Bikram Yoga Explained: The 26 Bikram Yoga Poses

Practiced in simmering heat for a period of 90 minutes, Bikram yoga poses aren’t for the faint-hearted.

This ground-breaking yoga system has attracted a huge range of followers from all over the world – but, for a number of reasons, it’s not without its detractors.  

In this article, we’ll explore: 

  • What is Bikram Yoga?
  • Bikram Yoga vs Hot Yoga
  • Bikram Yoga controversy 
  • 4 Bikram Yoga Tips
  • 26 Bikram Yoga Poses to Practice

And with no further ado…

Bikram Yoga Explained 26 Bikram Yoga Poses

What is Bikram Yoga?

As yoga expanded outside of India and across the world into much colder climates, Bikram Choudhury, a Calcutta-born yogi living in California, sought to replicate India’s heat and humidity and founded the Bikram Yoga system in the late 1970s. 

Bikram Yoga took the world by storm and attracted a huge range of followers, including many members of the Hollywood elite.

The unique method involves a set series of 26 poses, each of which must be performed in an exact order and repeated twice within a 90-minute period. Crucially, Bikram yoga must be practiced in a hot, humid environment, be it natural or artificial. 

These 26 poses mainly consist of traditional Hatha poses, as well as pranayama exercises, and are designed to target every part of the body and keep oxygenated blood flowing steadily. 

Bikram Yoga Poses have numerous benefits, including: 

  • Improved circulation 
  • Boosted metabolism 
  • Boosted detoxification
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 Bikram Yoga vs Hot Yoga

People often use ‘Bikram yoga’ interchangeably with ‘Hot Yoga’ – but interestingly, whilst all Bikram yoga is hot, not all hot yoga is Bikram.

So, what are the main differences between hot yoga and Bikram Yoga?

In a nutshell, Bikram yoga is the original hot yoga. But whilst Bikram yoga has a rigid, unchangeable structure, hot yoga can practically take on any form – from Hatha to Ashtanga to Yin and beyond – so long as it is performed in hot conditions.

A wide range of asanas might be included through one sequence after the next, at quicker or slower paces as the instructor sees fit. Popular hot yoga styles include Baptiste Power Vinyasa yoga, Moksha yoga, and CorePower yoga. 

Another key difference is that most hot yoga classes will last around an hour, whereas a Bikram class will last for a strict period of 90 minutes. 

And just how hot is hot yoga? Temperatures vary but in general, hot yoga studios are kept between 35 to 40 degrees Celsius (95 to 105 F) with a 40% humidity rate. Pretty steamy…

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Bikram Yoga controversy 

Bikram Yoga has been subject to heated controversy during recent years. 

Much of this stems from the fact that Bikram’s popularity led to its widespread teaching at yoga studios all over, especially in the United States, many of which would adjust or shift the order of the 26 poses.

According to Choudhury, not only was this against the core principles of Bikram, but Bikram Yoga poses were also under copyright and could not be taught without his authorization. He filed several high-profile lawsuits against competing Bikram studios.

NB: It was ruled that yoga postures could not be copyrighted.

A further point of controversy concerns Mr. Choudhury himself, who has faced multiple sexual harassment, sexual assault, racism, and homophobia allegations. The accusations are explored in the 2019 Netflix true-crime documentary: ‘Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator’.

Consequently, many studios now choose to offer ‘Hot Yoga’ classes instead of Bikram as a way to distance themselves from the practice’s divisive founder.

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4 Bikram Yoga Tips  

#1: Wear the right gear

  • The heightened temperature and humidity in hot yoga studios place you at risk of restricted movement, overheating, slipping, discomfort.
  • So, the best hot yoga clothing will allow for 4 things: flexibility, breathability, slip prevention and comfort.

#2: Use a non-slip yoga mat 

  • Make sure you use a non-slip yoga mat provides padding for your knees, wrists and elbows and prevents you from slipping over during some of the more challenging poses. 

