It’s easy to get out of the fitness habit when autumn rolls around. “The nights are really drawing in now!”, you say, as you choose to snuggle on the sofa rather than stick to your summer gym routine. Get The Label challenged me to #StayFitDontQuit now that summer is over, and I of course accepted the challenge, choosing a month of Bikram Yoga* to shake up my regular fitness routine and keep me going long after the nights start to go dark.
Find out what I thought of my time at Bikram, and whether it really has any health benefits compared to other types of yoga.
It’s said that staying through an entire class of Bikram is an achievement in itself, though for me it wasn’t the same feeling I get when I’ve worked hard towards a goal then finally got there. To me, the achievement is akin to hitting your head against a brick wall repeatedly and congratulating yourself for not getting knocked out, or successfully sawing off your own arm. It’s an achievement because you’ve been so pig-headed in not listening to what your body wants to do.
Harsh? Maybe. There’s so many Bikram yoga addicts who sing its praises, citing its detoxification benefits and also the fact the heat makes your body more flexible. Considering its popularity you’d think there’d be a lot of research into these claims, though I could only find one study in a 2013 Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, which claimed that Bikram yoga had strength and flexibility benefits, although calorie burn was similar to that of walking briskly. So, although you’re sweating buckets and feel like you’re working hard, you’re not burning a significantly large amount of calories – though it does burn twice the amount that a more conventional form of yoga burns.
You actually stop noticing the room’s temperature after a little while – which is a massive 40.5 C, FYI – but you’re aware of every movement being much harder than usual and you fatigue faster. I’m an efficient cooler (okay, heavy sweater) and although I’m not embarrassed about this, especially as everyone else in the room was sweating just as much as I, it was the large beads of sweat constantly dripping down me and lying on a towel drenched in my own sweat that quickly became uncomfortable. The room is humid as well as hot, so the sweat doesn’t evaporate and cool you down.
Besides the heat, I found it quite similar to Ashtanga, where it’s the same series of postures held for the same amount of time each session. I don’t enjoy the strictness of Ashtanga, and though it’s easy to gauge improvements I would definitely get bored doing the same sequence day after day. That’s one of the reasons Jivamukti is my favourite style of yoga – it’s a lot freer, there’s more room to play in postures and just have a good laugh throughout the class!
This is nothing against the studio, as everyone was there was lovely, the teachers were great, and it’s a really cool space – if you’re thinking of trying out Bikram yoga I’d encourage you to do so despite what I’ve said, as this is a personal preference. As I’ve said, there are a lot of people who do Bikram classes regularly and consider themselves addicts, so I’m the odd one out here.
To summarise, I can see why frequent Bikram yoga practise might benefit me, especially my tight hips and shoulders, and I can see why others enjoy it. However, I didn’t enjoy it so whatever physical benefits it could bring me are outweighed by the mental disadvantages. It may not be as effective but I’ll be sticking with my half hour of mobility work pre-CrossFit, or at least for now.