Science Says This Type of Yoga Is Good for Body (and Mind)
You're likely familiar with hot yoga, a type of workout in which you do a series of poses in a studio with the heat cranked up really high (like over 100 degrees high). But most people don't realize that Bikram yoga is not just hot yoga—it's a very specialized form. This yoga practice revolves around a 90-minute session filled with exactly 26 intense postures in a room set to 104 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit and with 40% humidity. Although the practice may seem kind of strict—mind you, it kind of is—the outcome may be well worth it. You see, that's because this particular form of yoga may provide you with significant health benefits. In fact, we've rounded up all the ways Bikram yoga is good for both body and soul below. Scroll through and see the Bikram yoga benefits for yourself.
It helps with mindfulness.
The practice of mindfulness, or being present in the moment, is a great way to reduce stress. Bikram yoga is believed to help you get into that state of mind. "This isn't something we've studied directly, but I do think there's an element of mindfulness in Bikram yoga instruction," says Emily Lindsay, who researches stress and mindfulness meditation at Carnegie Mellon University. Lindsay says paying attention to your breath and posture helps you stay in the moment.
It increases your flexibility.
The heat in the studio helps your body limber up as joints are lubricated and muscles become more flexible. "I have had the pleasure of watching some students work through tightness, strains, and pains with a regular hot yoga practice," says Taj Harris, a New York City yoga instructor. Harris says the practice acts as a form of physical therapy for some individuals.
It boosts your mood.
Most forms of exercise produce endorphins which make you feel good, but in a recent study, 58% of participants reported a mood boost after practicing Bikram yoga specifically. And that's not all: A 2015 study that tested women who took two Bikram yoga classes a week versus those who did not found those who engaged in the activity reported better moods and decreased feelings of anxiety.
It's good for your heart.
Doctors believe that hot yoga may actually help keep your heart healthy. "If you put people in a sauna or hot room, their cardiovascular system responds the same way as if they were running on a treadmill," says Stacy Hunter, PhD, who researched Bikram yoga at the University of Texas at Austin. "So the logic goes that combining yoga exercise and heat will be even more beneficial." Findings that prove this point include an improved metabolism in older, obese adults and a decrease in arterial stiffness in young adults.
Be sure to read about the three stretches you should do every day, and tell us what you think about Bikram yoga in the comments.