If you're a follower of Bikram yoga, or you're thinking about starting these exercises, or if you've been held back by the idea of exercising in a room heated to about 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), well, there's news for you. The temperature of the room has no influence on the health benefits of Bikram yoga.
Popular throughout the world, Bikram yoga includes 26 postures (asanas) that are performed in a room heated to 40 degrees Celsius. It is assumed that doing these exercises in their stipulated environment has numerous health benefits, but a new study by researchers from Texas State University and the University of Texas, Austin, was the first to evaluate those claims.
Bikram yoga is effective in reducing changes in the lining of blood vessels, which could prevent the development and progression of heart disease. They also discovered that practicing Bikram yoga could slow the progression of atherosclerosis, a disease in which the buildup of plaque in the arteries can cause a heart attack or stroke.
But they also found that these effects were completely independent of the temperature of the room, and that additional heating did not increase the benefits in any way.
"Bikram yoga practiced in thermoneutral conditions improved endothelium-dependent vasodilation in healthy middle-aged adults." These novel findings highlight the effectiveness of hatha yoga postures alone, in the absence of a warm practice environment, to improve vascular health and are of clinical importance given the greater propensity toward heat intolerance in older adults, "they concluded in the study.