Thursday, September 5, 2013

Bikram Yoga Benefits?

During my foray into Bikram Yoga, I googled "Bikram Yoga health benefits" repeatedly (remember the definition of insanity, anyone?) in a vain attempt to find something specific.  I found things like "reduced anxiety" (a tad subjective, I think) and "body detoxification" (so is pooping) and "blood thinning" (scary, quite scary...and nebulous).  

These intangibilities bother me no end!

In my yoga stint, I didn't feel particularly thin of blood (or thin at all, really) but I did sleep better.  Nothing is as comforting as evidence so I did a literature search and found one salient article by some great neuromuscular scientists, Brian Tracey and Cady Hart, out of Colorado State.  I love that these guys admit in their abstract that there really hasn't been much in the way of high-grade yoga research.  Hence their study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research!

After 8 weeks of 3x weekly 90 minute Bikram yoga classes (and for anyone just joining us on our yogavestigation, that means hot hot hot hot yoga), the study group of 32 young and healthy but mostly sedentary adults had stronger and more flexible hamstrings, stronger glutes, and increased shoulder flexibility as compared to their non-yogi counterparts.  Of course, these are not facts and science, merely "facts" and "science" dusted with the stink of statistical magic.

Feel free to read the study, but be aware of the limitations--we already could surmise that physical activity of any variety is a boon to anyone who is mostly sedentary.  This study did not dwell on blood thinning or inner peace, but still demonstrated that Bikram Yoga has a positive impact on flexibility and strength, two key components of physical fitness.

So what is my takeaway?  Yoga is fun to do with a friend.  It's a nice break.  It's nice to relax in a hot room in the evening.  But it's not going to increase my VO2 max or transform me into a skinny mini any time soon.  So I'd better keep running.

Good thing the Pub Run is for (TOMORROW)...more on that in a bit!

Who wants to argue with me about the benefits of yoga?  I liked it, I really did, I promise...but I'm not sure I'm a Bikram devotee...