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Bikram Yoga vs Hot Yoga – 5 Differences between Bikram Yoga and Hot Yoga

When I began Hot Yoga the teacher asked me had I tried Hot Yoga before and my reply was “Ye I tried Bikram a few times”. I was quickly and quietly corrected on my statement like a bold child before getting a lesson on the wide array of differences between the two practices. I spent a month practicing Bikram Yoga before I dropped out and I have been practicing core yoga and Hot Yoga now for about 6 weeks, the more I practice yoga the clearer the error within my statement. The differences between the two practices are very clear once you start taking part but to an outsider who is unfamiliar it is easy to see where the confusion can arise. Yes both practices are in a studio and Yes you are being taught postures by a teacher in heat but that is where the similarities end. From my experience I have noted my 5 key differences within the practices which make it easy to distinguish if you are in a Bikram Yoga class or a Hot Yoga class. The 5 key differences are Studio, Duration, Behaviour, Posture and Style. Within this blog post I will be looking into the key differences within the two practices and offer an insight in my experience.

bikram mirror

  1. Studio – The first difference between the two practices is instantly visible once you walk into the studios; Bikram Studios in my experience are usually wall to wall mirrors. I found these mirrors distracting as when I focused on holding a pose I would then catch a glimpse of myself struggling and lose balance and then end up on the floor. In Hot Yoga none of the studios have mirrors. One day I was curious and asked what the reason behind having no mirrors was, the teacher told me that following the yoga tradition many yoga studios believe mirrors are a distraction as they dull awareness of your inside body and raise awareness of your outer body. This is counter-productive to yoga practice and contradicts many yoga philosophies.
  1. Behaviour – Once you start the classes there is another key difference between the two practices which is your expected behaviour and involvement within the practice. In Bikram Yoga you are expected to be disciplined, speaking is discouraged and interaction is frowned upon. This was very difficult for me as I love having a laugh so the idea of entering a room for 90 minutes and not being able to speak or laugh with a fellow person struggling was a near impossible task. This is very different in Hot Yoga as the classes are a lot more lenient students ask questions, up beat music can be played and when the time is right you can have a laugh.

melting clock

  1. Duration – The third difference I encountered was the length of class time. Bikram Yoga is strictly 90 minutes in length which I found very tough to get through. In comparison Hot Yoga Classes at YogaHub are 60 minutes long which I find tough but bearable. In the heated environment an hour is a perfect amount of time to sweat out toxins and improve flexibility without dying of dehydration. I suppose it is really up to personal preference and ability but for me 90 minutes was too long. I find the 60 minute class is the perfect amount of time, any longer I would have to sacrifice other aspects of my day and there is not a chance I am missing the new Love/ Hate.

hot yoga sweat

  1. Postures – Another key difference between the two practices is the range of knowledge you learn within the classes. In Bikram Yoga classes you are always doing the same 26 postures practiced in the same sequence as the class is scripted with every teacher teaching the same script. In my opinion this gets very monotonous as you are just waiting for the next posture and it makes the time really drag. In Hot Yoga classes no one class is the same as postures are always different with each teacher bringing their own style. I find as a student relatively new to yoga that Hot Yoga is better to attend as you learn a lot more postures which keeps your body constantly challenged in different ways thus giving you a more balanced practice.

large bikram class

  1. Style – The final difference between the two practices is the style of study within the practices. Bikram Yoga is one school of Yoga which is taught very strictly with no room for interpretation in style. At times during  class I felt like i was a body in attendence rather than a valued person within the class.  Hot yoga teachers on the other hand come from many schools of Yoga and are usually influenced by more than one style. Ashtanga, Iyengar, Vinyasa Flow, Forrest Yoga, Baptiste Yoga, Krama Yoga, Anusara Yoga are just a small fraction of yoga styles which I have encountered while at Hot Yoga classes in YogaHub (I’m sure I have missed a few due to ignorance).

bikram owner stnading on girls back

As a student of both practices I did enjoy both but I would not return to Bikram Yoga due to a number of key factors; the immense heat within the studio, the length of time spent within the class, the lack of humour and fun within the practice, the lack of variation within the postures and the one style orientated practice. Above all these factors I would not fancy having a sweaty skinny sumo wrestler in speedos tensing on my back like the poor woman above. Hot Yoga on the other hand I am eager to continue and hopeful to excel. Anyone interested in trying Hot Yoga I would definitely recommend trying the classes in YogaHub studios. In YogaHub you have hour long classes, fun upbeat people and friendly and knowledgeable teachers, it really is the perfect place to fall in love with yoga.

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Join the discussion 9 Comments

  • Pascale says:

    Very interesting article Andy! I thought Hot yoga was just a different way to call Bikram yoga!!! Now I know, will have to try the hot yoga then 🙂 I did enjoy Bikram, but did it for 1 month only!

  • Annette says:

    Do you think that its easier to gauge your progress when you’re doing the same postures day in and out? Im debating between the two.

