Recently, Tracy Rose from Healthline got in touch with me about writing a guest post for my blog. We talked a bit about a topic that might be of interest, and decided to go with something yoga-related since yoga is something that can complement running, but that I know nothing about and can't really do much posting about myself. Well, she's gotten back to me with an article on hot yoga by Valerie Johnston of Healthline. Enjoy, and if you have any questions, you can reach Healthline's Twitter account here!
Is Bikram Yoga Mainstream?
There was a time when Madonna's participation in hot yoga and Kabbalah was a topic of regular tutting in the gossip press. Not so much anymore - well, at least not the yoga. These days half of Hollywood, from Ashton Kutcher to Lady Gaga, dabbles in hot yoga. Even soccer moms are taking part. Is it time to call Bikram Yoga mainstream? Here's a little background and a few signs widespread acceptance may be at hand.
Not all hot yoga is the same, but most of the time when people use the term, they're referring to Bikram Yoga. Still, it's important to know the difference. Hot yoga is simply any set of yoga exercises conducted under hot, humid conditions. The heat is used to increase participants' flexibility as they enter, maintain and move between poses. The idea is essentially to replicate the hot, humid conditions of southern India, where many forms of yoga originated. Other forms of hot yoga include Forrest Yoga, Power Yoga and TriBalance Yoga.
But Bikram Yoga is the most widely known and practiced form of hot yoga. It was devised by Indian guru Bikram Choudhury, who synthesized hatha yoga techniques into a new form of exercise. His sessions, which last 90 minutes and include 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises, began to gain popularity in the 1970s, later picking up early adherents such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bikram Yoga is practiced in a room with the temperature set at 105 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity at 40 percent.
Bikram's invention has exploded in popularity in recent years - and made him a fabulously wealthy man. To the anger of many of his fellow Indians, who believe he violated ancient cultural traditions, he patented his techniques and now earns millions of dollars a year from the ever-growing industry of studios that use his methods. Even paramilitary groups rely on Bikram: the Buckingham Palace guards in London use it to prepare for their shifts standing in the sweltering heat.
And as Bikram Yoga grows in membership and name recognition, it's inevitably starting to lose some of its cachet as a strange, cutting edge lifestyle choice. When Madonna does something new, it's pretty startling. When George Clooney jumps on board, it's usually because he thinks it's a good idea, not because it's perceived as radical.
All hot yoga has safety issues, and Bikram Yoga is no different. Dehydration from excessive sweating is always a concern, as is overheating and even heat stroke. It's definitely not recommended for those with heart problems, breathing problems or high blood pressure. Some medications can interact adversely with increased heat, including those for depression, insomnia and high blood pressure. These issues are considerably more prevalent in hot yoga than in other types of yoga. And many of the claims of Bikram Yoga's unique benefits have yet to be established scientifically.
But the mystique surrounding its dangers has mostly worn off. The method attracts many athletes and people whose careers and lifestyles demand peak physical fitness, but it is also attracting regular yoga devotees from everyday professions. The day may not be far off when studios will start popping up in small towns across the country.
Of course, the problem with health movements is that everything keeps moving. By the time the latest exercise craze or diet fad has gone mainstream, the trendsetters - and next the masses - have moved on. Bikram Yoga may not suffer that fate. But the signs suggest it's already headed toward a place among the culturally acceptable healthcare regimens. The question is whether it can do as well .as a middle-of-the-road exercise routine as it did as a phenomenon.
Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for Healthline.com ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.