Bikram Yoga is Not Hatha Yoga and Other Common Misperceptions of this Hot Yoga Practice


There are some common things I hear week after week from sources outside of my yoga bubble about Bikram Yoga, or what is now referred to as The Original Hot Yoga, or the 26&2. It could come from anywhere really – friends, family, a fellow blogger, or even the lady bagging my groceries.  So this week I thought I’d address some of the top misperceptions of this practice.

Bikram Yoga is not Hatha Yoga.  This comment is usually made by people who only have heard about the original hot yoga, and have never actually gone to a class.  Or they may not understand what “Hatha Yoga” means.  The type of yoga we are most familiar with in the West is undoubtedly Hatha Yoga: ‘Ha’ is Sanskrit for sun and ‘tha’ is moon. Hatha therefore is the bringing together of all existence into a wholeness and unity. It is the physical practice of yoga creating balance and health within the body and maintaining it. The dictionary definition of hatha is “violence, force; obstinacy, pertinacity” (all definitions from M. Monier-Williams, Sanskrit-English Dictionary). With this being stated, Hatha Yoga is then considered a “forceful yoga,” referencing the limbs of yoga that are most vigorous, such as, posture (asana) and conscious breathing (pranayama) which is undoubtedly part of the Bikram Yoga series.

Hot Yoga is not spiritual.  I always find this comment interesting.  Now I know there is no obvious spirituality in the Original Hot Yoga class as you won’t find anyone chanting or deep discussions on the philosophy of yoga within the 90 minutes. But buried under the bright lights and shining mirrors of this hot yoga class is the spirituality of you. It’s a challenging practice that will highlight your weaknesses and bring forth your strengths all while staring at your reflection in the mirror.  With this practice you realize all you are capable achieving in your practice and in your life and become conscious of your connection to your body, your connection to your world, and the connection of your inner most self.

The Original Hot Yoga is boring.  How can you do the same exact postures every single day?  Easily.  I have been practicing for over 8 years at this point and no two classes are exactly the same.  You are different, the energy of the teacher is different, your body is constantly in a state of change, your depth of your practice varies, and what’s going on in your life outside of class is in a constant state of flux.  They may be the same postures in theory, but they change over time as you continue to learn more about each asana within each class.  Personally I find it thrilling to track my progress from class to class.  I also find it thrilling to see my students improve with each session.  Boring is the last thing I would call this practice.

Being an Original Hot Yoga teacher is easy and anyone can do it.  Okay…First of all, I would like to say that if you really want to achieve anything in this life – you can.  And if you want to become a yoga instructor I am totally behind you – it’s an awesome gig!  But “easy” is not the word to describe the process.  It takes a certain someone to step out of their own yoga practice and decide they believe in the positive effects of yoga so much they need to share it with others.  It’s more than just going to training, which is an incredible commitment and difficult enough.  It’s about working everyday to be your best self in order to lift others up to a new reality.  To be a conduit for others to reach for better health, mental clarity, and emotional stability, which is no small thing.  Yes, anyone can decide they want to pursue this job.  But few do.  Because it is more than just a “job.”  (Please know I believe this is true of any yoga teacher, not just those that teach the Bikram Series.  My fellow teachers in the world you are a constant inspiration.)

Originally posted to on March 11, 2014

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