#3: Stay hydrated 

  • Due to the steamy temperature of your Bikram studio, you’ll lose plenty of water through sweat. Take a big bottle of water to your class and take small sips regularly.
  • Even after your finished, make sure you keep drinking more water than usual to replenish your fluids.
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#4: Take it slow

  • Whether you’re a first timer or a regular, your body needs time to acclimate to the high temperatures, so try not to exert too much energy during this period.
  • If you experience symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, an elevated heart rate, vomiting and more, you might be experiencing heat exhaustion. Recognize the signs and let your teacher know immediately!

26 Bikram Yoga Poses to Practice

Bikram Yoga consists of a series of 26 linked poses that warm and stretch muscles, ligaments, and tendons, in the order in which they should be stretched.

To properly practice Bikram Yoga, you’ll want to find a reputable Bikram studio and qualified instructor.

However, if you’re looking to get some practice in before your class, check out our 26 Bikram yoga poses, as listed below:

1. Standing Deep Breathing Pose (Pranayama)

Stand straight and tall in Mountain Pose, creating length with your spine and the crown of your head. Bring your palms and forearms together, gently pushing the chin back, so that the head drops back.

Your breath should be slow and steady, in and out of the nose and down into the belly.

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2. Half-Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)

Stand straight and raise your arms above your head, joining your palms together to form the prayer mudra.

Bend at the hip and let your torso fall to one side, feeling the stretch along the convex side. Repeat on the other side.

3. Awkward Pose (Utkatasana)

Stand tall, feet hips width apart. Stretch your arms straight in front of you and face your palms to the floor. Bend at the knees and sit on an imaginary chair, taking care not to collapse the back.

4. Eagle Pose (Garurasana)

Bend your knees and stack one over the other. Cross your elbows and bring your palms together just below your nose. Engage your core and squeeze your knees and thighs together. Swap legs.

5. Standing Head to Knee Pose (Dandayamana Janushirasana)

Shift your weight to one foot and lock your standing leg. Lift your other leg and clasp your foot, slowly straightening it out in front of you. Try to touch your chest to your outstretched leg. Swap legs.

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6. Standing Bow Pose (Dandayamana Dhanurasana)

Lift one of your legs at the inner ankle with your hand. Stretch your other to the ceiling, palms facing up. Carefully kick your raised leg backward and up, hinging forward slightly with your torso.

Feel your spine arch backward and visualize your foot moving past the top of your head. Swap legs.

7. Balancing Stick Pose (Tuladandasana)

Stand straight, clasp your palms together and raise your arms to the sky, indexing fingers pointing forwards. Hinge at the hips and lift one foot behind you, keeping your spine straight. Swap legs.

8. Standing Separate-Leg Stretching Pose (Dandayamana Bibhaktapada Paschimottanasana)

Take a step with your right foot to the right. With a straight spine, bend forwards until you can grab the bottom of your heels and use your arms to deepen the stretch until your head touches the ground.

The larger your step, the easier the pose.

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9. Triangle Pose (Trikanasana)

Stand straight with your feet in a wide stance. With a straight waist, bend towards the right and lift your left hand above you, anchoring yourself with your right. Bend your right knee, stretch out your left leg, and look up towards your outstretched arm. Repeat on the other side.

10. Standing Separate Head to Knee Pose (Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Janushirasana)

Bring your feet together and raise your arms above your head in a steeple pose. Step out with your right foot and turn it out 90 degrees, bringing your torso, hips, arms, and head with you. Keep your hips square.

Tuck your chin to your chest and bend your torso to your right leg, touching your head to your knee. Repeat on the other side.

11. Tree Pose (Vrikshasana)

Fix your gaze on a focus point in front of you and shift your weight onto one leg, slowly raising the other off the ground. Bring your raised foot to the inner thigh of your straightened leg and rest your sole against it, pressing hard.

Square your pelvis so that it is straight and stretch your arms to the ceiling, palms pressed together. Hold the pose for 30 seconds before switching legs.

