Frequently Asked Questions
Common Concerns and Myths vs. Facts
The Original Hot Yoga (a.k.a. Bikram Yoga) is an incredible tool for healing, anti-inflammation, reversal of most chronic disease processes, mental health transformation, and slowing of the “normal” aging process.
At the same time, there are many myths, a general lack of knowledge, and much misinformation that is perpetuated about Bikram Yoga and “hot yoga”.
Most medical professionals are not educated about the research, physiology, or mechanisms of this healing method, but they often make recommendations or restrictions regarding the practice. It is simply not their realm of expertise.
And the overwhelming majority of American yoga teachers have little to no understanding of the principles of our traditional Indian practice.
So, there is no need to feel bad if you have been misled or simply unaware. You might have heard something on internet “journalism” or at another yoga studio, or even from a well-meaning physician.
But – right here, and all throughout our website – you can get the facts, as well as some answers to your questions and concerns. So that you can make the best choice for yourself.
We at Yoga Is Medicine are here not only to guide your yoga practice and encourage your healing process, but also to educate the public and all yoga students about therapeutic hatha yoga in North America. Below are a few common questions – as well as specific misconceptions – that we have seen or heard over the years.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have further questions or would like to set up an interview, intake lesson, or consulting appointment.
Common Questions & Concerns
The heat and humidity in The Original Hot Bikram Yoga creates specific conditions in the body when practicing our signature posture sequence and method*, as follows:
- Significantly greater reduction of inflammation vs. practice at room temperature
- Dramatic improvements in VO2 max scores (i.e. aerobic efficiency) vs. room temperature practice.
- Dramatic improvements in respiratory function, and decrease in asthmatic conditions vs. practice at room temperature.
- Significant reduction in depressive symptoms vs. non-heated practices.
- Greater reduction of LDL cholesterol vs. practice at room temperature
- Increase in the tourniquet effect, which is the major mechanism of physiological benefit in traditional yoga asana. (All yoga practice must consist of 1) posture held in stillness for at least 20 seconds, followed by 2) complete rest for 20 seconds.) The tourniquet effect results in improved oxygenation of tissues as well as improved removal of waste products and/or inflammation from interstitial spaces.
- For more narratives and commentary on the heat and anti-inflammation, you may wish to read our book on Bikram Yoga and autoimmune disease.
*It is important to know that The Original Hot / Bikram Yoga is not a hot fitness class, nor a hot exercise class using yoga postures. These particular benefits of the heat come from the specific combination of the prescribed heat/humidity, plus the principles of stillness followed by rest, plus nose-breathing, plus the particular posture techniques, plus the concentration aspects of our yoga tradition.
This is a common and very exciting question! If you have read our website, or talked to even a handful of regular Bikram Yoga practitioners, the number of conditions and diagnoses that are healed or reduced by this practice may be almost overwhelming.
Clinical research has only begun to show what we know, and it still can only speculate on the mechanisms by which this yoga works.
However, after 20+ years experience in this lineage, and just as much reading and personal research on the topic, one thing has become abundantly clear:
The Original Hot / Bikram Yoga reduces inflammation in the body. If you read through testimonials or chat with regular practitioners, you will learn that the majority of their chronic issues had inflammatory responses at the root.
Allergies, asthma, autoimmune, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, high cholesterol, issues relating to blood sugar and insulin resistance, hormonal imbalances, menstrual symptoms, menopausal discomforts, depression, and more.
Yes, the success in reducing depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and other conditions placed in the realm of psychiatry and psychology…is stunning!
(Check out the 2023 Harvard / Massachusetts General Hospital study for one research example.)
It is the specific combination of techniques, methods, and conditions in The Original Hot Bikram Yoga which create the efficacy for transformation in mental and emotional realms:
- heat and humidity just slightly above body temperature
- regulated nose-breathing, which regulates the autonomic nervous system and influences stress levels, anxiety, and depression
- stillness in postures
- quiet awareness of what is in the moment
- attempt to concentrate word-by-word and moment-by-moment, creating more purposeful orientation to the present, past, and/or future
- observation of thought as a detached observer; recognition of thought forms and emotional responses as options rather than inevitabilities
- cultivation of mental and concentration discipline
Myths vs. Facts
Facts: No, not at all! But we do realize that it can be confusing, and that many people are misinformed. Some unrelated “hot yoga” businesses even claim that what they do is Bikram/Original Hot Yoga. Even the google search engines don’t know the difference. So no need to feel bad if you had it wrong.
In summary: Bikram Yoga was – and still is – the Original Hot Yoga, and this is what we teach and practice at Yoga Is Medicine. Many of the Ghosh lineage/Bikram Yoga schools around the world have changed their name to “hot yoga” yet have remained true to the principles of our lineage.
On the other hand, there are hundreds of “hot yoga” studios in the United States that are completely unrelated to our therapeutic tradition, are not part of the Bikram & Ghosh lineage, and are not affiliated with our roots in Kolkata, India.
