In recent years, the practice of Bikram yoga has grown in popularity and in controversy. Many swear by its extreme methods, in which Bikram studios are heated to 104°F. Others label the high heat excessive and dangerous. Opinions differ on the physical condition required to participate in Bikram yoga, as well as on the risks of heat exhaustion and dehydration.
— Satchie Snellings, Nia Creator
It's clear that Bikram Yoga may not conclusively have the positive physiological effects that it's hyped up to have, but people practice the activity because it's enjoyable and therapeutic. For me, that benefit alone is justifies the activity, and what marginal health benefits this form of Yoga carry are a great positive externality.
That isn't to say that the activity doesn't, have clear health benefits, and as the research suggest, one can find themselves to be more flexible, thinner, and more.
All of this isn't to deny the risks to some individuals, but I think when one chooses to practice Bikram Yoga, it is with the fundamental presupposition that they will practice it safely - i.e. they will stay hydrated, and abstain if they aren't in suitable health.
While it would be better to have had more research to review on this subject, there's enough to make a preliminary judgement on Bikram yoga.
Clearly Bikram yoga is not for everyone. Also clearly, it doesn't live up to the hype, and may be flat-out unsafe for some people, and dangerous for anyone not prepared. The notion of detox, which we've seen before in the health and wellness space, continues to be completely unfounded.
That being said, I personally may, at some point in my life, consider doing a session or two. I would be attracted to its promise of making tighter muscles more flexible. That being said, I would make certain not to over-heat or over-stretch. And that's critical!
Bikram is more dangerous than any other kind of yoga that I've seen. I have done Bikram a few times, but only after years of practicing other types of yoga. While of course the extreme heat and increased heart risk is not for everyone, it works for me, so I couldn't really say that I'm anti-Bikram.
Ultimately, it is obvious that bikram yoga has no benefits over regular yoga, apart from the possibility of increased flexibility.
There is certainly a significant amount of evidence that it might not be as safe, but I also don't think this accounts for what the class is actually like, where everyone can take each pose as intense as they would like, drink water at any point, and sit or lay down at any time.
It is misleading, however, to believe that bikram is inherently better for you than another type of yoga.
To put it quite simply, Bikram yoga isn't for everybody. This goes for most physically demanding activities. The golden rule repeated over and over across all athletic activity is "listen to your body", so of course that applies here.
As a young adult who is relatively active and has dabbled quite a bit in different disciplines of yoga, I would be interested in trying Bikram yoga. I am very interested in its generous effects on flexibility. However, I would not suggest the same for my middle-aged mother who struggles with arthritis, for example.
It all depends on that simple golden rule: You have to listen to your body.
I think Bikram yoga has health benefits for sure, but does come with certain risks which should be taken into account when considering whether or not to do Bikram yoga, specifically the temperature at which it's done. Doing yoga in such high heat does somewhat help flexibility, helps you push yourself more than you normally would, and also helps you burn calories, but one must keep in mind that being in a 104 degree Fahrenheit studio can possibly do some damage.
In my opinion, Bikram yoga isn't the worst thing out there and it can be helpful, but you should really know what you're getting yourself into and do your research beforehand.
While Bikram yoga may increase your flexibility, there is a risk that comes with doing exercise in such extreme heat. Working out in 104 degrees Fahrenheit can cause many potential health risks, especially for groups that are already at risk. The sweating caused by being in such heat has not been shown to be conclusively helpful or harmful. If Bikram yoga is what gets you out of the house and moving, then I say do it, but if you have other options for exercise, stick to those!
Despite certain potential promising results of bikram yoga, there are two key factors that force me to believe that bikram yoga is best avoided.
Firstly, the overwhelming evidence that Bikram yoga is less safe than other form of yoga is deeply alarming. Putting one's body in danger for the cost of yoga, to me, is unnecessary and one should pursue one of the many alternatives.
Secondly, the lack of benefit from the sweating caused by the conditions is of concern. The failure of 'detoxification' through sweating negates one of the greatest potential benefits. Sweating is not even the most effective means of detox, making one of bikram yoga's major selling points fundamentally invalid.
The risk one places his or her body in is not worth these potential benefits and therefore we should avoid bikram yoga.
When we started this Nia, I knew that Bikram yoga was controversial but I did not expect how much evidence would arise to confirm that Bikram is, in fact, best avoided. My opinion can be simply summed up by the absence of any support stories proving that “Bikram Yoga is as safe as traditional yoga.”
Our research revealed that while excessive sweating, a principle feature of Bikram yoga, may lead to some sort of detox, it also fails to cool down the body and can result in the loss of minerals, such as potassium and sodium. Though Bikram yoga is characterized by an increase in flexibility when compared to traditional yoga, it turns out that very flexibility may cause more harm than good. The high temperatures in a Bikram studio cause joints to relax and grow more flexible, however, this looseness can lead to joint and muscle problems in participants of Bikram yoga.
After reviewing the evidence and the risks, it is my opinion that yogis are better off avoiding Bikram and sticking to other types of yoga and exercise.
This Nia exposes the overwhelming amount of evidence testifying to the dangers of Bikram yoga. From tearing muscles, which often happens when people feel more flexible than they really are in the heat, to inflicted cardiovascular stress, Bikram yoga tests our bodies' limits, pushing them to unhealthy levels. Most Bikram yogis, especially those participating in a studio in America or Europe, are unfamiliar with simply resting in such extreme heat, never mind exercising in it, and thus are often unable to respond to their body's stress signals appropriately.
And, on top of risking our physical health, evidence suggests that Bikram does not provide a significantly better cardio workout than exercising in room temperature!
Yes, it is true that over time flexibility may increase at a faster rate in hot temperatures, however is this worth the many dangers that follow heat stress? I don't think so.