Bikram Yoga: A Heated Topic
by BRIGITTA SZEIBERT
30 minutes into your workout at Bfit and you expect your body to show the results almost immediately. No, I am not talking about the outline of an enviable six-pack or bulging biceps. I am referring to something just as satisfying but much more realistic--sweat. A souvenir from a challenging visit to the gym, sweat often makes us feel accomplished. When we think about sweat-worthy workouts, it is easy to envision long runs on the treadmill or many reps of weighted squats. Far from these images is the relaxing practice of yoga. Although there are many different types of yoga, bikram yoga is a popular form famous for its use of high temperatures and humidity. Hot yoga can be controversial--is it healthy for you? A few common concerns surrounding bikram yoga include dehydration and fatigue. This article will investigate the perceived benefits and drawbacks of hot yoga.
The proposed benefits of bikram yoga address a variety of contemporary concerns about health and wellness including cardiovascular and psychological health. According to a 2016 study, routine practice of bikram yoga may reduce stiffness in the arteries of overweight patients.  It may also enhance the emotional well-being of individuals across the entire range of BMI.  This research suggests that bikram yoga improves both the body and mind in one simple activity. Furthermore, a scientific review published in 2015 finds that bikram yoga likely improves range of motion, strength, and balance.  This strengthens the evidence for bikram yoga’s positive health effects by implying that hot yoga boosts physical well-being. However, the same review also expresses a need for more rigorous scientific research to determine the effects of hot yoga on cardiovascular health.  Moreover, a 2013 study reveals that regular practice of bikram yoga may increase deadlift strength as well as shoulder, lower back, and hamstring flexibility.  This research reinforces the idea that bikram yoga contributes to physical fitness.
Among the different varieties of yoga, bikram yoga has the reputation for being one of the most dangerous. Although one would not often associate yoga with physical danger, bikram yoga appears among the top two practices most commonly attributed with bodily injuries according to a 2013 review.  In rare cases excessive sweating may cause medical complications such as hyponatremia, or low sodium blood levels, stemming from poor rehydration treatment.  Due to the high heat, bikram yoga may not be suitable for some adults in advanced years as it may exacerbate heart conditions such as coronary syndrome, which restricts blood flow to the heart.  These health risks suggest bikram yoga may not be the best choice for everyone. Exercise, especially heated forms like bikram yoga, requires an adequate understanding of your body’s limits. While it is important to challenge your body at times in order to grow stronger, it is equally important to allow your body to rest.
Bikram yoga may help certain individuals but it may not be for everyone. The important lesson to remember is to always listen to your body. If you do decide to try bikram yoga, make sure to pay attention to how you feel throughout the practice and bring water to stay hydrated.
“Impact of Hot Yoga on Arterial Stiffness and Quality of Life in Normal and Overweight/Obese Adults.” J Phys Act Health. (2016).
“The Effects of Bikram Yoga on Health: Critical Review and Clinical Trial Recommendations.” Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. (2015).
Bikram yoga training and physical fitness in healthy young adults. J Strength Cond Res. (2013).
Adverse events associated with yoga: a systematic review of published case reports and case series.” PLoS One. (2013).