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health benefits of bikram yoga

Finally There’s Proof Hot Yoga Is a Scam

The health benefits of yoga have been known for centuries by yogis and practitioners, but science is only beginning to catch up to providing proof — or, in the case of ‘hot’ yoga, busting a myth wide open.

A new study, published in the journal Experimental Physiology, has found Bikram yoga to be no better for health than the same yoga postures at room temperature.

Bikram yoga was founded by Bikram Choudhury and popularized primarily in the West, after Choudhury emigrated to the US in the 70s. One of its tenets is that its 26 poses be performed in a room heated to 40°C, giving it with the nickname ‘hot yoga.’ It grew to prominence from celebrity endorsements, even as many of us here gave it a turmeric latte-esque side eye.

That side-eye has now been justified. While the research showed that Bikram yoga can, like other schools of yoga, benefit cardiovascular health, it also found practicing Bikram poses yields the same effects at room temperature.

The small-scale study — funded by yoga advocacy group Pure Action Inc — followed 80 participants, who underwent preliminary screening before taking three 90-minute Bikram yoga classes each week for 12 weeks. One group took these classes at the prescribed 40°C; one group took these classes at room temperature; and one group, the control group, did nothing. While the hot yoga group displayed a incremental drop in body fat compared to the other two — possibly due to higher energy output — measures of health like blood pressure, blood sugar level, cholesterol level and others, improved similarly across both yoga groups, compared to the control.

“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,” said Stacy D. Hunter, the study’s lead author and research director for Pure Action Inc. “This is the first publication to date to show a beneficial effect of the practice in the absence of the heat.”

We can’t put our side-eye to bed entirely — it’s obviously in the interest of Pure Action, Inc, to prove all yoga beneficial. Still, it’s nice to see the health benefits of yoga legitimized by being under the microscope at all.

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