Many styles of hot yoga have become very popular especially in the west, particularly Bikram yoga. This style of yoga was popularized in the 1970s by Bikram Choudhury. While it is rooted in Hatha yoga, it varies from tradition in its fast pace, focuses on strengthening and increasing the heart rate with its heat-intensive environment. Bikram also encourages competition, which some may argue contradicts the underlying principles of Hatha yoga which are more about peace and unity.

I found myself drawn to this type of yoga. It seemed like the challenge I needed. I tried to complete the 30-day challenge: 30 Bikram classes in 30 days. I stopped because my body begged me to. I felt like I had failed. However, years later, when I dove further into my yoga studies, I found some compassion for myself. When I began to study Ayurveda, I learned that I was simply practicing the wrong type of yoga for my dosha! I have come to believe that Bikram yoga should probably only be practiced by Kapha doshas or by no one at all. In studying yoga, I learned it is most important to listen to your body. In Bikram, individuals are pushed very hard even when they are showing signs of pain and dizziness. In fact, they are encouraged to stay in the room even if they are very dizzy. This can be very difficult to do when the room is heated to over 40°C.

I have a Vata-Pitta constitution. Vata is predominant while Pitta is a very close second. Vata is air and ether, and these are people who are very fast-paced, often anxious, and often cold. Pitta is fire and water, and these are people who are hot, fiery, and quick as well. Ayurveda teaches us that it is very common for individuals to be drawn to similar qualities as themselves. It makes sense that like attracts like. However, adding more of the same elements to an already dominant dosha easily puts us into imbalance. 

This is how I found Bikram yoga to affect me. Adding more movements and quick motions to my already anxious mind and body seemed to only send my mind and heart into a faster race. Adding more fire to my Pitta dominance seemed to quickly overheat me. Essentially, it became the perfect storm to create imbalance. The relaxation I believed to feel after these classes were more of physical exhaustion. I was often feeling dizzy and unable to stand or perform tasks for the remainder of the day. This is not what a yoga practice should bring. In fact, research has found some negative effects of Bikram practice, including the consequences of extreme low salt levels caused by excessive sweating and water drinking. If you are doing this practice, it is vital you replenish your electrolytes after every single class.

Just because you’re drawn to something does not mean that it will be good for you. Tune into your body and listen to it! It knows what you need better than your ego does.

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