Bikram yoga
Summer is the perfect season for Bikram yoga. (Image via EASTside Magazine)

5 Reasons Why Bikram Yoga Is the Perfect Summer Workout

If you can’t beat the heat, join it.
August 2, 2018
6 mins read

If you haven’t heard of it before, Bikram yoga can sound extremely daunting, especially in light of the heat wave being felt across the country. However, you should try to keep in mind the logic behind drinking hot fluids to raise your core temperature and cool you down while processing the practice’s key feature: it takes place in a room heated to roughly 105 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bikram yoga is composed of 26 postures and lasts 90 minutes in a routine that is globally taught and practiced exactly the same every class. As of 2016, over 36 million Americans practice yoga, positively impacting their levels of fitness, mental wellness and flexibility; however, the practice offers specific benefits related to the sheer heat it takes place in.

Finland and other countries have praised the health benefits of sweating profusely in a sauna for centuries, and it’s believed that the Mayans used sweat lodges as a form of therapy over 3,000 years ago. Health benefits from saunas include reducing stress, opening airways of practitioners with breathing problems or allergies, improving cardiovascular health and easing joint pain caused by arthritis.

Studies on men in Finland, where visiting the sauna is a regularly scheduled activity, found that the more frequently men visited the sauna during the week, the less likely they were to develop cardiovascular disease. The advantages of turning up the heat, paired with the mental health benefits and physical challenge of regular yoga, have led to the phenomenon of Bikram yoga.

But before you claim the required conditions are too hot for you to participate, it’s worth considering that most Americans have experienced the heat of a sauna — generally ranging between 158 and 212 degrees Fahrenheit, significantly higher than the temperature associated with Bikram yoga — at least once.

If you’ve kept your cool and have read this far, consider these reasons why Bikram yoga may be exactly what you need this summer.

1. It trains you to be truly, deeply hydrated.

In preparation for a Bikram class, it’s necessary to drink as much water as possible throughout the duration of the prior day. Consistent hydration should be a habit for everyone who is experiencing the summer heat, but in the comfort of air conditioners, it’s easy to forget to drink water.

The practice encourages drinking water as much as breathing and is a healthy reminder that your wellness relies upon hydration.

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2. It teaches you how to sweat.

Sweating is paramount for bodies to cool off correctly. Despite the strange taboo and embarrassment society has placed on perspiration, the more you sweat, the healthier your body handles the temperature change around you.

In addition, sweating means your pores are opening and cleaning themselves out, which helps keep your skin clear. A study conducted at Eberhardt-Karls-University in Germany found that sweat has an antimicrobial protein that may help fight infections and some bacteria and fungi.

Although the actual cleansing of toxins that the practice and saunas profess is a heavily debated topic, various metals and chemicals that are harmful to the body have been studied in perspiration, and some are excreted through sweat at a higher level than urine.

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3. It allows you to be more flexible than ever before.

Your body sweats, and your muscles heat up and relax, allowing you and other participants to be more flexible than normally when exposed to regular or cold temperatures. As a result, hyperextension becomes less likely, and the practice’s movements become safer to ease into. Michele Olson, a professor of exercise physiology at the University of Auburn, said: “You’re less likely to get injured with warm muscles than cooler ones. Think of a warm rubber band. It stretches easily.”

Through advanced stretching, Bikram yoga can help relieve pressure in the spine and joints that resulted from injury or age. Blood flow triggered during the stretches and through the heat also stimulates healing.

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4. It is an intense workout for your core and entire body.

Summer is a season when people are most interested in having a tight, strong core. Aesthetics aside, a strong core helps prevent back injury and promotes balance and stability.

Many of the Bikram yoga poses are challenging tests of balance and force the slow buildup of core strength and control. The format of the practice forces the constant release and tension of fully extended muscles, which is believed to promote a leaner, longer and more toned form.

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5. It clears your mind and encourages meditation, introspection and mental fortitude.

Most Bikram yoga studios encourage participants to arrive 10-15 minutes early to meditate and adjust to the heat of the room. The ability to calm yourself down from the initial level of heat when you begin the class requires patience, mental strength and perspective.

Breathing deeply and slowly is vital to the entire process and is a focal point of the instructor’s dialogue, and having to breathe correctly encourages calmness and releases stress.

The balance and strength demanded by the poses require focus and a blank mind, which lends to emotional release.

For the 90 minutes following, the studio is quiet, aside from the calm step by step directions and coaching of the instructor. Once the experience concludes, students usually are given time to lie down and meditate.

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Bikram yoga offers a bounty of spiritual, physical and mental health benefits that will boost your self-care this summer, as well as help you find a new way to embrace the heat.

Just think of how much better you’re going to feel physically and mentally when you step outside the room and how much cooler the heat wave will feel in comparison.

Jamie Lovley, University of Maine

Writer Profile

Jamie Lovley

University of Maine
Journalism and Psychology

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