Did you know that hot yoga and bikram yoga are not the same thing?
According to a recent study, 52% of people prefer doing yoga in a heated studio. That’s why it’s now common to see Hot Yoga and Bikram Yoga classes scheduled at the same location. This can be confusing if you’re a yoga novice.
Yes, they both take place in a heated environment.
And yes, they both use yoga poses that give health benefits.
But, there are some major differences between them.
Let’s take a close look at these 2 yoga experiences. Understanding how they vary will help you choose a hot yoga studio, and yoga instructor, that’s best for you.
Bikram Yoga vs Hot Yoga: What’s the Difference?
There is some dispute about whether Hot Yoga is a separate practice to Bikram, or if ‘hot yoga’ is an umbrella term under which the latter falls. In fact, there was a time where ‘Bikram Yoga’ was used interchangeably with Hot Yoga. However nowadays, you’ll notice that many yoga studios offer Bikram Yoga and Hot Yoga as two separate classes. While Bikram is a form of hot yoga, not all Hot Yoga classes are Bikram.
Hot Yoga is a relative of Vinyasa yoga classes. This means you can expect to adopt a smooth flow when you do this type of yoga. There is a flowing sequence of yoga postures (asanas) and a conscious focus on the movement of breath. Classes typically follow a slow, mindful approach and involve conscious, fluid movements between poses.
According to a recent study, 52% of people actually prefer undertaking yoga in a heated studio. In fact, studios embrace this by offering classes in different heated yoga styles. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see Hot Yoga and Bikram Yoga classes scheduled at the same studio. This can be a source of confusion if you’re a yoga novice or if think Bikram is one and the same as Hot Yoga. To help you understand the difference, or to find which one is for you, we examine Hot Yoga and Bikram below!
There is some dispute as to whether Hot Yoga is a separate practice to Bikram, or if ‘hot yoga’ is an umbrella term under which the latter falls. In fact, there was a time where ‘Bikram Yoga’ was used interchangeably with Hot Yoga. However nowadays, you’ll notice that many yoga studios offer Bikram Yoga and Hot Yoga as two separate classes. While Bikram is a form of hot yoga, not all Hot Yoga classes are Bikram.
Hot Yoga classes adopt a Vinyasa style approach, which means you can expect to adopt a smooth flow yoga style. There is a flowing sequence of yoga postures (asanas) and a conscious focus on the movement of breath. These classes will typically follow a slow, mindful approach and involve conscious, fluid movements from pose to pose.
Hot Yoga is so versatile that you can experience different approaches to the practice around the world. It can even differ from studio to studio in Australia. The direction your Hot Yoga class takes depends a lot on your instructor.
Some hot yoga classes begin with dim light, incense and slow, soulful music to create a calm environment. While others include chanting, bright lighting and conclude with applause. There are even hot yoga sessions that include a combination of both.
Depending on your studio, you may work through a sequence of 40 to 60 poses. For example, Power Yoga in Melbourne offer their trademark Hot Flow and Hot Align classes in a 37°C heated environment. Whereas other studios offer a more dynamic class aimed at making you break a sweat, but at a lower temperature of 30°C.
Image: Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) is common in Vinyasa style classes
There are some key differences between this and Bikram.
Bikram Yoga was created by Bikram Choudhury, an Indian yoga champion and hot yoga innovator. He moved to Los Angeles in the early 1970s, where he developed Bikram Yoga. This practice involves the repetition of 26 asanas and two pranayama (breathing exercises) during a 90-minute class. Most poses are performed twice and held for varying amounts of time, depending on the asana in question. There is less fluidity from pose to pose, compared to Hot Yoga. Bikram Yoga is also a low impact practice, which is ideal for people who aren’t able to undertake high impact exercises.
Bikram classes take place in studios heated to 40°C with 40 percent humidity. Wherever you are in the world, a Bikram Yoga class will follow the same systematic approach, which aims to move oxygenated blood around your body. Ultimately, this is thought to help achieve not only toned muscles, but optimum health and wellbeing. If you’re somebody who thrives on variety and change, the repetitive nature of Bikram Yoga classes might not be for you. However, if you are looking for structure and routine in an already hectic life, Bikram is ideal.
According to a recent Australian study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, Bikram Yoga can be beneficial for stressed adults with a relatively sedentary life. The study found that 16 weeks of undertaking Bikram Yoga (3-5 classes a week):
‘significantly improved perceived stress, general self-efficacy and HRQoL [health related quality of life].’
Avaana explains Bikram asanas
Bikram Yoga is an offshoot of the traditional hatha style of yoga, which involves set asanas performed slowly and held for varying amounts of time. Breathing exercises are also integral to hatha styles of yoga. The ultimate aim is to balance the body and mind.
