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by Danielle Clark-Fox, DPT

Yoga and physical therapy

Being quite a bit of a yoga aficionado I finally decided to do a little background and clinical research into these latest yoga trends. In retrospect, I may have chosen the best topic to blog about, since I didn’t know that hot yoga and Bikram yoga are two very different practices!

Hot yoga is a version of Hatha practice, performed in a room 95-100 degrees farenheight. Each instructor is free to place their own spin on each class and class time may vary from location to location.

Bikram yoga was created in 1974 by Bikram Choudhury. Each class is 90 minutes in length and is comprised of a series of 26 postures (asana) and 2 breathing exercises. The room is 105 degrees at 40% humidity. Bikram yoga seeks to replicate yogic conditions in India which are believed to purify and detox the body, aka “sweating out the toxins”.

Advocates of Bikram yoga claim this particular style of practice generates deeper stretching, prevents injury, decreases stress and tension and improves blood circulation as well as burn more calories than more traditional styles of practice. Most clinical evidence states that yoga has the same general health benefits as any other form of exercise when each is practiced consistently.

So what are some of the precautions or downsides of Bikram? The three most common side effects of Bikram yoga are nausea, dizziness and syncope (passing out). People are not advised to eat 2 hours before each class, but drink plenty of water before and after. People with a history of stroke, cardiac conditions, blood pressure issues or angina should be cleared by their physician before embarking on their Bikram yoga voyage.

So to sum up all my little research endeavors, if you would like to try Bikram yoga go for it! Just make sure to be cleared by your physician if you have any pertinent past medical factors. The practice of yoga is a means for the body to balance with the mind and was created over 5000 years ago to find quiet space within the mind and body, and each person should decide which style of practice best achieves this goal. Any advantage one has over another is purely anecdotal at this time.

Dr. Fox is a physical therapist at Boston Sports Medicine.