The Four Essential Elements of Safe and Effective Bikram, or “Hot” Yoga Practice

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.

Yoga Diet for Best Yoga Practice

Practitioners of Ayurveda believe that if one’s diet is very unsuitable for the health needs of the body, all the medicines in the world cannot work wonders on the ailments that follow. On the other hand, if one’s diet is nutritious and sensible, then the individual will never need medicine for life. Regardless, some of you may believe that even in the absence of a healthy diet, regular exercise can resolve all your health issues. You could not be more wrong! Both diet and exercise are important to keep a person healthy, wealthy and wise.

If you are heavily into the practice of yoga, you must ensure that you receive maximum benefits by adhering to a nutritious dietary regimen. You may not be aware of it, but food has an immensely positive/negative impact on your physical well-being, mental fitness, and emotions.

Satvik Type of Food

The healthiest type of foodstuff belongs to this category. They not only keep your body pure from the inside, but also calm a disturbed mindset. You will be able to include a number of foods that you can consume raw, in this category. All fresh vegetables fall into this category, barring carrots, turnips, garlic, and onions. You are equally welcome to consume all the fresh fruits that you want. All dairy products, except eggs, are permissible. Other kinds of Satvic food are unpolished rice, red rice, wheat, oatmeal, barley, pulses, cereals, honey, groundnuts and sugar candy. Avoid refrigerated food. Do ensure that you consume cooked food within the next three to four hours. It would be best to have freshly prepared food at every major meal. Check out this interesting video for more!

Rajasik Type of Food

The foodstuffs found in this category tends to act like stimulants. They prompt the mind and body to move out of lethargy and go into action mode. Rajasik foodstuffs include spices, asafetida, coffee, tea, cocoa, turnips, carrots, tamarind, chilies, pickles, mustard, salt, sour things, white sugar, meat, fish, eggs, fried food, etc. Such foods are healthy in moderation. If consumed in excess, they can lead to irritability and anger. You may become restless and hyperactive. Sometimes, even sleep is disturbed or you may suffer from sleeplessness.

Tamasik Type of Food

These are just the things you should stay clear of, especially when you are deep into yoga practice. Tamasik foodstuffs include all kinds of intoxicants, drugs, liquors, and wines. Even pork, beef, non-vegetarian dishes, garlic, onions, tobacco, menus filled with fats/sugar/oil, processed foods, stale food and anything that is re-heated/re-cooked, fall into this category. Overconsumption of such food tends to make the mind dull, sometimes even confused and disoriented. Your body begins to experience a kind of inertia, which prevents you from completing any task to satisfaction.

Do note that you cannot strictly classify any kind of food as good or bad. You must just make sure that you consume everything, even your favorite foods, in moderation. It might be a good idea to consult a nutritionist skilled in the Science of Ayurveda, for advice, since each person’s constitution is different.