What is Bikram Yoga? A Beginners Guide

To offer you this article for free we receive a small affiliate commission if you chose to buy through our links. Click here to learn more.

Whether you’ve seen a friend check into a bikram studio on facebook, peeked through foggy windows to observe a class downtown, or just been watching the news lately, Bikram yoga is everywhere. But what exactly is it?

What is Bikram?

Bikram yoga is a style of yoga which consists of 26 postures, typically done in a very heated room (105 degrees) with very high humidity. Instructors claim the heat is a tool used to jumpstart your metabolism, and allow you to work through any tightness, aches, or pains.

The postures include:

  • Deep Breathing.
  • Poses for balance, such as Tree and Eagle.
  • Deep stretching, like Separate Leg Stretching Pose and Standing Head to Knee.
  • Backbends like Cobra and Bow Pose.
  • Hip Openers like Fixed Firm Pose.

Hot Yoga vs. Bikram

Hot Yoga

Bikram Yoga

Postures

Vary by studio and instructor.

Every class is comprised of the same 26 poses in the same order.

Heat

Can range from 80 - 100 degrees.

105 degrees with 40% humidity.

Studio

Varies by location; may include hardwood floors, mirrors, or dimmed lights.

Carpeted floors with mirrors and bright lighting.

Environment

​Varies, but may include music and chanting.

​Mostly silent.

Teachers

Interacts with students, may provide hands-on assists.

Does not chat with students or provide assists; must be trained by Bikram himself.

Benefits & Risks of Bikram Yoga

While very little long-term research exists on Bikram yoga, studies have shown the following may be true of practicing Bikram and yoga in general.

Benefits may include:

Risks include:

The History of Bikram

Bikram yoga takes its name from the founder, Bikram Choudhury. Bikram began practicing yoga in his teens. When he was 17, Bikram turned to yoga to treat a knee injury.

After successfully healing the injury with a regular yoga practice, Bikram developed his now-famous series of postures. He later founded Bikram’s Yoga College of India and his students have founded hundreds of studios worldwide.

​Is Bikram right for me?

Never tried yoga before? Looking to spice up your usual hatha routine? Before hitting up the nearest class, consider the following questions to see if Bikram is right for you:

Do you like practicing in the heat?

If heat bothers you, Bikram may not be the best fit. The standard temperature in a Bikram class is 105 degrees with very high humidity. But if you’re looking for a tropical-style escape in a cold climate, it could be the cheap getaway of your dreams!

Do you enjoy routine?

Since Bikram consists of the same 26 poses, it’s a practice that doesn’t hold many surprises. It’s a good practice if you like knowing what’s coming up next, but not if you like variety or get bored easily.

Are you looking to lose weight through yoga?

While Bikram isn’t the best practice for weight loss, you can expect to burn about 450 calories/hour.

Do you like technical refinement and alignment?

Practicing the same postures each class may seem boring, but it allows alignment-junkies to check into the fine points of each pose.

Before Your First Class

Where can I take class?

Find an affiliated studio near you, or crank out the heat and check out the links below for an all-levels class to do at home. Try to arrive early so you can meet the instructor and ask any last-minute questions you might have.

What should I wear?

Think light, moisture-wicking fabrics. I love practicing in my old tshirts and shorts, but you can save those for less intense styles of yoga.

What should I eat or drink before?

Everyone is different, but try to eat a snack two hours before class. Practicing on both an empty and a full stomach may leave you uncomfortable.

Drink lots of water at that time as well. You can lose 1.5 litres of water during class as you sweat, so many yoga studios suggest you drink around 3 - 4 litres on the day you take class.

What should I bring to my first class?

Water, water, water! Also bring a towel, which you can use to wipe off your mat before and after practice. (Allowing your body to sweat is actually a good thing, since it helps cool the body down!)

During Your First Class

How intense should my practice be?

Listen to your body. Challenge yourself, but don’t go too far. It’s also easy to use the heat to go further into stretches, but be cautious: the heat could cause you to overstretch, which may lead to damage of the muscles and cartilage.

What if the heat is too much for me?

Come to a comfortable seat and take some deep breaths. Taking deep breaths in the nose and out the mouth help cool the body. See if you’re ready to come back in after a few rounds of deep breathing.

I don’t know if I’m ready for this.

Try to relax and have fun - everyone in the room was a beginner at one point!

Questions

I’ve heard Bikram’s name in the news recently. Why is that?

In January 2016, Bikram was found guilty of sexual misconduct with several of his female students. However, as with any yoga practice, the actions of one do not reflect all yogis - it’s your call whether you want to practice Bikram or not.

I’ve heard celebrities practice Bikram. Who is a fan?

he list of celebrity Bikram practitioners looks like the guest list at the Oscars: Jennifer Aniston, George Clooney, Beyonce, Demi Moore, Lady Gaga.

Check Out Bikram in Action

1. 26 Poses in 2 Minutes

2. All-Levels Class by Maggie Wild

3. Commedians Try Bikram

Are you a Bikram practitioner? Couldn’t live without sweating it out during your practice? Comment below!

Leave a Comment