Yoga Traditions

The Many Variations of Hot Yoga: Which is Right for You?

Posted on 2019-03-10

Today, there are several yoga styles practiced in the west. Hot yoga is one of these styles, with its roots in Hatha Yoga. It is based on the philosophy that practicing yoga in a heated environment can help a yogi achieve more benefits than practicing at room temperature. Benefits like reducing anxiety and stress are good with all yoga practice but maybe, especially when practicing hot yoga, and particularly good for the heart and lungs.

During a hot yoga class, the yoga studio is usually heated up to 40 C (105 f), and the humidity level is increased to 40 %. So be ready to sweat and be mentally and physically challenged during your hot yoga class.

So…why use heat?

The artificial humidity and heat help the body to get rid of toxins by increasing blood circulation and activating the lymphatic system. Additionally, the heart rate increases when practicing yoga in a heated environment. This, in turn, increases the metabolism rate and cardiovascular activity, which helps in weight loss and toning the body.

The heat also promotes relaxation, boosts the immune system, and addresses problems related to chronic pain. Furthermore, the heated environment helps the yoga student learn to let go and surrender the attachments to external distractions. As a result, the student can practice mindfulness, a primary yoga pillar.

"In a study from Texas university, the researchers found that heart health, as measured by blood vessel function, improved significantly in both yoga groups, Hot yoga and regular yoga practice (it didn't change in the control group), which may suggest that it's the yoga itself and not the heat that has an effect."

The Health benefits of hot yoga are similar to the benefits you can achieve from regular yoga practice. These benefits include reduced stress hormone (cortisol levels), chronic pain, and blood pressure. Hot yoga also helps improve flexibility, strength, balance, stamina, cardio, and overall emotional health.

Scientists argue that artificial heat can mask injuries, and this can improve the flexibility of the student. As a result, the student can perform more complex postures. However, hot yoga isn't for everyone. People with some existing medical conditions should seek advice before practicing hot yoga. Women's health - Pregnant women should avoid practicing if they are not used to the heat and the practice and should always consult with a midwife first. Here is the beginner's guide to the common types of Hot Yoga.

Bikram Yoga

Heat index: How hot is a Bikram yoga class? The room is heated to 105 degrees F and 40% humidity.

Most yoga studios offer yoga classes in a hot or warm room. However, Bikram yoga is an entirely different yoga style. Technically, Bikram yoga is a type of Hatha Yoga, a traditional style involving breathing and postures.

However, Bikram yoga isn't all about a yoga style. It is an experience that has thousands of followers across the world. Each Bikram hot yoga class consists of 26 yoga postures and two breathing exercises. This sequence is designed as a "yoga for beginners class," and it happens in a room of 105 degrees. A certified Bikram instructor usually takes the yoga students through the yoga poses. However, it would help if you understood that the postures and the heat could present different challenges to the yogis than any other traditional yoga style, More of a mental challenge than you think. 

Bikram Choudhury designed Bikram yoga in the 1970s under the supervision of Bishnu Ghosh, who was his guru. Since its creation by Bikram Choudhury, many Bikram studios have come up in different parts of the world. These yoga centers can be found in most parts of the world.

Irrespective of its location, every 90-minute Bikram yoga class consists of the same postures, like the standing bow, Standing head to knee, cobra pose, tree pose, triangle pose, and half-moon, among others poses. The heat in the yoga classes assists in stretching muscles, sweating out toxins, and improving blood circulation in the body. Also, Bikram yoga helps in weight loss.

Choudhury says that these poses can systematically move fresh and oxygenated blood to every part of your body, every fiber, and organ. This, in turn, boosts the flexibility of the practitioner. The traditional pose series in Bikram yoga doesn't include the inversion poses, like headstands practiced in yoga classes. These poses can be challenging for yoga beginners, requiring some time to learn the poses.

Every Bikram yoga class starts with standing deep breathing Pranayama and finish with kapalbhati. During class mainly consist of normal breathing through the nose. In backbends, practitioners can follow the 80-20 breathing technique. The yogi takes a full breath and enters the pose. Then, the yogi exhales/inhales the top 20% of the air in the lungs, continuously breathing through their nose to help keep stability in the pose.

Tips on how to benefit from Bikram classes

  • Get ready – start hydrating your body 24 hours before your yoga session, and don't eat anything 1-2 hours before your hot yoga class. Also, don't drink too much water minutes before your hot class starts, as this can make you uncomfortable during the entire yoga session.

  • Choose suitable clothing – ensure that you choose a comfortable outfit that won't inhibit your movement when you start to sweat. It is advisable to wear fewer outfits as possible. Men can choose to wear spandex shorts, while women shorts and a sports bra or flexible tank top.

  • Bring water – don't forget to carry a water bottle because you need it for rehydration during your session. However, it is essential to hydrate your body correctly before entering the yoga class because some teachers do not allow breaks during the poses.