Each of the following 26 Bikram asanas have therapeutic benefits:
1. Pranayama (Standing Deep Breathing)
Each class begins with a deep breathing exercise in the standing position. This helps improve circulation and focus. The deep inhaling and exhaling may also help with respiratory conditions, such as asthma and bronchitis.
2. Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) with Pada Hastasana (Hands to Feet Pose)
Focuses on strengthening your core – deltoid, latisimus dorsi, trapezius and oblique muscles. These poses also help improve spinal flexibility and tone your waist, glutes and thighs.
3. Utkatasana (Awkward Pose)
Strengthens your hips, thighs and calves, helping tone and shape your legs. It also helps improve circulation and may help people with rheumatoid arthritis, slipped discs in the lower spine and lower back pain.
4. Garudasana (Eagle Pose)
Promotes joint stability and overall balance. Crossing your arms and legs helps narrow the flow of blood, creating a similar pressure to what we experience during a massage.
5. Dandayamana Janushirasana (Standing Head to Knee Pose)
Stretches and improves flexibility in your hamstrings. It also engages your body’s main muscle groups. Bending your hips towards your knees helps promote wellness in your digestive system and reproductive organs.
6. Dandayamana Dhanurasana (Standing Bow Drawing Pose)
Opens up your diaphragm, shoulders and joints, while stimulating the cardiovascular system. This pose helps increase circulation to your heart and lungs, as well as improving your abdominal strength.
7. Tuladandasana (Balancing Stick Pose)
Improves balance and concentration while simultaneously toning your core, legs, arms and back. This pose is great for weight loss, but can be challenging to hold.
8. Dandayamana Bibhaktapada Paschimotthanasana (Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose)
Stretches and strengthens the sciatic nerves and leg tendons. This may help prevent sciatica. Additionally, this pose improves abdominal organ function, muscle tone and flexibility.
9. Trikinasana (Triangle pose)
Helps open your chest and shoulders so that you can properly strengthen your back, neck, core, legs, feet and ankles. It’s also thought to help stress, anxiety, infertility, flat feet and neck pain. This pose may also alleviate back pain during pregnancy.
10. Dandayamana Bibhaktapada Janushirasana (Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose)
Stimulates blood flow to your abdomen and throat. The focus on your thyroid and other glands helps boost your immune system and control moods. It also improves flexibility, especially in your hamstrings, calves and spine.
11. Tadasana (Tree Pose)
Gently stretches your abdomen, and helps provide balance between the mind and body. The Tree Pose (single-leg balance) also alleviates pain caused by flat feet and aids indigestion. It provides strength to your vertebrae and heart.
12. Padangustasana (Toe Stand Pose)
Strengthens the nerves in your legs, lungs and heart. It also opens up your hips and promotes balance between the mind and body, just like the Tree Pose. It’s believed that the Toe Stand Pose is great in providing pain relief to people suffering from arthritis in the leg and hips.
13. Savasana (Dead Body Pose)
Allows your body to achieve complete relaxation and brings calm and clarity to your mind. This pose lowers your heart rate and reduces your blood pressure. Furthermore, the still nature of the pose allows your circulatory system to thrive and deliver oxygen, nutrients and white blood-cells effectively.
14. Pavanamuktasana (Wind Removing Pose)
Aids indigestion, constipation and other gastrointestinal problems. It also strengthens your back muscles and helps alleviates back pain.
15. Pada Hashtasana (Sit Up)
Tones your abs and glutes by focusing on your core stomach muscles. The core focus helps improve posture, balance and digestion.
16. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
tretches the muscles in your shoulders, chest and abs, while minimising any stiffness in your lower back. It also tones your glutes, and boosts your mood to relieve stress and fatigue.
17. Salabhasana (Locust Pose)
Promotes calmness and helps improve focus. It opens the chest and lengthens the spin, which helps achieve good posture. It also relieves symptoms associated with constipation and indigestion and helps promote a healthy digestive system.
18. Poorna Salabhasana (Full Locust Pose)
Improves posture by stretching the shoulders, chest, tummy and thighs. It strengthen and tones your glutes, arms, legs and back. The Full Locust Pose is also believed to reduce stress.
19. Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
Aids with digestion and improves circulation. It’s a great pose for your back as it helps strengthen your back muscles and improve spinal flexibility and posture.
20. Supta Vajrasana (Fixed Firm Pose)
Strengthens your core and tones your thighs. The Fixed Firm Pose also improves blood flow to your kidneys, liver, pancreas and bowel. As such, it assists immunity and digestion.
