Hot yoga and bikram yoga are commonly mistaken to be the same practice. Although they have some similarities, they have some key differences. Bikram is a type of hot yoga, however, hot yoga is not necessarily Bikram.
Hot Yoga vs. Bikram Yoga
Similarities & Benefits
Hot yoga and Bikram yoga are both practiced in a room that is heated 80 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Both practices emphasize breath work and yoga postures. The classes can range from 60-90 minutes in length. Practicing yoga in a hot room can have many benefits such as:
- Help your body release toxins.
- Improve blood circulation.
- Enhance flexibility.
- Increases your heart rate which in turn boosts your metabolism.
- Warms the muscles to allow your body to go deeply and safely into the postures.
- Improves breathing.
- Helps focus the mind.
Hot yoga could be a class with hatha or vinyasa flows. The classes are often performed to music and offer either a slow hot flow (hatha postures) or a power flow (vinyasa style). Both practices are a move at your own pace in order to compensate for the heat. Classes are likely to change depending on the instructor and week to keep the practice stimulating for their clients.
Bikram yoga was founded and copyrighted by Bikram Choundhury. The practice consists of a fixed sequence of 26 postures that includes 13 standing and 13 sitting postures. Yogis are likely to become familiar with the routine which promotes a more present and focused practice.
Proceed with Caution
Both practices could be pretty intense for a newbie or even for those that have practiced before and did not properly prepare themselves for the class. If you’re thinking of giving hot or bikram yoga a try, there’s some things to keep in mind.
- Get acclimated. Get to the class early to get in the right state of mind and prep for the class.
- Take as many breaks as needed. Whether it’s child’s pose or chaturanga, get into a pose that you feel comfortable doing if you start to feel weird.
- Take your time. This is YOUR practice.
- Hydrate 24 hours before the class. Up your normal water intake. Take sips of water throughout the class to stay hydrated.
- Don’t eat a heavy meal before class but I wouldn’t recommend going on an empty stomach either.
- Replenish lost minerals afterwards. Coconut water, Emergen-C, and kombucha are some good options.
- I recommend wearing clothes that are breathable. You will sweat…A LOT.
- Bring a towel…or two. Preferably, a yoga towel.
By following these tips, you could avoid any negative side effects from exercising in the heat. Some potential side effects include:
- Drop in blood pressure
- Loss of consciousness
Ask your doctor if you have any concerns before class to get clearance if needed. Participants who are pregnant, under age, or have a history of heart disease or stroke should definitely consult a doctor before attempting a form of hot yoga.
Now, I didn’t mention these things to instill any fear but it’s better to know what you’re getting into before you get into it. For the most part, as long as you are hydrated and have a decent diet, your body and brain will be in great condition to take on the challenge.
So yup, you read correctly. I survived my very first hot yoga class! Obviously. Now, I didn’t think that I would literally die during hot yoga but I was definitely intimidated by the word HOT being in front of yoga. Yoga could be challenging at times as is. After doing my research, I was probably scaring myself more than I already was.
It started with an invitation by my friend Lindsey. I’ve been invited before by others but never got the courage to go. She told me about Orlando Power Yoga where she would attend classes from time to time. Lindsey RAVED about hot yoga. So, I agreed to go with her. That, in turn, came with me probing her with a bunch of questions so I could mentally prepare myself. That also came with the borderline obsessive online research so I could cover all of my bases…kidding, sort of. What can I say? I was a little nervous!
The day finally came. I planned on pretty much having a sports bra and yoga capris on made for heat to wear for the class to prep for my sweat bath. We ran a little late but got in just in time for the class. At first, the heat didn’t feel that bad with the fans circulating the air, but once the class started…bye bye air circulation…hello heat! The heat felt like a sauna and as we started warming up, I felt my sweat beginning to make its presence known. I tried to focus mainly on my breathing. I liked that our instructor encouraged us to go at our own pace.
The class continued on and the sweat is dripping…EVERYWHERE. I mean, I know my body is covered in sweat glands but I’ve never sweated so much in my life! I was so grateful to have my yoga towel. It gripped my mat so well and the hand towel was a blessing.
Throughout the class, I continued to take sips of water. There were only a few moments that I felt like I needed a break. Luckily, they were at the same time the instructor had us go into child’s pose or similar pose to take a breather. Halfway through, I was already drenched and about ready to surrender. The instructor told us to lay down on our stomachs and I was ever so grateful for this part! I could feel my heart pounding throughout my whole body. I’m sure my yogi neighbor Anne, that did chin stands during her freestyle vinyasa felt it too. Show off.
The class continued and I got my second wind to push through the rest of the class. I continued to hydrate, breathe, and wipe some of the sweat in between. I pushed through and was happy to see the finish line as we started to prep for the end of the class. Our last pose was shavasana (or corpse pose AKA lay flat on your back like you’re dead), most people I know that do yoga look forward to this pose…I know I did. Our instructor told us to melt into our mat (yeah, that already happened) and to imagine your body submersing into the water of a cool, calm spring. It was a nice visual to my current hot and sweaty state.
We wrapped up our class with the traditional hand to heart center followed by Namaste. At this moment, I kid you not…I felt like I was going to cry! Not a boo-hoo-sad cry, or I-just-did-70-minutes-of-hot-yoga-I’m-going-to-die cry. It was like a cleansing, rejuvenated feeling that obviously made me get all up in my feels. Granted, I am a very emotional being, but I did feel truly refreshed and renewed.
I took my time to get up and definitely looked forward to a shower and food afterwards. It was a great experience and I truly recommend it! It won’t be easy, but I definitely think it’s worth a try! Also, if you’re in the Orlando area, check out Orlando Power Yoga for a great, cleansing class surrounded by good energy and good people.
Anyway, have a beautiful Easter weekend, my peeps!