Bikram Yoga is a system of yoga that Bikram Choudhury synthesized from traditional yoga techniques and popularized beginning in the early 1970s. Bikram's classes run approximately 90 minutes and consist of a set series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. Bikram Yoga is ideally practiced in a room heated to 105°F with a humidity of 40%, making it notoriously known as a form of hot yoga.
Bikram Yoga's goal is toward general wellness and Bikram Choudhury claims the heated studio facilitates deeper stretching and injury prevention, while reducing stress and tension. Bikram claims that his system stimulates and restores health to every muscle, joint, and organ of the body. According to Choudhury, many people only use up to 50 percent of their lung capacity and thus the lungs must be stretched in order to withstand holding more oxygen. In a 2007 interview, Choudhury stated that when one is practicing pranayama she or he will eventually be able to enhance oxygen conversion and absorption, as well as improve blood circulation, as in many other forms of cardiovascular activity.
Choudhury claims that blood circulation is affected immensely during Bikram Yoga because of two processes called extension and compression. These two dynamics are said to work together to deliver fresh oxygen to every joint, muscle, and organ within the human body. While performing a specific asana (pose), the practitioner stretches or compresses a certain part of the body, thus cutting off circulation temporarily. This restriction of circulation causes the heart to pump more blood in reaction to the shortage. The pumping of excess, fresh blood is called extension. Once the asana is complete and the individual comes out of the posture, the new oxygenated blood is able to rejuvenate the arteries that were being compressed. Because of the volume change and influx of fresh blood, it is said that infection, bacteria, and toxins can be released through this process. Other styles of yoga also promote this theory (cf: B.K.S. Iyengar's "squeeze and soak" analogy regarding the effects of deep twists on the internal organs).
Bikram yoga is widely popular for its long withstanding theraputic benefits and euphoric effect. The heat maintains the yogic conditions based in humid India which purify and detox the body, this is what contributes to the "refreshed" feeling which often accompanies a Bikram yoga class.