Heated Vinyasa Yoga Versus Bikram Yoga: What’s the Difference?

Hot yoga classes are all sweaty, but they’re not all created equal.


For a yoga novice, deciding on which hot yoga class to try can be a little confusing and intimidating. Maybe you didn’t realize there were different types of hot yoga before walking into a studio. Truth be told, not all hot yoga classes are the same. 

Heated Vinyasa and Bikram yoga are both Hatha-based practices that typically take place in a heated room. Svatmarama, the creator of Hatha yoga, introduced his system in Hatha Yoga Pradipika as a preparatory stage for physical purification that the body practices for higher meditation or yoga. All Hatha yoga is based on asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing techniques). However, there are several differences between heated Vinyasa and Bikram yoga.

“Vinyasa” is a Sanskrit word that has several different meanings and may be deciphered by its Sanskritic roots. “Nyasa” denotes “to place,” and “vi” means “in a special way.” Some of the most common definitions for vinyasa include (but are not limited to) linking breath with movement. Generally, vinyasa is used as a noun to describe the sequence of poses that are performed between Adho Mukha Svanasanas (downward facing dog) as part of a Surya Namaskara (sun salutation) sequence; however, this is more correctly termed “half vinyasa,” since vinyasa returns to complete standing asana or positions. 

Most, if not all, vinyasa classes contain some variation of a sun salutation (Surya Namaskar), whether it’s simply for warming up in the beginning or flowing from one pose to another. Heated Vinyasa yoga is ideally practiced in a room heated to approximately 78 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the studio. You can expect a flowing class that contains pranayama, sometimes music and a variety of different poses that range from novice level to advanced. All vinyasa classes vary in intensity and pace, but, overall, when practicing Vinyasa yoga, movement and breath should always be simultaneous.

Bikram yoga, on the other hand, is a set sequence of yoga asanas that Bikram Choudhury generated by using traditional Hatha yoga asanas. Bikram yoga classes run for 90 minutes and consist of the same series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises. The asana series is designed to scientifically warm and stretch muscles, ligaments and tendons in the order in which bikram dictates they should be stretched. Bikram yoga is practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, with a humidity of 40 percent. You can expect the exact same 90-minute class each time you attend. 

Both Bikram and Vinyasa Yoga represent a precise and disciplined approach to heated yoga. However, while bikram strictly adheres to a set of postures, vinyasa has a greater fluidity and variance in asanas. If you’re the kind of person who wants to know exactly what they’re getting into with heated yoga, take a bikram class. If you’re looking for a varied practice with a general foundation, go for vinyasa. For either, you’ll want to be sure you’re properly hydrated and ready to sweat much more than a non-heated yoga class. 

There are several different varieties of yoga out there, so don’t hesitate to try them all. Yoga is a very personal and sacred practice. Find out which ones resonate with you the most, and embrace them.  


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