Hot Flow vs. Bikram

greghasswarriorIf you didn’t already know…hot yoga and Bikram yoga are two very different practices.

Hot yoga is a version of Hatha yoga or “Power Yoga” performed in a room that is between 95-100 degrees at humidity between 50% to 80% where the teacher is free to place their own spin on each class. Like many Flow Yoga classes, Hot Yoga is a fusion or combination of many different styles of yoga that is typically unique to each specific teacher and different from class to class.

Bikram yoga was created in 1974 by Bikram Choudhury. Each class is 90 minutes in length and is comprised of a series of 26 postures (asana) and 2 breathing exercises. The room is 105 degrees at 40% humidity. Bikram yoga seeks to replicate yogic conditions in India which are believed to purify and detox the body, aka “sweating out the toxins”. Bikram Yoga is the exact same 26 postures done in the exact same order with the exact same dialog every time – it never changes – it never varies.

You may already know some of the benefits of yoga:

Physical benefits of yoga:
•tones the muscles-when working in a pose, many different muscles are used and toned at the same time
•increases flexibility-taut muscles are gently stretched using breath and focus
•improves energy levels-energy is enhanced as toxins are flushed and invigorates the body and mind
•tones the ligaments, joints and nerves-These are kept supple, active and responsive with regular practice
•improves balance-Leads to better posture
•Straightens the spine-Improves bad posture, hunching and opens the spine keeping it supple and flexible
•Boosts metabolism, lymphatic circulation and hormones-Gets blood flowing which in turn flushes toxins and stimulates metabolic function.
•Brings chemical balance to the body-As a result of all of the above, chemical balance is restored and one is naturally attracted to better nutrition.

Mental/emotional benefits of yoga:
•Reduces stress-Takes focus off daily stresses and allows you to focus on yourself
•Reduces fatigue-The physical benefits lead to reduced mental and physical fatigue as the body is stimulated by asanas
•Increases happiness-As chemical balance is achieved so ones mood is uplifted and improved
•Enables one to relax the body and the mind
•During practice, the mind and body are calmed as there is nothing else to think about except the conscious focus on mastering the pose.


Advocates of practicing yoga in a heated room (weather that is Hot yoga or Bikram yoga) believe the heat generates deeper stretching, prevents injury, decreases stress and tension and improves blood circulation as well as burn more calories than more traditional styles of practice. Basically the body detoxifies itself in 3 different ways: through the breath, through the perspiration and by going to the bathroom. When you are practicing yoga and stretching/bending/twisting the muscles, vital organs, glands and lymph nodes are releasing toxins. When the toxins are “freed” and floating around the body the additional heat and increased body temperature encourage these toxins to be released via the sweat and active/deep breathing exhalations. Think of it like ringing out a dirty sponge. The sweat is good – you will grow to love the sweat.


The three most common side effects of practicing in a heated room are nausea, dizziness and syncope (passing out). People are advised to NOT eat 2 hours before each class, but drink plenty of water before and after. You should be thoroughly hydrated 30 to 45 minutes before class, bring plenty of water to class in case you need it immediately and make absolutely sure to drink plenty of water after class to continue flushing out the toxins and rehydrate the body. People with a history of stroke, cardiac conditions, blood pressure issues or angina should be cleared by their physician before embarking on their hot yoga voyage.

So to sum up all my little research endeavors, if you would like to practice hot just make sure to be cleared by your physician if you have any pertinent past medical factors. The practice of yoga is a means for the body to balance with the mind and was created over 5000 years ago to find quiet space within the mind and body, and each person should decide which style of practice best achieves this goal.

I look forward to seeing you all in class.

By Greg Hass, yoga instructor at Bella Prana Yoga Tampa FL.