What to Expect at a Bikram Yoga Class

Bikram yoga is also sometimes called hot yoga. Once you step into the classroom, you’ll immediately see why – you practice Bikram yoga in a room that’s heated to about 105 degrees Fahrenheit with 40% humidity.

Why so hot? Well, the room is hot for several reasons. First, the heat, especially in combination with the exercises, makes you sweat. This helps you release any toxins that may be built up in your body. Second, a warm room helps keep your muscles limber and relaxed, which may allow you to stretch farther with less work and less risk of injury. Bikram yoga is also a cardiovascular activity – the heat increases your heart rate. This allows you to get a cardiovascular workout that’s low impact and less jarring to the joints.

A Bikram yoga class lasts about 90 minutes, possibly 2 hours for advanced students. During this time, you’ll go through a series of 26 specific yoga poses. Every class uses the same poses in the same order. This particular sequence is designed to provide a tourniquet effect – restricting blood flow to certain areas during certain poses – which is then released to strengthen the heart and “flush” the arteries and lymphatic system. The poses are also accompanied by pranayama breaths that are designed to bring feelings of serenity and peace, while also increasing blood flow.

Bikram yoga is strenuous exercise. As such, it helps reduce stress and benefits the body in other ways. Regular practitioners usually have lower blood pressure, lower heart rates, lower cholesterol levels, and fewer incidents of insomnia.

If you plan to take a Bikram yoga class, you should first check with your doctor or health care provider to make sure that the class will not be too strenuous for you. If your doctor isn’t familiar with Bikram yoga, make sure he or she knows that the class is taught in a heated room. If you aren’t ready yet, start with one of the less intense forms of yoga and work your way up to this challenging class. During the class, be sure to remain hydrated by drinking plenty of water before, during and after class. Avoid drinking caffeine-containing beverages before and after class, as they can contribute to dehydration. It’s also a good idea not to eat immediately before any strenuous exercise.

In terms of clothing, you’ll want to wear snug clothing, preferably those that are designed to wick moisture away from your body. For women, a sports bra and spandex shorts are a good choice. For men, spandex shorts and a t-shirt will work. Be sure to bring a large towel to class, along with your large bottle of water. You’ll be sweating and so will your classmates. If you have a problem with this, then this isn’t the style of yoga for you.

Another word of caution. While the heat can help your muscles remain limber, it can also tempt you into thinking that you’re more flexible than you might actually be. When practicing yoga you should feel a stretch, but you should never push to the point of pain. Don’t put yourself at risk of injury by overdoing it.

If at any time during the class you begin to feel dizzy, lightheaded, nauseated, or if you have a headache, take a break and drink some water. All of these feelings can be signs of dehydration. Next time, make sure you drink more water before class and during the entire class to help avoid dehydration.

After class, allow yourself to cool down before you take a shower – you don’t want to shock your body by cooling it off too quickly.