Bikram's Yoga, also known as Hot Yoga, is a style of yoga developed by Bikram Choudhury and a Los Angeles, California based company. Bikram Yoga is ideally practiced in a room heated to 105°F (40.5°C) with a humidity of 40%. Classes are guided by specific dialogue including 26 postures and two breathing exercises. Classes last approximately 90-minutes. Beginners may take Bikram's yoga classes.
Choudhury currently lives in Beverly Hills and teaches at his self-founded Bikram's Yoga College of India in Los Angeles. Before emigrating to the United States, Bikram was trained at the Bishnu Ghosh school in Calcutta, India. Controversially, Bikram holds a U.S. copyright on his yoga, and yoga instructors must undergo a paid training and certification process to teach it. Bikram has over 500 studios throughout the world, and there are still new studios opening up regularly. (Skajian, 2007).
Bikram or hot yoga is a series of yoga poses done in a heated room, which is usually maintained at a temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 40 degrees Celsius). A vigorous yoga session at this temperature promotes profuse sweating, which is said to rid the body of toxins. It also makes the body very warm, and supposedly therefore more flexible.
Bikram yoga is a system of wellness, restoration and rejuvenation. The heated studio facilitates deeper stretching, prevents injury, relieves stress and tension and detoxifies the body. Bikram yoga was designed to systematically stimulate and restore health to every muscle, joint and organ of the body. Participants are guided through a series of 26 postures. The heart, lungs, blood circulation, muscles, brain activity and mental capacity are all affected by participating in the art of yoga. There are two descriptions of the 26 exercises and they are asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises), both of which rely on each other to deliver postive results. According to Bikram, many people only use up to 50 percent of their lung capacity, and just like any muscle, the lungs must be stretched and with time will be able to withstand holding more oxygen. When one is practicing the pranayama he or she will eventually be able to enhance oxygen conversion and absorption, as well as improve blood circulation. (Choudhury, 2007)
Blood circulation is affected immensely during Bikram Yoga, because of two processes called Extension and Compression. These two dynamics work together to deliver fresh oxygen to every joint, muscle, and organ within the human body. While performing a specific asana, the body is stretching or compressing a certain part of the body; thus, cutting off circulation temporarily. This restriction of ciruculation causes the heart to pump more blood in the reaction of the shortage. The pumping of excess, fresh blood is called extension. Once the asana is complete, and the individual comes out of the posture, then the new oxygenated blood is able to rejuvenate the arteries that were being compressed. It is said that because of the volume change and influx of fresh blood, any infection, bacteria, or toxin can be released. (Choudhury, 2007)
Considerable controversy has surrounded Bikram Choudury's copyright and franchising of Bikram yoga. Bikram has aggressively enforced claims of copyright and trademark protection, most notably claiming that the sequence of asanas in Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class falls under his copyright. His cease-and-desist letters and lawsuits (see the U.S. case Open Source Yoga Unity v. Bikram Choudhury, for example) have drawn protest from some North American yoga practitioners. In addition, his claims have incited numerous Indian historians and scientists to catalogue various yoga poses documented in ancient texts, with the intention of demonstrating that yoga poses vastly predate new copyrights.
Some yoga practitioners more generally protest the application of copyright, franchising, trademarking and personal profit to the yoga tradition.This controversy spawned the 2006 documentary Yoga, Inc.as well as epithets such as "McYoga" and "McBikram".
Additionally, Bikram and Bikram yoga enthusiasts have been criticized for their endorsement of competitiveness in yoga, on the grounds that it deviates from yoga's true nature and purpose.