Hot Yoga vs Bikram Yoga – are they one & the same?

Avatar for By in Bikram yoga, hot yoga, wellbeing, yoga on 24/05/2018
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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!

Hot Yoga

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

Hot Yoga is so versatile that you can experience different approaches to the practice around the world and even from studio to studio in Australia. The direction your Hot Yoga class takes depends a lot on your instructor. As such, classes may start with with dimmed lighting, incense and slow, soulful music to create a calm environment. But they could equally include chanting and conclude with applause. Or include a combination of anything in-between!

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 37°C rooms.  Whereas other studios may offer a more dynamic class aimed at making you break a sweat, but at a lower temperature of 30°C for example.

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Image: Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) is common in Vinyasa style classes

According to a recent study, frequently reported benefits of Hot Yoga include:

  • Increased flexibility
  • Improved mood
  • Increased fitness
  • Improved stamina
  • Increased strength
  • Reduce stress
  • Weight loss

Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga was created by Bikram Choudhury, an Indian yoga champion. He moved to Los Angeles in the early 1970s and 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, unlike in a Hot Yoga class.

Bikram classes take place in studios heated to 40°C with humidity at 40%. 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 for you.

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].’

hot yoga

Short term Bikram Yoga practice can also reduce insulin resistance in older adults and arterial stiffness in younger adults. Arterial stiffness is related to high blood pressure and hypertension.

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 an integral to hatha styles of yoga. The ultimate aim is to balance the body and mind. Bikram Yoga is also a low impact practice, which is ideal for people who aren’t able to undertake high impact exercises.

Each of the following 26 Bikram asanas have health, fitness and wellbeing 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 is believed help people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, slipped discs in the lower spine and lower back pain

4. Garudasana (Eagle Pose)

hot yoga

Promotes joint stability and overall balance. By crossing your arms and legs it 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 the flexibility of your hamstrings while engaging all of your body’s main muscle groups. The bend of 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)

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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 be therapeutic for 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 your moods. It also improves your flexibility, especially in your hamstrings, calves and spine

11. Tadasana (Tree Pose)

hot yoga

Stretches your abdomen gently and helps provide balance between the mind and body. The Tree Pose also alleviates pain caused by flat feet and aids with indigestion. It also 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 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 for 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 and balance. It can also help control digestive issues

16. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

hot yoga

Stretches the muscles in your shoulders, chest and abs, while minimising any stiffness in your lower back. It also tones your glutes and it a mood booster as it may help 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)

hot yoga

Aids with digestion and improves circulation. It’s a great pose for your back as it helps strengthen your back muscles and improve back 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 in the improved functioning of your immune and digestive systems

21. Ardha Kurmasana (Half Tortoise Pose)

Increases lung capacity by stretching the lower part of your lungs. It also relaxes the body with the resulting sense of calm often helping 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)

hot yoga

Opens your chest and shoulders, which results ir better 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 your body’s hormone levels

24. Janushirasana & Paschimotthanasana (Head to Knee Pose & Stretching Pose)

Improves flexibility, particularly of 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)

hot yoga

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, so that the toxic energy and carbon dioxide can be forcefully expelled when you exhale. This purification process improves circulation, strengthens your stomach muscles and stimulates your digestive system. It can also sooth the mind and help you relax and find your breath.

It’s getting hot in here…

Firstly, as high temperature studios are central to Bikram and Hot Yoga practices, rather than wearing baggy clothing, opt for tight-fitting leisure or athletic wear.

Secondly, with high temperatures comes the risk of dehydration, 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 water. In fact, you’ll be advised to hydrate prior to class too. However, given the regimented nature of Bikram classes, you should hydrate before class such that you will be able to endure the full 90-minute class without a water break. If that seems too taxing on your body, then a Hot Yoga class may be better for you.

hot yoga

Thirdly, while the temperature in Bikram classes is set at 40°C, other Hot Yoga class offerings range from 26°C – 40°C. So if you’re uncomfortable practicing yoga in a studio heated to 40°C with no water break, then you may prefer a Hot Yoga class. Always do your research as Hot Yoga classes vary from studio to studio and around the world!

Share this knowledge using the social media links above so your friends and family are booking the right hot yoga class for them.

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Melati is a journalism graduate who loves the power of words. She is passionate about mindfulness and laughter. Her biggest weakness is reality TV.

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