Yoga runs the gamut from still meditation classes to intense Ashtanga series, but Bikram yoga has the unique characteristic of heat as a key factor in the practice. Many people believe that all that sweating will make them lose fat, but they fail to understand that sweating isn't what makes you lose fat -- it's what's making you sweat that determines fat loss. Although Bikram yoga won't get rid of your love handles by itself, it can be an important part of your journey toward fitness.
Bikram yoga is a form of Hatha yoga developed by yogi Bikram Choudhury. The practice consists of a series of 26 poses performed in precise sequence in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Choudhury chose the particular postures because they provide both stretching and strengthening, and when done properly in sequence, they work every part of the body. Bikram yoga is not something you can do at home -- the high room temperature is a vital component of the practice, as proponents believe it induces toxins to leave your body as you sweat.
The Sweat Factor
If you weigh yourself before and after a Bikram yoga session, you may indeed be a few pounds lighter -- but this isn't real weight loss. The 105-degree temperature combines with the 40 percent humidity to make the room feel like 149 degrees Fahrenheit. That's very hot, hotter than a sauna, and it makes you sweat copiously. Of course, this is the whole point of Bikram yoga, and the loss of water weight leads some people to believe they have actually done wonders for their weight-loss plan. Unfortunately, the weight you lose during class will come right back as soon as you drink a glass of water.
Benefits and Limitations
Real fat loss happens when you burn more calories than you feed your body, so it begins to feed off of the triglycerides stored in your fat cells. This is a slow process that yoga does not induce. If you're a couch potato, doing yoga will increase your day's calorie burn, but not nearly as much as a run or a bike ride. Aerobic exercise should be your focus when trying to lose weight. What yoga can do, however, is strengthen your muscles, increase your flexibility and provide some quiet time to help you relieve stress. All of these things contribute to your overall fitness.
Bikram yoga studios are very, very hot. You can become dangerously dehydrated in a matter of minutes, and you can easily overexert yourself. Don't rush into it if you're not already doing yoga at an intermediate level, and especially if you're new to exercise in general. During your first class, hold each pose only for a breath or two, then sit quietly and let your body acclimate to the heat. Gradually work into sitting less and holding poses longer during subsequent sessions, and drink water continuously throughout the class. If you feel dizzy, faint, overheated or you stop sweating, remove yourself from the room immediately.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.