21. Ardha Kurmasana (Half Tortoise Pose)
Increases lung capacity by stretching the lower part of your lungs. It also relaxes the body and evokes calmness, which is great for insomniacs. The Half Tortoise Pose is also thought to help prevent constipation and ensure the digestive system is in good health.
22. Ustrasana (Camel Pose)
Opens your chest and shoulders to support circulation and digestion. This pose also increases spinal flexibility and assists with the releases of tension from your neck, back and shoulders. This can provide stress relief and reduce anxiety levels.
23. Sasangasana (Rabbit Pose)
Lengthens your spine, while stretching your back, arms and shoulders. It aims to boost your immune system and balance hormones.
24. Janushirasana & Paschimotthanasana (Head to Knee Pose & Stretching Pose)
Improves flexibility, particularly in the ankle joint. It also helps balance your blood sugar levels. There is also improved blood flow to your liver, spleen, bowel and pancreas.
25. Ardha Matsyendrasana (Spine Twisting Pose)
Stimulates your liver, kidneys and digestive system. The Spine Twisting Pose also increases spine, shoulder and hip flexibility
26. Kapalbhati in Vajrasana (Blowing in Firm Pose)
As with the first asana, Standing Deep Breath, the final asana in Bikram focuses on breath. With this pose, you draw as much clean air and life energy (prana) as you can into your lungs. This helps dispel toxic energy and carbon dioxide as you forcefully exhale. It’s a purification process that improves circulation, strengthens your stomach muscles and stimulates digestion. It also soothes your mind and promotes relaxation.
Benefits of Hot Yoga
Hot yoga sessions have physical and mental benefits. This unique form of exercise can invigorate overall wellbeing, if you don’t mind high percentages of humidity.
Here are some of the hot yoga benefits:
- Increased flexibility
- Improved mood
- Increased cardiorespiratory fitness
- Better bone density
- Improved stamina
- Increased strength
- Reduce stress
- Weight loss
- Decreased body fat
- Enhanced burning of calories
Benefits of Bikram Yoga
You’ll enjoy all the hot yoga benefits when you do a bikram class.
Studies show that short term Bikram Yoga practice helps reduce insulin resistance in older adults and arterial stiffness in younger adults. Arterial stiffness is related to high blood pressure and hypertension.
This means practicing Bikram can improve your cardiovascular fitness. It may even decrease your heart attack risk in the long term.
Is Bikram yoga a full-body workout?
Bikram yoga involves a series of 26 hatha-style poses. It’s fantastic for stretching, detoxifying, mental focus and muscle health. Technically, this makes Bikram a full-body workout.
However, it’s also a slow, low-impact practice. This means it’s most beneficial when it’s part of a more comprehensive exercise program. Use it to complement cycling, strength training, dancing or jogging. This will ensure all of your muscles groups are getting the attention they need. It will also give you better muscle strength and cardio health in the long term. The Journal of Exercise Physiology Online supports this as their study showed:
“…this form of yoga training does not provide an adequate stimulus to alter resting hemodynamics, pulmonary function or aerobic fitness”.
Which yoga burns more fat?
Both Hot Yoga and Bikram Yoga burn fat and promote weight loss.
Practicing in a heated environment with a high humidity percentage makes you sweat. Combine this with an exercise practice and your body naturally burns calories. It’s been said that a single session of heated yoga can burn a huge 600 to 1500 calories.
If you’re looking to improve your body fat ratio, you can get results from both types of yoga. Choose the style that best suits you and you’ll be primed to get results.
How many times a week should I do Bikram yoga?
You’ll get optimal results if you make Bikram a regular yoga practice. Commit to 3 or 4 times a week and you’ll improve overall fitness and wellbeing.
If you’re a Bikram beginner, you may want to build up to this. Start with once a week and see how you feel. Notice how many days it takes you to recover. Your fitness level and hydration status will impact this. Working out in hot conditions can take a lot out of you. It’s okay if you need time to adapt and build your frequency.
What are the potential risks of doing yoga in a hot environment?
Practicing these hot types of yoga comes with risks. But, if you stay mindful of them you can help to prevent any problems.
Hot yoga students are at risk of dehydration, heat stroke, dizziness, nausea and light headedness. This is where hydration is of utmost importance. During Hot Yoga classes, your instructor will actively encourage you to drink plenty of water. In fact, you’ll be advised to hydrate prior to class too. However, given the regimented nature of Bikram classes, you need to hydrate before class so you can endure the full 90-minute session without a water break. If that seems too taxing on your body, then a Hot Yoga class may be better for you.