The benefits of Bikram yoga

I’ve been on a Bikram binge. Now it’s over, what’s my verdict?

A quick backgrounder: I signed up as a yoga novice for a £35/30-day unlimited classes offer at my local Bikram studio in a bid to improve my suppleness, flexibility and joint strength. I run and cycle frequently, so figured that something lower-impact would be a good way to supplement my 2015 fitness regime. And in the depths of winter, a roasting hot yoga studio has a lot more going for it than cold, wet circuits of Richmond Park…

The good: Where do I start? Some people are put off Bikram yoga by the heat – practice takes place in a studio heated to a sultry 40degC. Wonderful in the depths of winter, and I love the heat, so for me this was a massive bonus.

I managed to fit in 3-4 Bikram sessions a week and by the end of my 30-day membership:

  • I had lost half a stone. Whoop whoop!
  • I was able to run further with less effort: my lungs felt stronger and my breathing was more controlled.
  • My average running pace had increased.
  • I was feeling full of energy and motivation (hello, exercise-induced endorphins!).
  • My upper arms were tighter and stronger.

The bad: Each Bikram yoga session lasts 90 minutes, during which you follow a set pattern of moves led by a teacher. For me, trying to find time for this on a regular basis was quite a challenge and there’s no way I could maintain my 3/4 classes a week attendance. There’s also no way you could do without a full-on shower and hairwash after every practice given the amount of sweat that pours off. Nope, this is not an exercise habit that you can squeeze into a lunch hour.

The ugly: Definitely the size of the laundry pile. Hitting the studio on a regular basis means having to deal with a heap more washing than usual. Small price to pay, though, for the physical and mental benefits.

My verdict: Definitely recommend as a cross-training practice to support cardio activities as well as boost strength, suppleness and joint health. I feel in great shape for skiing, re-enthused for running, and am looking forward to seeing how much difference Bikram will make once I get back on my bike in prep for this year’s RideLondon-Surrey 100 miler.

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