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How to Prepare for a Bikram Yoga Class

Updated on March 21, 2013
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What is Bikram Yoga?

Bikram Choudhury began Bikram yoga in the 70's, and after converting several athletic stars, the new craze in hot yoga became a house hold term. A Bikram Yoga class is always 90 minutes long and consists of the same series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. The teacher follows a predetermined script as they guide the class through the regimented practice.

How hot is Bikram Yoga?

Hot. The room is heated to around 105 degrees F, and 40% humidity. With a full room of sweating yogis, it can reach temperatures of 110 or higher.

More importantly, why would someone subject themselves to working out in this hellish heat?

  • The excessive perspiration encourages your body to expel harmful toxins.
  • The heat allows you to stretch more deeply while (supposedly) preventing injury.

Before Class

  • Drink extra water the night before class. Your body will appreciate the extra reserves.
  • Fast for three hours before class.
  • Arrive at least ten minutes before class. Get settled and go into the room before class begins and allow your body to acclimate to the temperature and humidity.

What to Bring

Bikram Yoga Supplies:

  • LOTS OF WATER. Two poland springs bottles of water, or a full Nalgene should be sufficient.
  • Towel to absorb sweat.
  • Yoga mat.

If you are just beginning, a regular yoga mat and towel will do just fine. However, after a few classes you will want a mat that you can throw in the washer and dryer, and won't slip. There is a specially designed Bikram yoga towel mat available on Amazon:

But the best Bikram yoga mat I've seen is available from breathemat.com. The new Rabbit Flap is designed to grip any floor, provide cushion and sweat absorption. It is machine washable, and one short side has a layer of towel material on the bottom as well as the top for extra grip during Rabbit Pose.

What to Wear to Bikram Yoga

  • Dress in lightweight, skin tight clothing. The material must be breathable, and able to wick moisture away from your skin, not absorb it.
  • Never wear cotton. There are many synthetic materials that work well under sweaty conditions, but nothing beats Merino wool. Wool won't absorb moisture, and it doesn't hold smells the way synthetic material does.
  • Expose as much of your skin as you feel comfortable. The evaporation of sweat from your skin is one of the ways your body cools itself, and that evaporation can't happen through clothing.

Bikram Yoga Health Benefits

Bikram Choudhury and other Bikram Yoga supporters claim that daily Bikram yoga practice can cure pretty much everything, including:

  • asthma,
  • diabetes,
  • emphysema,
  • arthritis,
  • bad posture,
  • high blood pressure,
  • constipation,
  • hemorrhoids,
  • menstrual problems,
  • depression,
  • and sinus problems.

While Bikram Yoga may theoretically alleviate symptoms of all of those things, I have not found any medical studies that support it.

What Bikram Yoga does do is:

  • improve overall blood circulation,
  • release toxins from the body,
  • increase bone density through weight bearing postures,
  • strengthen many important muscles and joints,
  • regulate weight,
  • and improve flexibility.

Dangers of Bikram Yoga

Not everyone believes that the heat protects your joints as you stretch your body to its limits. Some critics of Bikram yoga purport that the heat allows muscles to extend past their limits, leaving them prone to injury.

Most Bikram beginners are not capable of full expression in all the asanas, or poses. Variations are not offered, and you could push too hard by listening to your teacher and not your own body.

The extreme heat can obviously lead to hyperthermia and heatstroke. Although most Bikram instructors claim that dizziness and nausea are normal, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and dizziness are all symptoms of heatstroke.

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