Bikram Yoga vs. Hot Yoga: What’s the Difference?

If you’ve ever wondered what sets Bikram Yoga apart from hot yoga, here’s the lowdown.

When in L.A. recently, I asked a friend-shlash-local if there was a hot yoga class I could hit over the weekend. Sort of perturbed, he said, “it’s not “hot,” it’s Bikram.” “Oh. Well, we call it “hot” where I come from,” I defended myself, unsure of exactly why, then quickly researched the terms.

Bikram Yoga – it’s all in the name.

What I found was simple – if you aren’t licensed to use the patented name, you can’t call your class Bikram Yoga. According to BIkram’s website, Bikram Yoga is a precise set of 26 poses in 2 repetitions, in a 105 degree room with 40% humidity, for 90 minutes. Period. The poses do not vary and instructors even use the exact same terminology, class after class.


Hot Yoga – It is what it sounds like. Hot. Yoga.

“Hot” yoga is basically what it sounds like. It’s a series of yoga poses done in a hot room, heated to 95-105 degrees. The classes are typically anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. The specialized room is electrically heated and multiple humidifiers are used. The poses include asanas and sun salutations, but the sequences can vary by instructor. It may even be nearly identical to the actual Bikram class you would find on Sunset Boulevard, but use the name, and be ready for a lawsuit. Generally, hot yoga is a much more “flexible” practice than Bikram Yoga.

Who is this Bikram character?

Here’s the nitty gritty. According to law website, Bikram Choudhurdy is a man celebrated as the “hot yoga innovator.” He was born in Calcutta and came to the states in the early 70’s. Now, despite the fact that yoga is an exercise, practice, discipline, whatever you choose to call it, that’s been around for thousands of years, Mr. Choudhurdy has built himself an empire with it. Now a millionaire, he has managed to patent his precise form of hot yoga, after much perseverance. A few years ago, yoga centers around the world were labeling their variation of high-temperature yoga practice “Bikram Yoga,” but after many court battles, Choudhurdy won out, legally creating his own “brand” of yoga.

Becoming Certified

Now, the only place an instructor can be certified to teach Bikram yoga is through Choudhurdy’s license, which you obtain by shelling out a good $7,000 to $12,000 for a 9 week course. As of this writing, the next training will be held in mid-September in L.A. Check Bikram’s web site to find the latest classes.

As for teaching “hot” yoga, any certified yoga instructor can adopt components of Bikram yoga into their own personalized class. Both practices offer internal cleansing, toning and mental clarity, if practiced regularly.

The difference in hot yoga and Bikram yoga can vary depending on the teacher, but practitioners of both claim many mental and physical health benefits – see an example here. So, whether you choose a “hot” or a Bikram Yoga class, come prepared with a lot of water, a towel or two, and optimally, your own yoga mat to catch the puddles of sweat. Namaste!

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