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Young woman practising Yoga

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Bikram yoga is a style of yoga that was popularised by famous yoga leader Bikram Choudhury in the early 1970s.

It is a form of hot yoga - the yoga studio is heated to 40°C. You will sweat a lot in a Bikram class, so make sure you drink lots of water before and after. All Bikram classes run for 90 minutes and the beginners series follows the same series of 26 yoga poses. So if you take a Bikram class in India or the UK or Denmark, it will be the same set of poses.

Yoga For Beginners: Everything You Need To Know

In a Bikram yoga class, the teacher won’t demonstrate the movements, they just simply speak, so you have to listen carefully to the verbal instructions. It’s meant to help practitioners stay in the moment, rather than being distracted by the teacher.

If you don’t think Bikram sounds right for you, try BKS Iyengar’s yoga or one of these different yoga styles.

WHERE DID BIKRAM YOGA ORIGINATE?

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Bikram Yoga was founded by yoga leader Bikram Choudhury in India. He was born in Calcutta in 1946 and started practicing yoga aged four. He practiced yoga for four to six hours a day at Ghosh’s College of Physical Education in Calcutta. He went on to win the National India Yoga Championship aged 13.

However, later aged 17, Bikram injured his knee while weight lifting and was told by European doctors he would never walk again. He went back to his yoga teacher in India - Bishnu Ghosh - and with his help, healed his knee through yoga.

Bikram went on to develop his own yoga sequence which would help heal both the body and the mind based on traditional hatha yoga asanas. He moved to Beverly Hills in California, USA in 1971 and became a prominent yoga teacher.

He founded Bikram’s Yoga College of India and has written many yoga books. There are now 82 official Bikram yoga studios around the world and millions of people follow his teachings.

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF BIKRAM YOGA?

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Hot Yoga Pose (Dandayamana Bibhaktapada Paschimottanasana)

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There are many health benefits associated with practicing Bikram yoga. These include:

Improved fitness and weight loss

Hot yoga speeds up your heart rate, so it works as a cardio workout as well as stretching and detoxing the body. Even though it is not the aim of yoga, you may find hot yoga helps you lose weight and improves your fitness if you practice regularly.

Improved flexibility

Bikram yoga is great for people with tight muscles. By practicing in a hot room, it allows tight muscles to soften and release faster. Flexible muscles means there is a lower risk of injury - tight muscles often restrict your range of movement, making it easier to injure yourself, so regular yoga helps keep your muscles supple and less prone to injury.

Increased strength

By working against gravity, Bikram yoga strengthens your bones and builds muscles. The more you practice Bikram, the stronger you will get.

Relieving stress

Yoga isn’t just about stretching the physical body, it’s also about calming the mind. The idea in yoga is to focus on moving the body in the present moment . You might find Bikram is a nice stress reliever.

WHERE CAN I GO TO A BIKRAM YOGA CLASS IN THE UK?

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Young people practicing bikram yoga together

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There is only one official Bikram Yoga studio in the UK - it’s called Bikram Yoga Bristol based in Bristol. You can view the full list of official Bikram studios across the world here.

There are now many versions of Bikram Yoga, simply labelled ‘hot yoga’. These aren’t official Bikram studios, however you may find that the sequences are very similar. The room is still heated up to 40°C. If you live in the capital, check out the best yoga courses in London here including Bikram courses.

WHAT SHOULD I WEAR TO A BIKRAM YOGA CLASS?

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Young women exercising yoga

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You should wear lightweight clothes because you will sweat a lot. Sweat-wicking clothing such as yoga shorts and a gym workout vest are perfect. Men often wear no top, just shorts. Some women prefer to wear a yoga sports bra with shorts.

Read more about yoga equipment here.

CONTROVERSY OVER BIKRAM CHOUDHURY

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There has been much criticism directed towards Bikram Choudhury over the years. He is known for running gruelling teacher training programmes, often yelling at his students, calling them names and swearing at them.

He was accused by six different women of rape and sexual assault since 2013, many of whom were on yoga teacher training courses at the time.

One of these women was his former lawyer who has also taken Bikram to court for sexually harassing her and firing her after she tried to investigate the rape claims from another victim. Bikram strongly denied the claims of sexual assault in court, saying “I don’t do that… I don’t have to" according to the LA Times. 

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