Although it’s become more prominent in recent years, you might be surprised to hear that Bikram yoga was originally practised during the early 1970s. ‘Hot yoga’ as it's often called, was devised by Bikram Choudhury when he began to experiment with using heaters in his yoga room. It was quickly adopted by the Hollywood elite, one of them being a certain Shirley MacLaine. Since then, its continued to grow in popularity although the practise has distanced itself from its creator after sexual abuse allegations later surfaced.
What is Bikram Yoga?
The practice of Bikram yoga consists of a sequence of 26 asanas (poses) that are practised in an artificially heated room, the temperature set to 105°F (41° C) with a humidity of 40%. Hot rooms are normally covered in carpets and fitted with mirrors, to replicate the climate of India, the birthplace and spiritual centre of yoga. It’s a noticeable heat, a little like walking into a sauna. Once you get going and begin to sweat, your body adjusts to the temperature and you notice it less.
The Benefits of Bikram Yoga
So why the heat? When you start to think about it, sweating for health benefits is central to many cultures. Think of Turkish baths, Moroccan hammam and Finnish saunas.
Certainly, heat encourages the body to sweat out toxins and burn more calories. That in itself is enough for some. Another significant health benefit is that when you exercise in a hot environment, it also strengthens the cardiovascular system, because it makes the heartbeat faster.
The warmth also allows the muscles to stretch further and ligaments to relax. You gain a greater range of motion which makes it easier to get into poses.
Yoga is of course, famed for its mental health benefits too. Those that practise it regularly report less depression, anxiety and stress.
What to Wear for Bikram Yoga
You’re going to get hot. Very hot. So, the key is not to over dress. Bulky, uncomfortable clothing and long leggings are likely to make you overheat, stick to your skin, distract you from breathing properly and from focusing on the correct posture and alignment.
Instead use light, thin and breathable materials. You want something that feels comfortable and is fully movable that you can stretch in. Most exercise- specific clothing will be made of suitable materials. Long hair clinging to your neck and back is a pretty unpleasant sensation so keep it tied up for this form of yoga.
For more, you can read our blog ‘What To Wear To Hot Yoga Class’.
Bikram Yoga: The Essentials
There’s no doubt that a Bikram Yoga session will leave you feeling seriously thirsty. Try to come to the class fully hydrated. It’s imperative to rehydrate and replenish lost water as you sweat out large quantities. Without proper hydration, you run the risk of a nasty headache. Do bring a bottle of water with you and take sips throughout the rest of the day.
Don’t push yourself too far, especially if you’re a beginner. Bring a healthy dose of common sense with you and if you need to sit down or take a break, then do so. The yoga instructor should create a vibe where you feel comfortable enough to remove yourself when you need to do so. If they don’t, vote with your feet and find one that does. Don’t compete with more advanced practitioners. You don’t want to end up with heat exhaustion.
Bring two towels with you. One to wipe sweat off and the second, place it under your head to catch dripping sweat. That’s all you need to know!
Non-Slip Yoga Mat
It’s a given that you’re going to get really sweaty so the idea of borrowing a yoga mat may not seem all that appealing. Most devotees prefer to bring their own. That way, they can be sure of its cleanliness and can take responsibility for cleaning it after the session.
Slipping and sliding is a real possibility when practising hot yoga. No-one wants to injure themselves in the pursuit of exercise or relaxation. Thankfully, you can now put your mind at rest because Yogi Bare has got your back. We’ve created a range of high-performance non-slip yoga mats, providing superb grip and a 4mm thickness to support the impact on ankles, wrists and knees. For hot yoga, we’d recommend using our lightweight Teddy Mats with its fantastic grip and super absorbent surface, it can even be popped in the washing machine after class.
When the possibility of slipping and sliding is eradicated, you can fully focus on your yoga practise. It means you can have greater confidence in pose, improved balance and flow, and you’re much more likely to try new poses out.
All in all, Bikram yoga is a great way to develop your yoga practise. As long as you equip yourself in the right way and take your time to acclimatise to the heat, you can reap the health and wellbeing rewards that so many others have gained from this discipline.