Hot Yoga is a trend that has taken off in the last several years. A phenomenon of its own, as 5000 years ago there was no hot yoga – just yoga. So then the question is – what is Hot Yoga?
Original Hot Yoga – BIKRAM
The original Hot Yoga was created during the 1970s by Bikram Chaudhary, who organized yoga poses into a strict 26 pose sequence with 2 breathing exercises and called it Bikram Yoga. In this class, poses are held for a deep stretch and repeated twice. Every class is 90 minutes and repeats the same sequence every class. Therefore no matter where in the country you go Bikram Yoga will be exactly the same.
Bikram Yoga soon became popular with celebrities and notable people. Its appeal was in the extreme heat 105 degree room with a 40% humidity level. That is just the starting temperature of the room and then once you add students the temperature soars. There is a whole world of teachers who compete for the hottest classes and raise the temperatures to 110 or 115. But I digress.
Bikram’s popularity increased and in an effort to protect his creation, franchised studios who wanted to bring Bikram Yoga to their neighborhood. As a copyrighted sequence (recently that was re-evaluted in a case with Yoga to the People) and a franchise organization – Bikram has had no qualms going after small local studios who offered Bikram Yoga without franchise/royalty agreements.
So then what is Hot Yoga?
The term HOT YOGA became popular by those devoted to the 26 pose sequence looking to offer the class without fear of litigation – and hence offered Bikram yoga under the alias Hot Yoga.
This is where is becomes slightly confusing.
Hot Yoga ALSO has been used to include Vinyasa or Power Yoga styles.
In actuality, hot yoga is any yoga style variation done in a heated room. Some classes refer to 80 degrees as Hot Yoga and some refer to 95 degrees as Hot Yoga. Typically, the room is 90-100 degrees F. Notable names of heated vinyasa styles are: Baptiste Power Yoga, Bryan Kest Power Yoga, Jimmy Barkan – Barkan Method of Hot Yoga.
Therefore, reading the description of a class called HOT YOGA is important to understand if it is following the 26 poses or a more Vinyasa (flow) style.
Vinyasa/Power Yoga classes are continuous movements where each pose is linked together by breath and the continuous movement begins to generate heat from within. Vinyasa Yoga & Power Yoga lends itself to more creative interpretation as it is not always bound by a set sequence. Some teachers may choose to follow a classic Baptiste, Barkan Method class or simply have their class be inspired by their style leaving it to the teacher to uniquely sequence. Whereas every Bikram class in the country will be the same – it is not guaranteed that any 2 Vinyasa classes will be the same.
- A broader array of arm balances, inversions, breathing techniques and meditation can be explored in Vinyasa versus in a classic Bikram class.
- Vinyasa/Power Yoga styles emphasizes internal heat to purge toxins and stretch whereas Bikram emphasizes combating a sweltering room to detox and stretch.
- Bikram Yoga is a repetitious practice and therefore does not lend itself to variation in Vinyasa.
There is no right or wrong to Hot Yoga – understanding and experiencing various classes helps to better choose the class/studio that best fits your preferences for heat, styles (static vs. flow) and exploration of yoga poses/philosophy.