Although the heat is a wonderful tool, it is only one part of Bikram Yoga that makes it work. The meditative instructional method, the posture sequence, a solid and traceable teaching lineage, and the core principles of the lineage will only be found at Original Hot Yoga schools. Read our blog post on the topic here.
Fact: We have a specific, anatomically-informed, and prescribed way of teaching modifications for any and all postures. This accomplishes the following:
- Maximum and intended circulatory benefit
- Development of patience and acceptance
- Safety for the muscles and joints
Modifying a posture should be undertaken with guidance of the instructor and/or yoga school director. We observe each student during class to assess which modifications may be needed.
Chairs, wall-support, and towels are needed in a small number of cases, and we are happy to discuss or demonstrate these options when needed. We encourage private lessons with our school director if you would like one-on-one support.
Fact: There is nothing inherently “competitive” about Bikram Yoga, although we do appreciate the roots of the word “compete”: together + to seek.
This practice starts out with what you bring to it, and then it becomes what you make of it. If you bring competitiveness or comparison with you, you will get to watch those qualities melt away as you practice regularly and learn to direct your mind in healthy, healing ways. With the right intention, the focus and discipline in Bikram Yoga actually help to eliminate comparison and competitiveness within just a few months of regular practice.
The teachers and yoga students at Yoga Is Medicine support each other in being present, in appreciating each person’s uniqueness, and in not giving up. In this support, we all elevate our energy, our thoughts, and our healing process.
There is a tradition in India of yoga demonstrations and championships, which were supported by yoga great B.K.S. Iyengar. Our teacher Rajashree Choudhury has a many-decade history of involvement in these events. As part of an Indian lineage, some Ghosh lineage and Bikram Yoga practitioners participate in the USA Yoga championships and the International Yoga Sports Federation events held each year. The goal of these events is to inspire youth to take up a hatha yoga practice as their physical activity of choice.
Fact: There were some attempts to create a franchise out of the Bikram Yoga method, but none ever took hold. We have always been mom-and-pop shops; built, founded, directed, loved, led, and sustained by lineage-trained Bikram Yoga teachers.
Although internet journalism often refers to a “franchise” or “global empire” of Bikram Yoga, it has no foundation in fact or history. I personally conducted a survey of dozens of studio owners in 2016 and found that not a single one paid any form of franchise fees to the former Bikram Yoga headquarters.
Safe Space Policy
At BYCA, we welcome and support all individuals, yet we have a zero-tolerance policy for any forms of harassment, manipulation, abuse, or other “unsafe” or purposefully disruptive behaviors.
Frequently Asked Questions and Concerns
Another common misconception!
The reality is that our school – and Bikram Yoga in general – has many students over the age of 70. Many go from the couch directly to Bikram Yoga, and many students adjust to the practice by simply sitting still in the room for a few classes before trying the postures. Some students practice from wheelchairs and others use a chair at first. All of this is possible in every class, with consultation and guidance from our teachers.
And yes, this is also the yoga of choice of many current and former professional and collegiate athletes. It is designed for the unfit and the fit, and effective for everyone in between.
That’s OK! Most people do not at the beginning.
However, heat acclimation is actually very important for your health and can be initially achieved within 3 weeks of 3 classes per week. Over time, as you learn how to breath well, you will hardly notice the heat. This is a sign of good health!
The maximum health benefits have been shown to occur at 105F and 40% humidity, but we also offer two WARM classes per week – Tuesday 9:00 am and Thursday 5:45 pm – which are about 10 degrees cooler. We invite you to try these first if you have concerns about the heat.
The environment at our school is extremely well-regulated to promote maximum health benefit and does not exceed normal earth temperatures and humidity levels. This is not movement-based exercise in a hot room and is very different from other things called “hot yoga”. Our method allows for each student to work at her or his own pace and rest in stillness at any point during class. Even those with heat intolerance and menopausal symptoms adjust with a regular practice (in fact, hot flashes usually go away within a few weeks).
Kids’ Night is held at the warm Thursday evening class and is FREE for any child (under the age of 14) whose parent is taking class. Contact us for questions or more details. Contact us for questions or more details.
We firmly believe that people will commit to a transformative yoga practice when they are ready, regardless of finances. However, for those on a very strict budget, we have a Karma Yoga scholarship program which reduces tuition to less than $13/week for those who are willing to assist us at the school. Please sign up for our introductory month for $49 and practice 8-10 times within that month. If, after that, you still feel unable to afford tuition, please contact us to inquire about our scholarship opportunities.
We also have a full scholarship option for those at a certain income threshold who have a medical or therapeutic need for a regular practice.
Read more on our scholarship page HERE.
No portion of our revenue is sent to Bikram Choudhury – we are as local and independent as you can get. We acknowledge that Bikram Choudhury (creator of the yoga system) has had controversy in his personal life and has said some tremendously disrespectful things, and we do not defend or support those types of behaviors or statements in any way.
However, the yoga and its benefits are much bigger and more profound than all of that. The yoga system – not the creator or his personality – is what we benefit from and share. We ask that you trust your direct experience at our school rather than gossip or sensational journalism.
