Bikram yoga studios are popping up everywhere these days, but how safe is it really? All forms of exercise pose some risk of injury, even yoga, but not many of them carry the same risk of death compared with Bikram.
Bikram is a modern form of yoga named after its founder and uses 2 breathing exercises and 26 poses from the traditional Hatha yoga. The poses are done in the same sequence in each class, earning Bikram the name of ‘boot camp’ in the yoga community.
It is also referred to as hot yoga. The studio temperatures range from 80 to 100 degrees and the humidity is set at around 75%. There are a number of reasons for this. The first is that they are trying to replicate the weather conditions in India, where yoga was first developed. The second reason is to warm the muscles to relax them. The third reason is that the heat combined with the vigorous exercise can burn up to 1300 calories per 90 minute class. The fourth reason, which some practitioners claim, is that the sweating produced by the workout and the heat will eliminate toxins from the body. The fifth reason, as the founder claims, is to develop willpower, in other words, to keep sticking at the workout even under the difficult studio conditions.
However, there are a number of dangers inherent in hot yoga. It is not suitable for anyone with a heart condition, nor anyone with joint issues. It very dangerous due to the risk of dehydration from the heat and from sweating. The body needs to stay hydrated in order to perform its essential functions, and that includes maintaining a healthy circulatory system, which requires good blood volume. A lack of blood can lead to hypovolemic shock and death if it is not treated promptly.
Dehydration also causes an imbalance of electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. These are both essential for a range of bodily functions, particularly maintaining a regular heartbeat. If electrolytes are not replaced, it can lead to palpitations, which can lead to blood clots, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes, which can both be fatal.
Bikram may seem like a hot new yoga trend, but for many people, the risk is not worth the effort compared to other less extreme forms of yoga.