Bikram Choudhury is the creator of Bikram Yoga. Bikram’s style is a type of Hot Yoga practice. Bikram Yoga falls under the auspices of Hot Yoga because it is practiced in a heated room. In this series of postures, 26 asanas are performed twice, as well as two breathing exercises. The sequence of postures and the dialogue of the teacher leading the series is very set. The Yoga studio must also be heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity level of 40%. The class itself lasts for 90 minutes. These guidelines must be strictly followed in order for a Yoga class to be considered a Bikram Yoga class. Additionally, the Bikram style Yoga teacher must be certified by Bikram’s Yoga College of India. Any modulations of these criteria make the class a Hot Yoga class instead of a Bikram class.
The practice of Hot Yoga is a milder and more flexible form of Yoga practice. A Hot Yoga class is also practiced in a heated room, although the room does not necessarily need to be heated to 105 degrees or the humidity level quite as high. The Hot Yoga class itself may vary in length from an hour to an hour and a half. Hot Yoga classes may also deviate from Bikram’s set sequence of 26 asana poses and incorporate other poses, such as Sun Salutations, hip openers or restorative poses, in order to accommodate the students’ needs on any particular day.
Another substantial difference between a Bikram Yoga class and a Hot Yoga class is that a Bikram Yoga teacher does not demonstrate the poses; instead he or she simply leads the class and maintains the discipline of the structure of the practice. On the other hand, a Hot Yoga instructor is free to modify the posture sequence in order to tailor the class to the students’ needs and is also free to demonstrate the poses and correct a student’s alignment if needed. A student in a Bikram Yoga class is highly discouraged from leaving the heated room, even if he or she is faint or weak from the heat. A Bikram student is also dissuaded from drinking water outside of the pre-established water break times.
Bikram has developed an amazing, strong and extremely therapeutic series of Yoga asanas and breathing exercises to be practiced in a very hot and humid room and in a set order. Bikram style classes are only considered to be authentic Bikram classes if they are lead by certified Bikram Yoga teachers and are performed in the manner elucidated above. Hot Yoga classes are more flexible in all of these aspects. The class may be shorter, the room a little less hot and humid, and the teacher is more free to modify the asana sequence if need be. As a student or a prospective Yoga teacher, it is wise to experiment and decide which type of Hot Yoga class works best for yourself and your students. It may be that taking or teaching some traditional Bikram classes and some heated classes would “fit the bill” most appropriately.