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12. Toe Stand Pose (Padangustasana)

Bend your right knee towards your chest and rest the foot on your left knee. Bend your standing leg, bringing your buttocks the rest on your left heel. Bring your hands together in the prayer mudra at your chest.

13. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Lie on your back, close your eyes and breathe deeply through your nose.

 14. Wind Relieving Pose (Pavanamuktasana)

Lie on your back and bring your right knee to your chest, clasping your hands around it. Keep your neck straight and shoulders squared. Swap legs.

15. Sit Up Pose (Padahastasana)

Sit with your legs stretched in front of you and, keeping your back straight, bring your torso to your knees and rest your head there. Reach for your toes and pull yourself further into the stretch.  

16. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Lie on your stomach and place your hands under your shoulders, palms down with elbows pressed into your ribs and pointing towards the ceiling. Gently press off the ground and lift your head, chest, and stomach off the ground.

Your back should be doing more work than your hands here.

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17. Locust Pose (Salabhasana)

Lie face down on your mat and extend your arms to the side, keeping them in line with your shoulders whilst making sure your hands are below shoulder blade level.

Engage your buttocks and thighs and lift your legs off the ground when you’re ready.

18. Full Locust Pose

Lie face down on your mat and extend your arms to the side, keeping them in line with your shoulders whilst making sure your hands are below shoulder blade level.

Exhale and lift your head and chest off the floor, followed by your legs. Hold the pose.

 19. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)

Lie on your stomach, legs slightly apart. Bend your knees and reach back with your arms to hold your ankles. Lift your chest and legs off the floor, pulling through your arms to deepen the stretch.

Look straight ahead.

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 20. Fixed Firm Pose (Supta Vajrasana)

Sit in Vajrasana and place your palms beside your buttocks. Bend back, placing your elbows and forearms on the floor and using them to support your weight. If you can, grasp your toes with your fingers.

21. Half Tortoise (Ardha Kurmasana)

Sit in Vajrasana and lift your arms to the ceiling, palms together and arms straight. Hinge at the waist and bring your chest to the ground. Try to touch your forehead to the ground.

22. Camel Pose (Ustrasana)

From kneeling position with hands on hips, bend backwards slightly and clasp your feet with your hands. Straighten your arms and look to the ceiling.

 23. Rabbit Pose (Sasankasana)

Sit in Vajrasana and raise your buttocks from your heels slightly. Hinge forward at the waist and arch your back gently, bringing your forehead to your thighs. Touch your thumbs to your ankles.

24. Sitting Head to Knee Stretching Pose (Janushirasana-Paschimottanasana)

Sit down and stretch your legs out in front of you. Bend your left leg and place your heel to your groin, sole on inner thigh. Stretch tall with your arms and bend over your straightened leg, touching your head to your knee.

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 25. Half Lord Of The Fishes (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

From seated, stretch your legs in front of you and bend your left leg over your right leg, placing your left foot near your right thigh. Now, bend your right leg towards your pelvis.

Anchor your left hand on the floor behind you and clasp your right knee with your hand. With a straight back, twist your torso and gaze over your left shoulder. Swap sides.

26. Skull Shining Breathing (Kapalbhati Pranayama)

Sit cross-legged in Sukhasana and place your hands, palms up, on your knees in the meditation mudra. Sit tall and straight, pulling your navel in towards your spine.

Inhale slowly and deeply through the nose before exhaling in a sharp outburst through the mouth. Repeat this as many times as necessary, taking time to be still and listen to your body.

Final Thoughts

Both Bikram Yoga and Hot yoga classes provide a huge array of health benefits and can be a great way to challenge yourself and shake up your practice.

Before taking a class, we recommend considering medical conditions you may have and talk to your doctor.

If you enjoyed this article and are looking to prepare for an upcoming Bikram class, check out this article:

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Lola is a digital content creator based in London with a passion for yoga, nature and people.

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