Bikram Yoga Doesn't Have to Be Hot to Be Good for You

Bikram yoga is equally effective at improving health whether the exercise is done in a heated room or a room at normal temperature, according to a new study.

The research was published in Experimental Physiology and carried out by investigators from Texas State University and the University of Texas at Austin.

Bikram yoga is popular worldwide and involves 26 poses performed in a room heated to 104 degrees. Despite its popularity, little is known about the health benefits associated with it and even less is known about the stipulation that it be carried out in a hot environment.

This is the first publication to date to isolate the effects of the heat in Bikram yoga, and it found that the heated environment did not play a role in causing improvements in vascular health.

The research showed, however, that Bikram yoga can reduce changes in the lining of blood vessels that are involved in the development and progression of heart disease. It also found that it can possibly delay the progression of atherosclerosis, which is a disease in which plaque builds up inside arteries and can cause heart attack or stroke. However, crucially, it found that it is not necessary for the yoga to be performed at a hot temperature to achieve those results.

Eighty participants were enrolled. The intervention lasted for 12 weeks and participants were asked to attend three Bikram yoga classes per week. One group practiced in the heat and the other in normal temperatures.

Stacy D. Hunter, corresponding author, said, “The new finding from this investigation was that the heated practice environment did not seem to play a role in eliciting improvements in vascular health with Bikram yoga. This is the first publication to date to show a beneficial effect of the practice in the absence of the heat.”

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