  • Speak up – let your yoga teacher know if you have any existing medical conditions or prior injuries. Experienced yoga teachers can teach different variations to reduce stress on particular body parts. Also, these variations can make your moves easier, depending on your needs.

  • Listen to your body – it is essential to understand that you are not competing with anyone during your yoga session. Therefore, go at your own pace, and take breaks when necessary to avoid hurting your body.

  • Ease out – you can choose a sports drink or coconut water to restore electrolytes and fluids in your body after the yoga session. Do not forget to take a banana too. Healthy eating usually comes naturally. It is one benefit of hot yoga, and with that comes heart health and weight management.

    Hot Yoga
    Wind removing pose from Bikram Yoga.

    Baron Baptiste Power Yoga

    Heat index: How hot is Baron Baptiste Power yoga? Studios are heated to 90-95 degrees F

    Baron Baptiste Power Yoga represents leadership, service, community, transformation, and possibility. This happens when you are not practicing yoga. Walt Baptiste and his son Baron Baptist founded this yoga style in 1940. The yoga training of Krishnamacharya and his two students, Desikachar and Iyengar, inspired the physical parts or asana of Baptiste Power Yoga.

    It is said that…

    Baron Baptiste studied with Desikachar and Iyengar when he was young. He then used what he learned from the eastern yoga teachers to develop his style - Baron Baptiste Power Vinyasa yoga. This form of yoga empowers, strengthens, and stretches the body and mind of modern western yoga practitioners.

    The pillars of Baptiste Power Yoga

    • Breath ujjayi is the primary pranayama used in Baron Baptiste's power yoga. It helps slow down your breath and enables you to make and keep your breath deep and powerful when doing challenging poses. Short and shallow breaths can trigger flight or fight panic impulses in your body. Therefore, it is essential to keep your breath deep and long as this assists you in remaining calm.

    • Heat a Baron Baptiste power vinyasa class should have a temperature of 90 – 95 degrees. This temperature assists the students in fueling their tapas (internal fires) for a sweaty and loose practice.

    • Flow  Baron Baptiste yoga has a vinyasa style flow, where your yogi's movement is connected to their breath. Yogis are encouraged to practice this style every day. Although Baron Baptiste's power yoga doesn't have a fixed sequence of poses, most yoga classes follow a particular pattern. Most classes start with several sequences of Surya Namaskara, which has room for variation. The yoga teacher then proceeds to standing sequences, which include vinyasa flow. The yoga classes include hip opening, back bending, and abdominal work.

    • Gaze also known as Drishti, concentrates in one place as you practice yoga poses. This is an important area of Ashtanga yoga, where students learn drishti as a part or alignment in each asana. But, in Baron Baptiste power yoga, drishti isn't specific in each pose. Here, students learn how to fix their eyes on parts that do not move. In addition, they are supposed to keep their eyes soft as this allows them to bring their concentration inward.

    • Core stabilization this is also known as the uddiyana bandha. Baron Baptiste's power yoga refers to constantly pushing your belly button towards your spine. This happens during the entire practice but is not similar to the uddiyana bandha in light Yoga. Core stabilization provides support by engaging the core strength and balance.

    Health benefits of Baron Baptiste power yoga

    This hot yoga style allows you to stretch, transform, and strengthen your body. As you practice the Baron Baptiste power yoga style in a heated room, you are challenged and encouraged to explore different possibilities within your body. Anyone with athletic abilities should try practicing Baron Baptiste power yoga.

    "Practicing Baron Baptiste power yoga will help you realize that it has the power to transform communities, lives, and the entire world."

    Moksha Yoga (Modo Yoga)

    Heat index: How hot is a Moksha yoga class? Studios keep the temperature around 103 degrees F

    This is a relatively new yoga discipline that belongs to the hot yoga group. Yoga teachers Ted Grand and Jessica Robertson founded Moksha yoga in 2004 in Toronto, Canada. This yoga style consists of a sequence of yoga poses practiced in a heated yoga room. Moksha yoga has three classes, each lasting around 60 – 90 minutes.

    The typical Moksha yoga series starts with savasana, a resting pose at the end of a yoga class. Next, you perform standing poses, savasana, and on-the-floor poses. These poses help in opening and strengthening the lower body muscles. The yoga class then ends with another savasana.

    Just like the other styles of Yoga, Moksha yoga assists in toning and strengthening your muscles, calming your mind, and improving flexibility. Besides, sweating out during a Moksha yoga class helps detoxify the body.

    So, what differentiates Moksha yoga from Bikram yoga?

    Since both Moksha and Bikram yoga falls in the hot yoga category, how do they differ? Moksha yoga follows a particular sequence of postures like a framework. However, this yoga style is more flexible regarding changing sequences, timelines, and class types.

    Many yoga students like practicing both Moksha and Bikram Yoga. They confess that they like the exhilarating feeling and heat you get from a sweaty yoga class. Both Moksha and Bikram yoga have their structure and philosophy.

