Bikram Yoga—or "hot yoga"—is a version of yoga that takes place in a room heated to 105 degrees. Twenty-six hatha yoga-inspired poses and two breathing exercises are repeated twice during a typical Bikram yoga session.
Bikram yoga practitioners believe the body is something akin to wax—the hotter it gets, the more malleable it becomes. According to this theory, heat prevents injuries and allows more flexibility.
The inevitable sweat is also said to flush impurities out of the body (along with the usual benefits of yoga exercise).
This is not to say that the experience is entirely pleasant; the founder, Bikram Choudhury, has called the studios "torture chambers." Inversions (upside down poses) are not performed in standard Bikram practice.
Benefits of bikram yoga: Bikram Yoga is said to increase flexibility, tone muscles, increase physical endurance, burn fat and ease stress.
Who bikram yoga is best for: The heat of Bikram yoga may make the exercise especially beneficial for people with stiff muscles or tight hamstrings. The heat of the Bikram studio increases heart rate, speeding fat burn.
Getting ready: It's very important to dress lightly for Bikram yoga. Women should wear a leotard or bra top with short shorts. Men should wear running shorts or swim shorts. Do not wear cotton—it will absorb sweat and become soggy and heavy. It's also vital to remain hydrated before and during Bikram yoga.
Drink a minimum of 16 ounces of water before class. Bring towels if the studio does not supply them. Avoid eating in the three hours before class. Finally, do not wear strong perfume or scent to class, as the smell can intensify with heat and sweat.
Calories burned: Bikram Yoga burns 350 to 600 calories per sweat-filled hour.
Jennifer Aniston is considered responsible for launching Bikram yoga to fame among celebrities. Yet basketball hall of famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been practicing the sweaty flow for years. Abdul-Jabbar credits Bikram yoga (as well as other styles) for alleviating problems in his lower back. The legendary athlete has been practicing his asanas since 1976, and engages in some flow or another at least five days a week.
It is very common to become lightheaded, nauseated or dizzy during or directly after Bikram yoga practice. Some practitioners can experience muscle strain or injury from overextending muscles during Bikram yoga.
Who shouldn't do it: Bikram Yoga is not the best yoga type for beginners, as the heated studio makes the practice more strenuous than yoga at room temperature.
Potential Bikramites with muscular or bone injuries, practitioners who are obese, pregnant, on dialysis or who have heart conditions or breathing problems should consult a doctor before starting Bikram.