We apprentice teachers who have practiced and trained in the Bikram Yoga lineage and under the Original Hot Yoga Association guidelines, because we have found that these provide the most rigorous and disciplined foundation for yoga teaching and effective yoga therapy. We are currently retaining the name “Bikram Yoga” in our school name because the yoga itself is so unique and effective; we do not want it to get confused with “hot yoga” or diluted in any way.
The less the better. The more skin of your legs and torso that are exposed, the cooler you will be. Please do not bring a hand towel for wiping sweat; allowing the sweat to stay on your body and evaporate will help you cool down quicker.
Those who are concerned about how their body looks will find relief in our yoga method and our extremely non-judgmental, supportive, body-positive community. During class you will be so highly focused on the internal sensations, verbal instructions, and breathing – the negativity about your appearance and the comparisons with other bodies will literally melt away.
Make sure that you have had the equivalent of three glasses of water (24-30 ounces) in the 2 hours before class, and as a beginner, please bring another 30 ounces of water into the room with you. You will learn about your hydration needs as you practice regularly and as you learn how to breathe better.
Pure water is best – Gatorade and other sugary sports drinks are not recommended during class, as they cause the body to digest and divert blood away from the skin and muscles.
The amount you practice will lead to different levels of benefit. A daily practice for 60 days is highly recommended for beginners who are committed to the most noticeable transformation in their health and well-being. In general, Bikram Yoga should be practiced at least 3-4 times per week for the full range of therapeutic benefits to take effect. Those who practice once or twice per week will still notice significant improvements in mobility, concentration, respiratory function, and emotional balance. Interventional research on the 90-minute class shows definite improvement in cardiovascular function, reduced cholesterol, and balanced blood sugar at a rate of 3 times per week, and reduction in mild-to-moderate depression and anxiety at a rate of 2 times per week.
Absolutely. However, there are very specific guidelines for pregnancy. First, although core temperature has been found to remain at a safe temperature in Bikram Yoga, the medical community wants to make sure that core temperature does not rise during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Hundreds of women around the world have practiced Rajashree’s Pregnancy Yoga within the Bikram Yoga classroom during all phases of pregnancy with no adverse effects (and very good birth outcomes), but we have to officially recommend that you take the first trimester of pregnancy to take one or two private, non-heated, prenatal classes with us and practice at home until Week 12. You may return to the “hot room” for the 2nd and 3rd trimesters as long as you have established at least 6 months of a regular practice prior to pregnancy.
Our director has been trained by Rajashree Choudhury in her Pregnancy Yoga system, practiced Rajashree’s Pregnancy Yoga throughout her entire pregnancy, and has assisted pregnant women with their yoga practices since 2006.
Absolutely! It is exciting to see and maintain the natural range of motion of the human spine, prior to stress and injury.
Prior to puberty and sweat-gland development, most kids do better in a warm class or in the second half of class only.
We strongly recommend the Thursday 5:45 pm warm class, which is free of charge for any child under 14 (practicing with a parent who is paid). It is well attended by youth, parents, and grandparents alike!
Youth ages 14+ may practice the entire class at any beginners’ classtime. We ask that youth 16 and under practice a class or two with a parent prior to attending on their own, and a parent signature is required for all under 18, prior to their first class.
One of the best things about this yoga is that you do not even need to be able to stand up to participate. Most chronic medical conditions are improved by this yoga, but we are happy to discuss special needs with you or your medical professionals. Please contact the director in advance if you are unsure about your ability to practice. We have good relationships with other health professionals in the community and will help you personally if any particular movements need to be avoided.
A consistent, comprehensive system for beginning students is extremely important in order to:
- build mastery and discipline
- develop subtlety and depth of understanding
- maintain safety before advancing
- improve strength and mobility of every single joint in every class
- train the mind to look for internal differences rather than external stimuli
Rather than the sequence changing, YOU change! As you learn to pay better attention, look for the details, and steady your focus, you will experience that every single class is different. Once you have created sufficient mastery of stillness and form in the beginning system, we offer intermediate and advanced levels. This usually takes a minimum of 250 classes or 2 years of near-daily practice.
No. All schools in the Bikram-Ghosh lineage are completely independent, locally owned and directed, small businesses. However, we are very closely connected by a common training lineage and by an overflowing love for this practice. We maintain the integrity and consistency of the yoga system because we have seen it work so well over so many decades. Most of us own and operate our yoga schools out of sheer passion for sharing the life-changing benefits of Bikram Yoga with the world.
Facts: To the best of our knowledge and based on extensive surveys, there is no operating franchise. Every school we know that teaches Bikram Yoga is just as independent a business as any other yoga studio. We are not part of a franchise and do not pay fees to any corporate or franchising organization. Contrary to popular myth and journalistic error, there is not – and never was – a “global empire” of schools owned by Bikram Choudhury or anyone else.
The owner of Yoga Is Medicine and many other leading schools in the Bikram Yoga lineage operate primarily for the public health of their communities. At Yoga Is Medicine, all profits generated are returned to the community in the form of scholarships, community service, fundraiser donations, educational programming, and other health activism projects.