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What came first, Hot Yoga or Bikram Yoga?

by Alberto G. Güitrón

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I know what some of you might be thinking, and no, Hot Yoga and Bikram Yoga are not the same. They could be very similar, but definitely not the same. Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about the differences and origins of both styles. 

I’ve got to be honest, before getting immersed in yoga, I used to think that Hot Yoga was just a variation of the ancient practice. I thought it was a marketing product created to sell a few courses by convincing potential customers that they were going get that spectacular hot body they always dreamed of. I couldn’t be more mistaken. 

Bikram Yoga was invented by the teacher Bikram Choudhury in his native India. After suffering a knee injury and being told that he was never going to walk again, he created a 26-posture series of Hatha Yoga. This asana sequence helped him to fully recover in six months, and seeing the success of his method, he later moved to California during the 1970’s to found the first Bikram studio in America. Nowadays, it is one of the most popular yoga styles in the United States, where you can find around 350 studios and dozens of Bikram retreats year round.

Besides the 26 poses in which this style bases its principles, it also has some other particularities. A class lasts 90 minutes and there is little to no room for improvisation. In addition, it requires replicating the warm and humid climate that Choudhury had in India. Therefore, the temperature in the studios is regulated to obtain hotter conditions, typically 41 degrees Celsius (105 degrees Fahrenheit).

So, what is Hot Yoga? Simple, any yoga practice performed under hot and humid environment is regarded as Hot Yoga. It doesn’t matter if you perform the 26 positions of Bikram or just a chilled Vinyasa flow; it’s not relevant if the class lasts 90 or 20 minutes; as long as it is practiced in the above-mentioned conditions, it’s considered Hot Yoga. Hence, it could be said that Bikram Yoga is always a form of Hot Yoga, however, Hot Yoga is not necessarily Bikram Yoga.


Image credit: Bikram Yoga Mountain View


Now, the main difference is clarified, but the controversial question is still unanswered: what came first, Hot Yoga or Bikram Yoga? This predicament might be as complicated as the chicken or the egg dilemma.                                                      

Let me explain. Anybody who has ever done yoga in a hot environment was technically doing Hot Yoga; and this could have happened since the beginning of times, it’s just that people didn’t really recognize it under that name. So it could be said that Hot Yoga is as old as yoga itself.

For Bikram Yoga, we do have an exact timeframe for its origin, which is around 1974, when Choudhury decided to put together 26 poses that would help him heal his knee. It’s quite new then, puzzle solved!... Not really, the truth is that both styles are popular because of Bikram, as not many people practiced in high-temperature rooms before. Thus, it could also be said that Bikram originated Hot Yoga.

After all this, I’ve come up with the same conclusion as the chicken and the egg, it’s all a matter of perspective. That said, I think Bikram Yoga was first, but what do you think?


 Image credit: Bikram Yoga Arlington   


Thanks for taking your time to read this post! Looking for more selections of Hot Yoga or Bikram Yoga? Either way, you can find a vast selection located all over the globe at BookYogaRetreats.com!

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