What Makes Bikram Yoga So HOT? What Is Hot Yoga?

Many people may have heard about Bikram or Hot yoga, but are not sure what it is all about. With so many place springing up around town, we wanted to give you the lowdown...


A brief history of Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga, also known as Hot Yoga has been developed and (unsuccessfully) trademarked by a guy named Bikram Choudhury. This Indian born former National Indian Yoga Champion took basic poses from Hatha Yoga, to create a 26 pose and 2 breathing exercise workout to promote general health. Choudhury believes that his custom made training helps injury prevention and allows for deeper stretching of the muscles, as well as restoring health to every single organ of the human body. To learn more about the business side of Bikram, and why some studios offer Hot yoga instead, click here.


Bikram Yoga vs Hot Yoga

Even in Amsterdam alone, you will come across both Bikram Yoga studios and Hot Yoga studios. So, what's the difference? The principles are the same, and the poses are very similar, if not identical. The poses and their amount may vary per school or studio, but the benefits will remain the same. Schools with Bikram in their name are officially endorsed by Birkam Choudhury, with some of their profits being paid out to him as well. Hot Yoga studios are usually independent schools, often employing teachers trained by Bikram, but not working under his name. 


Bikram Benefits

According to Choudhury, Bikram Yoga brings the following health benefits:


  • Improvement of blood circulation
  • Elimination of toxins, bacteria and infections from the body
  • Reduction of tension and stress
  • Prevention of heart disease and organ failure
  • Increased lung capacity
  • Aid in lymphatic drainage


Bikram Yoga makes you sweat more than any other form of exercise, and will help clear your skin from toxins, among other benefits. Many celebrities swear by doing Bikram, and its popularity has increased in the previous years. Choudhury’s wife Rajashree has been in dialog with the Olympic Games committee to make yoga an Olympic Sport!


What’s a Bikram session like?

Each standard session of Bikram or Hot Yoga consists of a 90 minute workout, in a special room heated to 40.6 degrees Celsius. A thin yoga mat, and a long towel to prevent slipping are required. Hydration before and after class is a necessity, although some like to sip water throughout the whole exercise. As Bikram Yoga is evolving, so are the types on offer. Some new studios offer 60 minute classes or a variety of other poses. 



Bikram Yoga Do’s:

  • Wear tight fitting clothing. Baggy stuff will get really heavy and annoying after just a few minutes. The funny part is that the longer one does hot yoga, the less they seem to wear for class!
  • Wear a headband and tie your long hair up on the tip of your head. Any loose hairs will become very annoying after a while.
  • Keep your eyes open and stay focused.
  • Breathe in and out through your nose.
  • Listen carefully to your teacher. He or she will not be practicing the poses with you, but rather walking through the room giving detailed instructions. Slightly different from your regular group class.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink some water before class, but not too much – you want to avoid having a full stomach. You will generally be discouraged from drinking water during class, but beginners usually start out taking small sips, in between poses. 
  • Consult your doctor before taking Bikram yoga, especially if you are taking any sort of medication.


Bikram Yoga Dont’s:

  • Don’t wear makeup or jewelry. Neither is helpful for maintaining concentration. The first will soon be all over your face, and the latter will be burning hot!
  • Do not eat a heavy meal before class. Have some fruit if you feel you will not concentrate on the class because of hunger.
  • Don’t talk before or during the class. Most of your neighbors will be trying to focus.
  • Don’t move in between poses. Your body will still be processing the previous pose.
  • Don’t wipe your sweat but rather allow it to fall freely into your towel. Wiping sweat will make your skin sweat even more…and it will cause you to lose concentration.
  • Don’t force yourself to continue the class if you feel nausea, dizziness or feel like you are about to faint. Simply sit on your knees with your hands placed on your knees until you feel better, or lay on your back during sitting poses. You will be asked to remain in the heated room for the whole class to avoid temperature shock, and so your teacher can have an eye on you.
  • Don’t do Bikram Yoga is you have heart problems, high blood pressure or do not tolerate heat very well.
  • Don’t practice Bikram Yoga when you are pregnant. Some women decide to continue practice if they are very experienced, but doctors usually advise against it.


Amsterdam is really catching on to the Hot Yoga trend, and there are more and more specialized studios offering classes, all around town. Apart from the older Bikram Yoga Studios, Amsterdam has recently welcomed Forty Degrees and Absolute Yoga, both located in the Oud West, and Hot Flow Yoga in the Oud Zuid. With special floors and temperature control, these studios cater specifically to various types of hot yoga. All of these studios offer various forms of hot yoga, without following the strict 'Bikram' style, allowing for different sequences and poses. They all offer special Introduction classes.