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Bikram vs Regular Yoga: The Differences in Calories Burned

Bikram yoga may be one of the best ways to achieve a high number of calories burned in an hour. Of all forms of yoga, it is perhaps the most challenging. For people of the same age and sex, one session of Bikram yoga can burn 500 to 1000 calories, approximately 30% higher than other yoga practices.  Here are the core reasons that make this form of yoga such a calorie burning wonder:

More Intense Aerobic Exercise

A general practice session of Bikram yoga involves moving through a series of 26 poses and two breathing exercises in a room that's heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit with 40% humidity. The sessions can last about 90 minutes. The heat and humidity of the environment create a much higher oxygen demand from the body than in normal conditions. The elevated requirement for oxygen forces the lungs to expand to a greater capacity to hold more oxygen. In regular yoga practice, lung expansion ranges from 35% - 40% of total capacity, whereas in Bikram yoga, the lungs will commonly expand to 50% of their capacity.

A higher level of performance is also required from the cardiovascular system. For Bikram yoga, the heart needs to pump more blood to the muscles and other organs and the exchange rate of oxygen and carbon dioxide at the cellular level is also higher. A 90-minute practice under these harsh conditions makes Bikram yoga a form of strenuous aerobic exercise with much higher intensity than other forms of yoga.

Higher Energy Demand for Heat Dissipation

When heat is generated by a muscular workout, it is transferred to the skin and dissipated into ambient environment so that the internal body temperature remains constant. The ambient temperature is normally lower than 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat loss from sweating is more passive and done without much energy expenditure. This is not the case for Bikram yoga. The heated environment creates a negative gradient that the body must work against the natural influx of heat from the room. With more heat being generated by muscles during the practice, more energy must be spent to actively transfer heat to the skin and out of the body. This is another unique characteristic that enables Bikram yoga practice to burn more calories than other yoga styles. 

More Effective Muscle Conditioner

Muscles of Bikram yoga practitioners are trained to be more efficient in oxygen absorption and heat dissipation on a metabolic level. This leads to better muscle endurance during a workout.  The Bikram yoga sequence of poses  is conducted in such a way that is highly effective in building muscle strength. The external heat allows muscles to expand and contract to greater limits, so that higher flexibility can be achieved without the risk of injury. Since the level of muscle conditioning directly impacts the amount of calories a person burns during exercise, the regular practice of Bikram yoga will help lead to more efficient calorie burning.

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