Magazine article Dance Magazine

Taking the Heat: Many Dancers Swear by Hot Yoga Classes like Bikram, but They Can Have Drawbacks

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Taking the Heat: Many Dancers Swear by Hot Yoga Classes like Bikram, but They Can Have Drawbacks

Article excerpt

The first time that Kathryn Mowat Murphy, a Broadway dancer recently appearing in Pal Joey, took a Bikram yoga class, she cried halfway through because of the heat. In fact, she had to leave the room because she felt she couldn't breathe. However, those first experiences were a decade ago, and she has gone four times a week ever since. Murphy, along with many loyal Bikram dancers, swears that it has injury-healing, emotion-strengthening, toxin-flushing, weight-managing, and career-extending effects. "I can't explain why, but something about the heat helps me heal from the tweaks of dancing," she says.

While more and more dancers swear (and sweat) by hot yoga, it is an extreme practice that should be accompanied by medical precautions. Before jumping in to the heated "torture chamber"--as hot yoga's founder, Bikram Choudhury, calls his studios--you need to learn how to practice safely.

EASTERN ORIGINS Choudhury was born in Calcutta in 1946. He created his now-popular method in 1973, based on 26 Hatha yoga postures. He began opening yoga studios in the U.S. on the West Coast in the 1970s, and by mid-decade had moved to Los Angeles, where he founded Bikram's Yoga College of India with his wife, Rajashree. There they train and certify all Bikram yoga teachers. Almost 25 years later, former Broadway dancer Donna Rubin and business partner Jennifer Lobo founded Bikram Yoga NYC, the city's first official studio and a popular warm-up spot for professional dancers. "The 90-minute class is like a ballet barre because it prepares your body for everything," explains Rubin. "The postures are in the same order every time, so you know what you are getting no matter where in the world you take class." (To view postures go to www.bikramyoga.com, click on "Yoga.")

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So what's the difference between Bikram and other hot yogas? Any Hatha-, Ashtanga-, or Vinyasa-style yoga practiced in a heated room is hot yoga, but it should not be confused with the Bikram franchise. Bikram also can be termed a hot yoga. The room temperature is set around 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 50 to 60 percent humidity. The heat allows for "more stretch than you've ever had," says Rubin, "plus it brings the heart rate up, and the sweating detoxifies." She always recommends building up slowly by sitting down if needed and adjusting to the heat. "We suggest trying three classes before judging, because many dancers really struggle through the first classes."

A HEATED DEBATE The heat is of course the most controversial aspect of hot yoga practices. …

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