There are a number of different kinds of yoga being taught these days, some ancient, and others modern inventions which emphasize different aspect of yoga.
Yoga means union, the union of mind, body and spirit. The best yogas, will combine them all. However, many yogas focus many on the poses, or asanas. Bikram, on the other hand, is a modern invention that emphasizes physical strength. It is commonly referred to as hot yoga, though not all hot yoga these days is Bikram. It is also commonly referred to by others who do yoga as ‘boot camp’.
Bikram (pronounced BEAK-Rahm), was founded by Bengali yoga teacher Bikram Choudhury, who came to the US in the 1970s via Hawaii and California.
Bikram is relatively simple in some ways because it uses only 2 breathing exercises and 26 Hatha yoga postures out of the thousands available. The goal is to improve the strength of the body by doing the same pattern in each class every day with no variations, as if you were being drilled in the army.
Each classes is 90 minutes, goes through all the postures, and is performed in a hot and humid studio. Temperatures range from 80F to 110F and the relative humidity is kept at around 75%. The heat is believed to burn more calories and help people lose weight. It is also believed to emulate the conditions in India under which yoga was first developed and practiced.
The heat is also supposed to help boost the immune system and increase will power. Having said that, the down side is that Bikram yoga constitutes a vigorous workout in conditions which could be very dangerous to anyone with an underlying health issue such as a heart condition, or those with joint issues.
Dehydration due to the extreme heat, vigorousness and sweating is also common, and can pose a serious health risk. Dehydration can lead to an irregular heart beat and to lower blood volume, since most of our important bodily fluids are made up of water. Low blood volume can lead to hypovolemic shock which can lead to death if not treated promptly.
If you like the postures of Bikram, you should be able to do them anywhere to improve your body without dying of heat prostration. One other thing to note is Bikram is often referred to as ‘cult-like’ rather than warm and welcoming.
Any exercise is better than none, of course, but there are a range of yogas to choose from, so pick a studio and style that are safest and healthiest for you.