News Bikram Yoga: High on Heat, Lower Problems

Bikram Yoga: High on Heat, Lower Problems

July 9, 2005
By: Mandi Bishop

Since the safety of some pain medications has been questioned, a lot of people are looking outside their medicine cabinets for relief. News 4 WOAI's Tanji Patton found some who say they found an answer in an unlikely place.

It's close to 100 degrees outside, so why in the world are some people working their tails off in a room that's even hotter? They're practicing Bikram Yoga, a series of stretches, balances, and muscle compressions all done for 90 minutes in a 105 degree room.

The people in this hot room aren't just sweating to lose weight. Some of them say they're being healed. Lucia Garza says because of Bikram Yoga she has dramatically reduced her insulin intake for her type 1 diabetes.

"I've noticed that when I, the days that I do come to yoga, my blood sugars stay under 200," explains Garza. Plus, her foot problems from her disease are diminishing, as well. "My feet were not hurting me anymore and I was able to, five days later I was able to climb the stairs."

Joan Supik suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. Tired of years of pain and hundreds of medications, Joan sought alternative routes. She credits Bikram yoga for much of her improvement.

"I'm off drugs and I have been for three years," says Joan. "I can stand on my tip toes and I haven't been able to for twenty years. That's awesome...My elbows are open. They were almost 90 degrees. Now, I can put my hands above my head."

Then there's Roy Gonzalez. He started Bikram to compliment his martial arts practice, but a funny thing happened the more he came to sweat.

"I've been on Lithium Carbonate for bipolar disorder for twelve years. As my practice continued, I realized I had more control of my moods because it's a more challenging place to be in there with the heat and having to listen and not talk. We started tapering off meds and I've been off of mediation for two years."

Owner Stevan Falk says these stories are not uncommon. "Back pain, knee pain, people who are overweight. They come in. They work hard. It's challenging and difficult. The ones that stay with it get very good results.

"We do the same series everytime...they are 26 challenging postures and they are what Bikram, the teacher, felt were the best yoga, the best postures for the most people out in the world."

So, why does the room have to be so hot? Falk says, "Obviously, you're warmer, the muscles become more relaxed. They can improve circulation, the heart rate elevates, so it's more aerobic. You can stretch deeper. Fatty acids are mobilized better in the heat, so you're going to burn more fat."

But is exercising for this long in this extreme heat safe? We asked Dr. Tamyra Rogers, with Health Link. She tells us, "I think it's healthy as long as you follow some recommendations: making sure you're really hydrating yourself and making sure your core body temperature is not getting too hot which is really going to require a lot of hydration as you are exercising."

That's what attracts a lot of people to Bikram initially, the thought of losing weight, but as you can see, some people are getting a lot more out of it than that.

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