BIKRAM YOGA, A form of hot yoga, is no more effective at improving health than doing yoga at room temperature, according to a new study.
Bikram yoga became popular in the 1970s and is practiced worldwide. It involves 26 postures and is usually practiced in a room heated to 35–42 degrees Celsius.
Despite its popularity, researchers at the University of Texas have said little is known about the health benefits associated with it or the stipulation that it is carried out in a hot environment.
A new study published in Experimental Physiology is the first report to date to isolate the effects of the heat in Bikram yoga. It found that the heated environment did not play a role in causing improvements in vascular health.
The research shows that Bikram yoga can reduce changes in the lining of blood vessels that are involved in the development and progression of heart disease.
It also found that it can possibly delay the progression of atherosclerosis, which is a disease in which plaque builds up inside arteries and can cause a heart attack or stroke.
However, crucially, it found that it is not necessary for the yoga to be performed at a hot temperature, with the effects also being seen at room temperature.
As part of the study, 80 participants aged 40-60 years were randomly selected to join one of three study groups after preliminary screening.
Researchers said, in addition to the heated (40 degrees Celsius) and room temperature (23 degrees Celsius) yoga groups, a control group was also included to “account for the effect of time on our primary results”.
All participants were sedentary (doing less than two days per week of moderate physical activity) for a minimum of six months prior to participating in the study. People who were pregnant or had certain health issues such as uncontrolled high blood pressure were excluded from taking part.
The intervention lasted for 12 weeks and participants were asked to attend three 90-minute Bikram yoga classes per week.
Stacy D Hunter, corresponding author of the study, said: “The new finding from this investigation was that the heated practice environment did not seem to play a role in eliciting improvements in vascular health with Bikram yoga.
“This is the first publication to date to show a beneficial effect of the practice in the absence of the heat.”
The full study can be read here.
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