The Many Faces of Hot Yoga

“Do you offer hot yoga?”

One would think this question would have a clear yes or no response; but to a yoga instructor, it’s a loaded question. It’s a question that would take research to understand the inquisitor’s knowledge of yoga and what they really mean by hot yoga. Since most times it’s being asked in informal conversation, we provide the abridged answer in hopes to satisfy the recipient. However, more often than not they leave scratching their head more confused than before they started. So for those that are really curious about what hot yoga is and whether a yoga studio in Dayton, Ohio or a studio near you offers it, here’s the full unabridged response.

Hot Yoga: The history.

To understand the history of hot yoga, we must look at the general history and larger context of the word yoga. Most forms of our modern-day yoga practice originated from India not all that long ago. While you may think the yoga asana you practice is 2,000 years old, it’s only about 125-150 years old. Other areas of our yoga practice, such as meditation, mantra, and pranayama are much older, but yoga asana is fairly young. So the first thing to note when understanding hot yogais that we are referring specifically to practicing yoga asana.

India is a very large continental land mass with varying climates, similar to the United States. While the older forms of yoga (meditation, mantra, etc) originated in Northern India, where the climate is more mild, asana (postures/movements) was incorporated into the larger practice of yoga in Southern India, where the climate is much warmer. When yoga asana was incorporated less than 150 years ago, there still was no air conditioning. So the very root of the term hot yoga originates from the natural temperatures that occurred in India as yoga asana was being created.

Hot Yoga: Bikram Yoga (the original hot yoga).

Bikram Choudhury is the creator and founder of Bikram Yoga. Bikram was born in Calcutta, India (now Kolkata) located in eastern India. In 1971, he emigrated to the United States and began to teach yoga.

Bikram claims to have been a student of Bishnu Caran Gosh, a renowned bodybuilder and yoga instructor, since he was young. Some of these claims have proven to be false, but regardless, the Bikram Yoga style was inspired, taken, or somewhere in-between, from the teachings of  B.C. Gosh. Trademarked Bikram Yoga is a 90-minute yoga practice consisting of 26 yoga postures set in a fixed sequence with each posture repeated twice. Most postures are standing postures and the practice does not include vinyasa, Sun Salutation A’s or B’s, arm balancing, or many other yoga components that you may be familiar with. The room for practicing Bikram Yoga is traditionally carpeted, lined with mirrors, and is set to 105°F with tempered humidity, which Bikram says was designed to imitate the heat of India. 

The Bikram Yoga practice is appropriate for those that need low impact, want to improve flexibility, and are willing to sweat (a lot). It is the hottest form of hot yoga and works well because the practice itself is not relatively strenuous, so it pairs well with high heat. Because of this high heat, it’s typically practiced in as minimal clothing as possible such as short shorts and bra/tank tops, or however minimal clothing you feel comfortable wearing. 

Bikram Yoga has helped and healed many people since its inception into the United States in the 1970s. In the early 2000s, Bikram Choudhury claimed that his yoga style, Bikram Yoga, was under copyright law and could not be used unless done so under the Bikram name. As a result, yoga studios and practitioners began to slightly diversify the practice and call it by a different name. Furthermore, since the unveiling of Bikram Choudhury’s fabrication and multiple allegations of sexual harassment beginning in 2013, many yoga studios and practitioners have completely separated from the name Bikram Yoga.

To reiterate, unrelated to the scrutiny of its founder, this practice of hot yoga trademarked as Bikram Yoga has provided immense benefit to yoga practitioners across the United States. If you are searching for this style of practice, in some yoga studios you can still find it under the name Bikram Yoga, but most have renamed it to hot yoga, hot series, or similar.

Hot Yoga: Power Yoga (vinyasa style).

In the late 1980s, two individuals became credited for coining the term Power Yoga. Beryl Bender Birch was on the east coast, reinventing the practice of Ashtanga Yoga to make it more accessible for athletes; meanwhile, Bryan Kest was on the west coast creating his own flavor of Power Yoga in hopes to make the yoga practice more accessible to everyone. Along the way, Baron Baptiste was also creating his own style of Power Yoga, known as Baptiste Power Yoga, known today simply as Baptiste Yoga.

By the mid 1990s, Power Yoga (and Bikram Yoga) was becoming more and more popular. Although there are variations among the founders, there are primary factors that signify a Power Yoga class, one being heat. That is why Power Yoga, along with Bikram Yoga, falls into the category of hot yoga.

In Power Yoga, the room is heated to roughly 90-95°F with humidity added. It usually has hard floors and no mirrors to encourage students to feel into the postures versus adjust based on sight. Power Yoga is rigorous and strengthens and tones the whole body. Power Yoga typically begins with Sun Salutations A and B, and then goes into a created sequence, whether pre-designed, such as Ashtanga series or the Baptiste Journey into Power sequence, or designed by the instructor ahead of time. It is taught by connecting breath and movement to create an experience that allows the mind to settle into the flow of the practice. If sequenced well, it creates a powerful experience that connects the whole body. This may include arm balances, back bends, inversions, twists, binds, and other yoga postures that stimulate the nervous system and improve the flow of energy. Because of the heat inherently self-generated in the body, we recommend practicing Power Yoga at temperatures  below 100°F so that your body can naturally cool itself. 

Power Yoga is a great practice for those that want to build strength, flexibility, endurance, and cardiovascular health. It is somewhat fast-paced, yet is accessible through modifications and an understanding of your own physicality. Baptiste Power Yoga in particular has been taught to various populations from professional athletes to individuals with multiple sclerosis. The power comes from your ability to choose what is best for you.

Hot Yoga: All the other styles.

Since the 1990s and the rise of Power Yoga and Bikram Yoga, many yoga studios began offering various styles of yoga asana in a hot room to satisfy demand. For instance, many individuals enjoy the heat, but may find the 105°F of Bikram Yoga overwhelming, so a yoga studio may create a heated-series of asanas. Alternatively, individuals may enjoy the heat but find the rigor of a Power Yoga practice intimidating, so the solution becomes a gentle practice in a heated room.

Because of the freedom to create and offer what suits students best, a myriad of options  for hot yoga are available these days. If your yoga studio offers a yoga class in a heated room, then they offer hot yoga.

So perhaps, the answer to the question, “do you offer hot yoga?” is as a simple yes or no. However, perhaps ask how hot and how much movement is expected to determine if the class is right for you today. 

There are many yoga studios in Dayton, Ohio that offer hot yogaIgnite Yoga being one of them. If you want to try the best Power Yoga classes in Dayton, Ohio, click here to begin your yoga practice.

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