Hot yoga and Bikram yoga may seem interchangeable but there is a big difference. Bikram is a style of hot yoga and hot yoga classes come in many other formats and styles. While both Bikram yoga and other hot yoga classes are practiced in higher temperature rooms than a regular yoga asana class, there are some important things to keep in mind when deciding which is right for your practice.
Bikram Yoga: is traditionally practiced at 104°F
Hot Yoga: Can be practiced anywhere from 86°F-100°F
Bikram Yoga: includes a specific sequence of poses which are practiced every class in the same order.
Hot Yoga: Varies studio to studio. Many studios will include aspects of the Bikram series. Other studios practice new poses every class just like any other hatha yoga class or a vinyasa yoga class.
Bikram Yoga: Instructors go through a specialized program and can only complete their training under the (controversial) Bikram certification process. Which requires 500 hours of training over nine weeks and covers topics such as; alignment, nutrition, and anatomy and physiology
Hot Yoga: Most teachers in the USA are certified under the Yoga Allaiance requirements (at least 200 hours). This is a national organization which requires demonstration of an understanding of; anatomy and physiology, teaching methodology, yoga philosophy, lifestyle, ethic, and practicum.
You have probably heard about the benefits of hot yoga, it can help your muscles relax and it can increase the difficulty of your workout. But according to expert Douglas Casa of the University of Connecticut “If it’s so hot you can’t get a hard workout in, it defeats the purpose, If you’re able to maintain the same intensity in the heat as you do in cool conditions, you’ll have to work harder and you’ll burn more calories. But a lot of people can’t do as much in the heat, so it could just be a wash-you might as well work harder where it’s cooler.” I suggest If you are looking for a more difficult workout go to a class with a lower temp but more difficult poses. Casa recommends no warmer than 100° F
If you choose to practice Bikram or hot yoga you should always be aware of your own limitations and take breaks as needed, hydrate throughout the day, and never practice after recently drinking or doing drugs.
Just because there is controversy surrounding Bikram does not mean you need to end your practice if you absolutely love it. I have known Bikram teachers (admittedly with Yoga Allaiance certification as well) that I would trust to guide me through the most complicated poses. I have met Yoga Allaiance teachers who’s instruction lacked biomechanics basis (based in the bodies safe and natural movement) even in simple postures. When deciding where to practice the most important thing is that your teacher does not push you past reasonable limits and frequently and freely offers and practices modifications.
Your physical yoga practice should make your body feel better, anything else just isn’t worth the time.
This is a very brief overview if you have any questions or comments please let me know.
Love and light,