Hot yoga can refer to any yoga class done in a heated room. The room is usually maintained at a temperature of 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit. Most often, hot yoga tends to be a flowing, vinyasa style of practice in which the teacher instructs a series of linked poses. As you can imagine, a vigorous yoga session at high temperature promotes profuse sweating and makes the body very warm.
What is Bikram Yoga?
Living yoga master Bikram Choudhury is a hot yoga innovator. His method is a set series of 26 postures, including two pranayama exercises, each of which is performed twice in a single 90-minute class. Choudhury, who was born in Calcutta, India in 1946, was a yoga champion in his youth, as was his wife Rajashree. In 1974, the Choudhurys founded the Yoga College of India in Beverly Hills, California, to teach his method, which soon became one of the most popular styles of yoga asana practiced in the west.
In 2002, Choudhury successfully copyrighted his series of 26 poses done in a hot room and has since been involved in a number of legal disputes, both over the unauthorized use of his name, and, more recently, the use of his method under a different name. Choudhury successfully sued a Los Angeles yoga studio in 2003 for copyright and trademark infringement. He became the defendant in 2004, when he was sued by a San Francisco-based collective of hot yoga teachers who had received cease-and-and desist letters over their unlicensed use of the Bikram method. The plaintiffs argued that yoga cannot be copyrighted, but reached a settlement in 2005, in which Choudhury agreed not to sue them and they agreed not to use the Bikram name. Choudhury filed another high-profile suit in 2011, this time against the New York-based studio Yoga to the People, which offers yoga classes by donation in several U.S. cities. Bikram remains a very controversial figure in the yoga world.
In a Nutshell
All Bikram yoga is hot, but not all hot yoga is Bikram.
Other Hot Yoga Styles
- Moksha yoga is a relative newcomer, having been founded in 2004, but its popularity has quickly spread from Canada across the United States (where it is known as Modo Yoga). Like Bikram, Moksha yoga follows a set series of poses.
- CorePower Yoga uses a heated room for many of their classes. This chain is rapidly expanding in the U.S.
Hot Yoga Tips and Cautions
- It is essential to have your own yoga mat when doing hot yoga since you will be sweating so much. Yogitoes Skidless mat towels (or other similar products) are popular hot yoga accessories. These towels are placed over your mat to absorb sweat and improve traction.
- Wondering what to wear? Check out our hot yoga wear advice.
- How hot is hot yoga?
- Can you really "sweat out toxins," as is often claimed, doing hot yoga? Read this: Sweating Out the Toxins: Myth or Reality?
- Make sure to drink plenty of water before and after class so you don't get dehydrated. It is not advisable to eat during the two hours before class.
- If you want to try Bikram's method, make sure the yoga studio you choose has been licensed to teach Bikram Yoga.
- Hot yoga is not advised for pregnant women, since it can raise the core body temperature.