The exercise plan was developed by Bikram Choudhury who created a 90-minute, 26-posture series of moves (loosely based on existing postures) and two breathing exercises which he has dubbed Bikram yoga. The sequence, which must be followed precisely, is done in a room heated to 40 degrees Celsius, or 104 degrees Fahrenheit which, Choudhury says, is supposed to mimic the climate of India, his home country.
Bikram yoga has become a celebrity darling with enthusiasts including David Beckham and Lady Gaga, and many gyms now offer hot yoga programs. However, it’s worth mentioning that while hot yoga and Bikram yoga are usually thought of as synonymous, Choudhury owns the rights to the particular sequence of moves that make up Bikram yoga, so while Bikram yoga might be hot yoga, not all hot yoga programs are necessarily Bikram yoga.
What Do Bikram Yogi‘s Claim are the Health Benefits?
We’ll put aside a series of disturbing sexual harassment allegations and lawsuits made against Choudhury, and concentrate instead on the actual claims made about his exercise regime.
General claims say that because the very hot temperatures and challenging yoga poses require the body to work even harder than a normal yoga session would allow for, practitioners should expect to lose weight rapidly by burning more calories, or so the theory goes. Some practitioners even claim you can burn 1,000 calories per session. There are also “detoxification” claims, but these are very nebulous and mean very little in terms of real-life science.
There are also anecdotal reports of various posture-related health problems being eased or even “cured” by Bikram yoga–that’s not that surprising given that yoga has shown some promise in helping manage joint pain relating to things like arthritis. It is worth noting that there’s also some evidence that yoga can make things worse for joint pain sufferers, though this may be due to performing the exercises incorrectly or too frequently.
Hot yoga is credited with helping fight mild to moderate depression in some people–but this probably because all meditation (mindfulness being key) has been shown to potentially help people deal with some depressive symptoms, as well as exercise’s known ability to boost mood in most people.
There are other claims that are somewhat wilder–for instance, that Bikram yoga has cured conditions like Lyme disease, Hepatitis and, yes, even cancer. Needless to say, there’s no testable evidence for these claims. Continue reading >>