Despite Bikram yoga's reputation for being an extreme, high-calorie burning form of Hatha yoga, passionate students tend to view it more as a healing form of exercise that can ward away ailments in the body and mind with regular practice. Participants are advised to practice Bikram at least 10 times in a 30-day period of time to maintain the maximum benefits. Bikram students are also encouraged to avoid fidgeting between yoga poses, to use the mirror to see their form and to breathe quietly.
Bikram yoga is an offshoot of Hatha yoga (pose yoga or yoga of asanas) started by Yogiraj Bikram Choudhury, who is also the founder of the Yoga College of India. Choudhury trained with Bishnu Ghosh starting at age 4. The development of the Bikram style came about after Choudhury, with the help of Ghosh, recovered from what doctors thought would be a debilitating knee injury. Choudhury went on to open yoga schools across India, and later internationally, as he trademarked the Bikram style.
Bikram uses a set 26 poses that are practiced every 90-minute session. Included in the 26 poses are two breathing exercises; Pranayama Series (standing deep breathing) and Khapalbhati (blowing in firm). True Bikram does not deviate from this standard. Most notably, Bikram is known for being practiced in a room with a temperature of at least 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity. Bikram includes many poses that are regularly practiced in other forms of Hatha yoga such as triangle, tree, cobra and eagle.
The high temperature, in combination with the yoga poses practiced, bring the body into a cardiovascular intensity comparable to an aerobic workout. Depending on a person's weight, heart rate and muscle mass, a Bikram session works off an approximate range of 500 to 1,000 calories.
Bikram's ability to burn hundreds of calories in a short period of time can dramatically contribute to a weight-loss program. This rigorous form of yoga is also considered to be pivotal in easing joint pain and improving flexibility, endurance, strength and mental disposition. Bikram is also celebrated as a way to work off a lot of calories without high impact on the joints.
By using the standard "calories burned" formula, you can determine the approximate number of calories burned for a 90-minute Bikram session. The formula is:
(METS 3.5 Weight in kg/200) * Duration of activity.
Since many people go by their weight in pounds, a conversion for the METS rate can be used. Bikram is approximately a METS (metabolic equivalent of task based on rate of oxygen used at rest) value of 6. This is divided by the conversion formula for kilograms to pounds, which is 2.2, so 6 / 2.2 = 2.73.
Plugging in the data for a 150 lb. person practicing Bikram for 90 minutes, the calculation looks like this:
(2.73 3.5 150 / 200) * 90 = 644 calories.
The METS formula does not take into account a Bikram student's resting or working heart rate, or their muscle mass; therefore, the results of the calculation are approximate.