    Moksha yoga students find this style less intimidating and more cheerful than traditional yoga practices with a different tone. However, this depends on the yoga class, instructor, and studio.  

    According to Moraghan, Moksha studios are fun and lighthearted. Moraghan says that they keep the yoga classes that way to make everyone feel welcome and experience the fantastic yoga benefits. Just like the other yoga practices, Moksha yoga sequences provide lifelong health. In addition, people with different abilities can access these yoga sequences.

    So, are you ready for Moksha Hot yoga?

    Experts in Moksha yoga recommend beginners start with the regular 90-minute hot yoga class. This might seem intimidating for beginners, but they get used to it as they practice more. However, the most important thing is to relax and enjoy yourself as you practice these poses.

    "Moreover, do not forget to inhale and exhale as you practice the poses."

    Since you practice Moksha yoga in a heated room, teaching yourself how to breathe is essential. Always take measured and calm breaths, which are critical to your yoga practice. Your yoga teacher will encourage you to let go of everything and focus on your practice.

    Find a Moksha yoga studio near you.

    CorePower Yoga

    Heat index: How hot is a CorePower yoga class? CorePower offers a variety of classes with a temperature between 93 - 105 degrees F

    CorePower Yoga is among the most vigorous and multi-disciplinary yoga styles that empower and strengthen the mind, body, and spirit. Practicing hot yoga assists yoga students in learning how to communicate with their minds and body. Also, students learn how to access their spiritual core, which helps them achieve inner power. This inner power gives the students the foundation to access the mental strength that helps them focus during yoga practice. Also, the students assess their physical ability, which is vital for performing challenging yoga poses.

    CorePower Yoga is also known as power vinyasa yoga, and many consider it an Ashtanga yoga style. Beryl Bender Birch, who was an Ashtanga Yoga teacher, is the one who named this yoga practice "CorePower Yoga." The style was introduced to the west by disciples of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, a famous Sanskrit professor. Pattabhi shared his philosophies and knowledge on his method of Ashtanga Yoga. After that, western yogis who appreciated the value of Ashtanga yoga began to teach it and ended up being referred to as CorePower Yoga.

    Most Core Power yoga studios provide different yoga class options. These classes range from introductory (level 1) to advanced (level 3). Mostly, students learn to level 1 in a yoga studio at room temperature and then levels 2 and 3 in a heated room. The heat helps in increasing the heart rate and burning of calories. Furthermore, CorePower yoga provides a hot yoga alternative, which follows the set series of 26 poses in a heated room. This option resembles Bikram yoga.

    How CorePower Yoga works

    The vigorous and strenuous nature of CorePower Yoga is what makes it work. This helps yogis achieve the desired results without experiencing the normal exhaustion one feels after a workout session. The main reason behind this is that CorePower Yoga contains the meditation and spiritual elements of Indian practice.

    "CorePower Yoga allows you to access both mental and physical practice."

    Health benefits of CorePower Yoga

    This yoga style can provide you with more benefits than what you can get from practicing one yoga style. The reason behind this is that CorePower Yoga involves various disciplines and styles. CorePower Yoga has fast-paced movements, which is a very effective way of remaining physically fit. As a result, you get endurance, strength, and flexibility, among other physical benefits.

    Incorporating breathing exercises in CorePower Yoga helps yoga students to achieve normalized breathing sequences and bigger lung capacity. As a result, students can manage and relieve stress and even deal with respiratory conditions like asthma. When you learn yoga poses and the strategies to focus on breathing, you will be able to understand the different methods for attaining inner focus and calmness.

    The Barkan Method

    Heat index: How hot is The Barkan method? The room is heated to 95-100 degrees F 

    This yoga style originated in Calcutta, India. Its founder, Jimmy Barkan, received certification from Ghosh's college in India and was the most senior teacher in Bikram yoga. The yoga classes in the Barkan method are conducted in a heated room. This helps in stretching and strengthening different parts of the body. Practicing this style helps to achieve essential balance, and it also restores your body to optimum health. Practicing this style consistently will help you experience mental, physical, and spiritual harmony in all areas of your life.

    The effects of the Barkan method

    • Physical the yoga postures in this method work both externally and internally. The poses help improve your heart, kidneys, spleen, and intestines. Also, this method benefits your joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles.

    • Mental – the discipline in Barkan's method strengthens your mind. This helps eliminate anxiety, stress, and depression. This method allows you to achieve a calm mind, a quiet brain, and deep relaxation.

    • Spiritual when you calm your mind and strengthen your body, you make yourself ready to undergo a transformational experience. The Barkan method helps balance the body, nourish the soul, and quiet the mind.

    Other types of yoga in the heat

    Yoga studios offer other types of yoga and exercises in a heated yoga studio. These types can beYogaa to the people, Evolation yoga, Hot barre, Hot Pilates, HoYogawer Fusion, Hot Vinyasa, body sculpt, and many others.

    Are you missing some yoga that is practiced in the heat? Please comment below, and we will add it to the list. 

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