety of teaching styles and mentally prepared for this. I studied the etiquete and spoke with students and teachers beforehand to make sure the place I attend would be a good fit.

    Birkam is not for everyone just like other forms of exercise are not for everyone. It’s a preference. Outlandish claims can be found for any type of exercise. Having had an illness where the science on both sides created conflicting information, with both calling the other side liars, I firmly believe that no one answer is ever 100 percent correct.

    Let your own body, circumstances, personality and research dictate what you choose to do. Life is a constant process of discovery. What once was proven to be good, has been called bad, then good again. If it works for you keep doing it. If not stop.

  45. LISA M says:

    I tried Bikram yoga as a last shot at some type of exercise after whiplash from an auto accident. I had been running competitively, did triathlons, mud runs (even placed in age group top 3 at times). Regular yoga was too much strain for my neck area and after struggling with this for 2 years, I finally tried Bikram yoga. That was 1-1/2 years ago and so glad I did. It has helped me tremendously, in fact, if I miss a class, the knots in my neck and back start tightening up, not to mention my mental clarity. The added benefit is I don’t need recovery time, like I did with running, cycling and other fitness classes. You definitely need to stay hydrated, as in any sport. I have to confess I’m in better physical and mental shape doing just Bikram yoga than when I was running, biking, and doing group exercise classes! So try it and see for yourself. My best advice is give it 3 classes and bring powerade/gatorade to stay hydrated until your body adjusts to the heat. Gotta run, off to my 7:45 am Sat class : )

  46. […] Bikram Yoga: Not All It Is Claimed To Be : … – A few blocks from my house, there is a Bikram yoga studio that I have walked past multiple times on my way to and from work. And I have always wondered as I look into … […]

  47. […] Bikram Yoga: Not All It Is Claimed To Be : BeingHealthy.TV – A few blocks from my house, there is a Bikram yoga studio that I have walked past multiple times on my way to and from work. And I have always wondered as I look … […]

  48. […] Bikram Yoga: Not All It Is Claimed To Be : … – A few blocks from my house, there is a Bikram yoga studio that I have walked past multiple times on my way to and from work. And I have always wondered as I look into … […]

  49. […] Bikram Yoga: Not All It Is Claimed To Be : … – A few blocks from my house, there is a Bikram yoga studio that I have walked past multiple times on my way to and from work. And I have always wondered as I look into … […]

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