The Bikram Yoga Heart Study was published in January in Experimental Physiology. This study compared the effects of traditional, heated versus room temperature Bikram yoga classes on blood vessel health, cholesterol levels, fasting glucose, body fat percentage and other variables. The results showed similar increases in blood vessel health in both groups with an additional slight, but statistically significant reduction in body fat percentage in the hot yoga group alone.

These results have amassed a great deal of media attention in the last two weeks with articles focused on this key finding that the heat does not seem to be a necessary part of the practice in order improve blood vessel and heart health. Some have even extended these findings to all forms of yoga claiming that hot yoga in general is no more beneficial than a standard yoga practice.

Caution must be taken before attempting to apply these findings to all forms of yoga as the Heart Study only included the Bikram yoga series showing that vascular health improves even if the series is practiced at room temperature. It is currently unknown whether this applies to other styles of yoga practiced in the heat or if this finding is limited to the 90-minute series as this is the first study to date to compare the effects of yoga interventions practiced at two vastly different temperatures (105º vs. 73º).

In line with this, there are relatively few studies that have investigated the effects of various forms of yoga on vascular health in general and even fewer have incorporated the measure utilized in the Heart Study, flow-mediated dilation of the vessels, which is related the risk of heart disease and subsequent cardiac events. Increases in blood vessel vasodilation have been documented with both 8 and 12 weeks of practice in adults over the age of 40 (this represents a group at increased risk of heart disease).

While studies on Bikram yoga have increased in number in recent years, they are still relatively few in relation to studies of other yoga styles. Some of the research has shown improvements in cholesterol, slight weight loss, reductions in body fat percentage and some improvements in vascular health with a consistent Bikram yoga practice. However, only one study to date has attempted to tease out any added benefit of the heated environment with the practice. A link to the full text of the unedited proof can be found here for those who would like to read the full article. Also, included below are links to some of the media articles featuring the study.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-bloodvessels-bikram-yoga/bikram-yoga-doesnt-need-hot-room-to-benefit-heart-health-idUSKBN1FK2Q3

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2018/01/19/the-heart-benefits-of-hot-yoga-may-not-come-from-the-heat-at-all/#3eee3d633647

https://www.today.com/health/bikram-yoga-doesn-t-have-be-hot-improve-vascular-health-t121427

http://www.newsweek.com/hot-yoga-no-better-normal-yoga-your-heart-785473

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320674.php

https://health.usnews.com/wellness/health-buzz/articles/2018-01-24/is-hot-yoga-healthier-than-regular-yoga

http://time.com/5107737/hot-yoga-not-better-than-room-temperature/

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/jan/19/hot-or-not-bikram-no-more-beneficial-than-any-other-yoga-says-vascular-study

https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/bikram-yogas-benefits-might-nothing-heat-233116807.html

https://omny.fm/shows/the-morning-news-with-gord-gillies/is-hot-yoga-better-for-you-than-normal-yoga

The Bikram Yoga Heart Study was the largest study Pure Action has funded to date and we could not have accomplished this without the support of our donors including the yoga studio owners who hosted fundraisers and those who contributed via other means in support of this project. We also thank the Pure Yoga Texas team for their full support of this study throughout its 3-year duration. Share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you! Email us at info@pureaction.org.

 

 

Dr. Stacy Hunter

Is The Research Director For Pure Action, Inc., A Nonprofit Organization Devoted To Bringing The Ancient Benefits Of Yoga To Mainstream Medicine Through Research, Education And Community Outreach. She...

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