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Bikram yoga doesn't have to be hot to improve vascular health: study

When it comes to vascular health, practicing Bikram yoga poses at room temperature is just as beneficial as practicing at 105 degrees, research shows.
/ Source: Today

Hate hot yoga? You're in luck.

New research suggests that Bikram yoga, typically done in rooms heated to 105 degrees, is no more effective at improving vascular health than the same yoga postures done at room temperature.

The study, done by Texas State University and the University of Texas at Austin, and published in Experimental Physiology, found that Bikram yoga has a positive effect on the lining of the blood vessels involved in heart disease. It may also help prevent atherosclerosis, the build-up of fatty deposits that can clog arteries, according to the report. But, good news: Researchers saw those same benefits in people who practiced Bikram yoga in unheated rooms.

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"The heated environment didn't seem to be any more effective," study author Stacy Hunter told TODAY, adding that the findings surprised her.

"Sauna therapy has been shown to be beneficial in both clinical and healthy populations, even people with heart failure," she said. "So based on those factors, we thought the heat would elicit greater (results), but we didn't see it."

That's not to say the heat isn't good for something. People in Hunter's study who practiced hot yoga saw a greater decline in body fat than those who practiced non-heated yoga.

People also seemed to like the heated classes better.

"One thing that I found to be somewhat interesting was the fact that people didn't seem to enjoy the room temperature classes as much," Hunter said. "I had more people drop out of that group."

Bikram is one of the more athletic types of yoga practiced today. Classes usually run 90 minutes and students do a series of 26 postures, twice. By definition, Bikram is practiced in the heat, but an Austin, Texas, yoga studio offered non-heated Bikram classes for the sake of Hunter's study. She looked at 80 participants, divided into three groups, who were asked to attend yoga three times a week for 12 weeks.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a yoga class, be it Bikram or Iyengar or vinyasa, depending on what you're hoping to achieve. But if your goal is related to heart health, rest assured that sweating your way through half moon pose is not a requirement.