There are a number of different kinds of yoga being taught these days, some ancient, and others modern. Bikram is a modern invention derived from Hatha yoga, the most traditional form of yoga that dates back more than 5,000 years.
Bikram is also commonly referred to as hot yoga, though not all hot yoga studios these days are Bikram. 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 Hatha breathing exercises and 26 Hatha yoga postures out of the thousands available. They are done in the same sequence every lesson, earning Bikram the popular name of bootcamp.
Yoga means union, the union of body, mind, and spirit. Bikram focuses on the physical. Also unlike the principles of yoga, Bikram is competitive, with participants struggling to do the perfect pose.
The sequence of poses is dune in 90 minutes, goes through all the postures, and is performed in a hot and humid studio, with temperatures from 80F to 110F and a humidity of around 75%. The heat is believed to burn more calories and help people lose weight. It is also supposed to relax the muscles in order to build longer and leaner muscle faster. The hot studio 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.
The trouble is that it is a very vigorous workout, so it is not suitable for seniors or anyone with joint problems. It is also dangerous to anyone with an underlying health issue such as a heart condition. Even healthy people can quickly become ill due to dehydration caused by the extreme heat and the profuse sweating triggered by the workout. Severe dehydration can lead to hypovolemic shock and possibly death.
Many people complain that Bikram studios are very intense and unfriendly. Others describe them as cult-like.
The main advantage of Bikram is the simplicity of doing one sequence over and over again. If you like the postures of Bikram, you should be able to do them anywhere to improve your body without dying of dehydration. Put safety first and you should soon find the right yoga style for you.