Despite receiving widespread Western exposure in the mid-70s, hot yoga has only really become a hot trend in the modern day, more popular now than ever.
It is exactly what it sounds like… yoga in a hot environment, and while scientific research regarding this form is thin on its feet, practitioners swear by its many benefits.
Still, sweating buckets in a hot room full of equally damp bodies isn’t everyone’s idea of a transcendentally good time. After all, most of us are trying to “beat the heat” whenever it rears its head in the natural world, so just how hot is hot yoga? Well, broadly speaking, anywhere between 80 and 105 °F.
That’s a pretty wide range, right? But there’s a reason for that… read on and all will be revealed.
There Are Two Forms Of Hot Yoga
The first thing you need to know is that there are two discrete forms of hot yoga, or should we say, one discrete form, and countless loose variations.
How Hot Is Bikram Yoga?
Bikram yoga was the first structured form of hot yoga, devised by the detestable Bikram Choudhury, an Indian-American yogi facing a myriad of rape and sexual assault allegations. This form of sweaty yoga is incredibly rigid, not just in terms of sequence, but degrees Fahrenheit too.
In accordance with Choudhury’s design, Bikram yoga sessions must take place in a 105 °F room — No exceptions.
Why? Well, apparently, this sweltering temperature helps to ease the muscles, thus making poses easier to strike; expedites the release of toxins from the body; and speeds up the heart rate to simulate cardiovascular exercise.
Again though, and we can’t stress this enough, there is very little research to prove what Bikram and followers of his practice claim. In fact, what research there is seems to suggest the contrary, that this intense heat could be detrimental to our health, but more on that later.
Choudhury also stipulated that the room must be stabilized at 40% humidity in order to slow down the evaporation of perspiration, meaning you can’t cool down during a session.
Is Hot Yoga Cooler Than Bikram Yoga?
The other form(s) of hot yoga is simply referred to as, you’ve guessed it… hot yoga, and it’s nowhere near as restrictive as Bikram yoga.
There are no fixed sequences in hot yoga, whilst Bikram yoga is a specific set of 26 postures performed in full in every session. In hot yoga, instructors have the freedom to tailor sequences to their class to account for individual differences, or of course to add their own expertise to the practice.
Hot yoga is also typically much cooler than Bikram yoga (but still steamy!), ranging from 80 to 100 °F.
Now, considering comfortable, endurable temperatures for human activity fall into the 70 °F range, hot yoga is more than capable of stimulating some serious perspiration, but it’s not quite as oppressive as Bikram yoga.
Is Bikram Or Hot Yoga Best?
Whether Bikram or hot yoga is best comes down to personal opinion, but we’d like to make you aware of a few things before you make your decision:
- Bikram Choudhury is a fraud — Choudhury has been caught in numerous lies about his pedigree as a yogi. Despite what he claims, he has never won the National India Yoga Championship, and he was not taught by Bishnu Charan Gosh from the age of 5. In fact, it’s likely he never even completed his training. All this is to say that he is not a trustworthy individual, so it’s wise to be skeptical of the yoga form he created.
- Bikram Choudhury has fled the US — Charged with multiple rape and sexual assault allegations, Choudhury fled the country — a rather damning indication of guilt. Many would prefer to avoid Bikram yoga so as not to elevate such an individual.
- Concerning research — The elevation of the heart rate during Bikram yoga is alarming considering there is very little dynamic movement going on, and core temperatures have been measured as reaching 104 °F. At this temperature, there are a number of risks to consider, including dizziness, low blood pressure, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes seizures. Granted, if you’re a perfectly healthy person, Bikram yoga isn’t too risky, but individuals who live with diabetes, hypertension, or obesity may not be able to properly regulate body temperature, which can lead to serious issues.
- Bikram yoga doesn’t account for individual differences — As all the parameters regarding postures, temperature, and humidity are fixed in Bikram yoga, practitioners all need to be equally capable.
By contrast, hot yoga can be altered to suit practitioner needs, making it a much more accessible and welcoming form.
Can You Drink Water During A Hot Yoga Class?
Proper hydration is crucial when taking part in any form of hot yoga, as you’re going to be losing a significant volume of moisture during the class.
We’d advise that you drink plenty of water before you enter the studio, and of course, bring lots with you for drinking as the class plays out.
There have been some reports of instructors discouraging practitioners to drink during certain phases of the session, which is worrying, especially considering that a key tenet of yoga is listening to your body.
So, if you need water during a hot yoga session, drink, even if the instructor warns you not to. If you want, you can consult them after or before the class on their recommendations for hydration before, during, or after a session, but remember, you’re the expert on you!
In summation, hot yoga is pretty darn hot, but there is some variation if you prefer a slightly cooler session. If that does appeal to you, then avoid Bikram yoga, as it’s an incredibly inflexible form that must be carried out in 105 °F heat.
And if you like the sound of Bikram yoga but are put off by its problematic creator, you can find plenty of standard hot yoga classes that operate at around the same temperature, so you don’t have to sacrifice your principles to take part.