Bikram Yoga is a style of Hot Yoga founded by Bikram Choudhury (born in 1944) and made popular in the 1970’s in the United States. It is a type of Yoga as exercise derived from Hatha Yoga, such as other modern Yoga modalities like Iyengar Yoga and Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. The idea behind this Yoga modality is to practice in a room where the climate of India is replicated, that is, heated to 105 °F (41 °C) with a humidity of 40%. This is also the case for other Hot Yoga modalities, with small differences between the chosen temperature and humidity of the room.
Bikram Yoga classes consist of a fixed sequence of 26 Yoga postures (24 asanas and 2 pranayama exercises), and have a duration of 90 minutes. In the studio there are mirrors and carpets, and the students are encouraged to adjust themselves using the mirrors. This differs from other types of Hot Yoga, which are usually done with varying asanas and sequences, and may not have mirrors at all. Often the students also depend more on the teachers to do adjustments, among other differences.
As the environment of the class can be quite extreme for those not used to it – and Bikram himself called the studios “Torture Chambers” – it’s good to take into consideration some safety precautions, such as drinking lots of water to avoid dehydration and stop exercising if you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseous. And if you have issues like heat intolerance, low blood pressure, a history of fainting, heart disease, or if you are pregnant, it’s best to consult your physician before trying this type of Yoga, or even avoid it all together.
Many health benefits of Bikram Yoga are the same like other styles of Yoga, like reducing stress, building strength, and increasing flexibility, etc. But since this practice is done in a heated environment, it brings some extra benefits: because of the heat you sweat profusely and this helps to detoxify your body; it also helps to nourishes your skin and burn more calories than in a normal Yoga session; plus the heat can make Yoga poses easier/more effective, because it allows you to stretch more deeply and achieve a greater range of motion.
Unfortunately, Bikram Choudhury is another guru who has faced multiple lawsuits alleging sexual harassment, assault, racism and homophobia, apart from other criticisms of his running of the business. In 2017, his former lawyer took over the running of Bikram, Inc. in the US, after she successfully sued Choudhury for $7 million in damages and he subsequently fled the country to avoid payment. Bikram continues to teach in India, and give teacher trainings in Mexico and Spain.