    • Meaghan Galindo says:

      Hi Annette! Thanks for the great question 🙂 It can definitely be said that it is easier to assess your progress with certain postures when practising them regularly, but that’s not to say you can only achieve this through Bikram Yoga. Speaking from my personal experiences as a beginner, I was able to notice my progress during particular teachers’ classes, through my improved flexibility and ability to hold difficult poses for longer. This is all a very personal experience of course, and people develop at their own pace. Repetition in one pose is important for improving, but I also believe in giving every inch of the body love during yoga and reaping the benefits this way 🙂

  • Dini Ayu says:

    hi, i’m quite newbie to Yoga and been doing bikram for 3 months now. Thanks for the clear explanation and it excite me to try a Hot Yoga session. All your points are so truee, at least from my experience in doing bikram, indeed my body is also hunger for another challenge beside the bikram routines.

  • Alps says:

    Hi I’ve done hot yoga for almost an year and can go on for hours describing how much I enjoyed it. The teachers the music the heat the ambience the flow and movement between postures were all so enjoyable.
    I did one bikram yoga class and by the end of the class I couldn’t be more thankful to have walked out of the studio and go home. We moved home and I thought vinyasa and bikram yoga were the same kind of hot yoga. I can’t convince myself to go again as I’ve paid for full month in advance on the beginning of the class. Your article is to the point and tells the exact difference between the two. My vote goes to Hot yoga. Namaste

  • Diana says:

    After years of off an on with Bikram Yoga with scheduling being the factor, I tried hot yoga out of convenience and detested it.
    I appreciate the mirrors in order to see the difference in poses as I’m flexible and will accidentally overcompensate in one area without feeling it while I’m rebuilding strength in my muscles.
    Discipline is vital while challenging your body to go further in a move confidently and to properly set up. This is not social hour. This is about you spending 90mins to think about nothing and feel where your body will go in the moves and set up for the next pose. It’s most likely the only time during that day that your sole purpose is to not think and be in tune with your bodies flow and capability.
    Each pose has its function and flows in to the next. 90 minutes is to focus, set up, and to repeat poses. Taking your body further in the repeat pose. The heat is its own separate element. If you just want to sweat and release toxins then go to a sauna, drink some lemon and cayenne and stretch.
    The point of the same poses and the orders from the teacher is for the whole class from beginner to more advance. They’re repeating what your body should be doing to get you to get the full benefits of the pose. Some students aren’t there and need the guidance while others need that motivation to set up properly in to the pose and go from there. If you don’t have the basics and the proper form in each step from beginner to more advanced, from first pose to last then you don’t receive the benefits.
    If you’re just waiting for the next posture and find it’s dragging then you’re only doing the basic and not allowing your body to go further in the pose and find your flexibility and stamina. Each class should get you closer to the achievable advanced pose.
    As with many art forms and disciplines… It’s best to focus on one in order to achieve your best level and hopefully it’s final level before trying out others. Don’t choose classes that are a mish mash of various forms taught most likely by teachers who most likely have less then a decade of study if best. This is how injuries can happen.

  • Judy says:

    I do both. I started with hot yoga. But found Bikram’s to be better, more healing for my body. I’ve done both in a couple of places in CA, CO, and AZ. FYI, 60 minute Bikram’s can also be found, mirrors in hot yoga are very common, and talking during practice is rarely encouraged in any studio. Bikram’s is hotter and it’s often a slightly different type of heat (I sweat more). Hot yoga classes will vary – between studios and between teachers in a studio – so you might end up with a routine if you go to the same teacher. Also, in hot yoga they often use some of the same Bikram poses but also include some flow, some core, along with the balance and floor. Also, although we have a Bikram Beats class – you will to usually get music in the standard Bikram class – but often in the hot. I don’t like hopping around trying to get all these little pieces in at the whim of that days instructor. I like dance and creative movement – but frankly doing a lot of down dog and salutations over and over is not my cup of tea. Over time I’ve really grown to appreciate how scientific Bikram is. The selected poses, the timing, the renewal between poses and the breathing especially – is very good for me. I guess my main point is. Every studio can be different – you will however find consistently well trained instructors – even though in the first couple of years you will hear their instruction as if it’s all scripted. Also: cross train! Do both, dance, hike, swim ….

  • Adam says:

    Yikes. Lots of hate for bikram. I really like bikram I feel amazing after it and enjoy the poses. I feel like a real bada*s from it too. However, I would be interested in tryimg regular hot yoga.

  • Lala says:

    At this time many bikram studios are choosing to rename.
    They continue bikram 26 postures and dialogue but rename the studio.
    I agree with many of your points in your post except these-speaking in studio.
    My reply is when you are gab gabbing to others right before class, you are not fosusing and preparing yourself for the best you can do.
    You are chit chatting, you can do before or after.
    How can one have an issue with the rules. They are easy. And it’s not that hot.
    If you can go to work for 8 hours because you have to then you can do do 90 minutes in high everything and feel like a million bucks after.
    Also the lack of variation in poses is problematic for me, how can one advance never going outside familiarity. I feel so guilty when I try another type of yoga but I want to be able to do crow easily like the girl next to me. Or headstands, inversions being very good for you.

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