Bikram is an adaptation of Hatha yoga consisting of twenty-six postures performed in a studio heated to 105° F. Adherents claim the heat protects muscles, allows for deeper stretching, opens pores, increases heart rate, thins blood (so the circulatory system can be “cleared”), improves strength (unclear how), and “reorganizes lipids in the muscle structure” (science here is unclear). The Bikram name is trademarked; only studios affiliated with the original founder and his studio (Bikram Choudury) can call their classes “Bikram,” but other “hot yoga” studios exist and practice similar forms of Hatha yoga in high heated studios. The Bikram or “hot yoga” trend is wildly popular, despite that fact that it is probably unsafe and definitely sounds like a bad idea. Many students report feeling nauseous, weak, or dizzy during their early classes, and some continue to feel this way afterwards. Other students have reported experiencing vertigo after classes. Still intrigued? Here are some gentle suggestions.
Choose a Different Form of Yoga
I’ve never done Bikram or “hot” yoga, but I live in Los Angeles and I am a certified expert on insane fitness trends. The major benefits touted by Bikramites focus on two things: a high-intensity cardiovascular workout and an increased amount of calories burned per hour over other forms of yoga. Well guess what—you burn more calories because the room is hot, and your body is trying to stay alive. As any personal trainer will tell you, cardiovascular exercise burns that day’s calories and strength training burns calories for the week, the month, and the year by building muscle. Focus on strength-training poses in sane forms of yoga such as Vinyasa or Ashtanga.
Hot yoga is a very Los Angeles form of insanity. A handful of celebrities work out in deadly heat and before you know it, the whole country is doing it. People, use your cabezas. I see that you’re still not convinced; well, fine then. Read on if you must.
1. Drink Water
Not just during and after class—pre-hydrate. Hot yoga evangelists claim the initial nausea and dizziness is part of the process; you see, the way our bodies react to exercising in scorching heat reveals to us the true horror of how we’ve been neglecting ourselves, both spiritually and physically. Now, maybe we have been neglecting ourselves—physically, spiritually, or what have you—but we feel horrible because we’re working out in a room heated to 105° F. If you want to do this, you must drink tons more water before, during, and after class. You need to double your water intake for that day, and since you’re probably not drinking enough water to begin with, go ahead and triple it. The total ounce count of your water on a hot yoga day should be no less than 120 ounces.
2. Take a Nap After Class
Heat wears you out; mostly because your body has to work hard to stay alive when you try to cook it in a yoga studio-shaped oven. If you feel disoriented and tired after a class, don’t be afraid to take a nap. That’s how your body fixes itself. The hot yoga people will say your body is cleansing itself. This is true. It’s cleansing itself of the near-death experience you just put it through. They will also tell you that, after the first few classes, you’ll feel more energized by this yoga in a hot, hot room, just as long as you are giving this hot yoga your 110% honest effort. So, if you still feel horrible, you only have yourself to blame.
3. Take Salt and Potassium Supplements
You don’t just lose water when you sweat. You also lose salt and minerals. So, take some salt and potassium supplements before class to keep yourself from passing out or dying.
4. Take a Break
Pay attention to how you feel during class. There are clear signs of heat intolerance that may show up, including nausea, dizziness, headache, or cramps. Get yourself to a cool location when you feel this way and drink water or—better—a sport drink with electrolytes until you feel better.