What is Hot Yoga and How Is It Different from Other Yoga Styles?

I am simply amazed at the popularity of yoga these days.

With so many styles and talented teachers out there, it is relatively easy to find a style that is right for you, but what is "Hot Yoga" exactly?  A common misconception is that Hot Yoga is synonymous with Bikram Yoga.  While Bikram Yoga is a type of Hot Yoga, there is so much more to this wonderful lineage from Calcutta.  Here is  a brief description of Hot Yoga, its origin and evolution.

I like to think of Hot Yoga as a noun, not simply an adjective describing any style of yoga practiced in a heated room.  It has a very distinct lineage which incorporates alignment principles and subtle variations to the ancient practice of yoga asanas (yoga postures) that differ from other styles of yoga.  These innovations help increase a posture’s efficiency to be more rehabilitative and fitness oriented.

Hot Yoga is a branch of Hatha Yoga (the physical form of yoga).  The goal of Hatha Yoga, or “Forceful Yoga,” is to purify and remove blockages in the body and the mind in order to free oneself from limitations and live a fuller, richer life.

Two basic branches of Hatha Yoga today:

Yoga of Krishnamacharya – Tirumalai Krishnamacharya is referred to as "the father of modern yoga”  and credited as the yogi who brought yoga into the mainstream.  This is probably the most common branch of yoga with offshoots such as Iyengar Yoga, developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, and the Ashtanga Yoga discipline of Pattabhi Jois.

Hot Yoga of Bishnu Ghosh – Bishnu Ghosh was introduced to the healing benefits of Hatha Yoga by his brother Paramahansa Yogananda (author of Autobiography of a Yogi).  He is credited with then bringing what he learned to the common people, that is, people other than sages and holy men like Yogananda.  A Pioneer in the study of yoga asana, Bishnu Ghosh founded Ghosh's Yoga College in 1923 and helped numerous people heal their various ailments.  His student,  Bikram Choudhury, founder of Bikram Yoga, then brought this wonderful healing modality to the United States.

Styles of Hot Yoga

Here are four popular styles from the Hot Yoga lineage:

Bikram Yoga

Bikram Choudhury, as I mentioned, is a direct student of Bishnu Gosh and responsible for bringing Hot Yoga to the United States.  Bikram shattered his knee in an accident and with the aid of his teacher, he embarked on a vigorous yoga rehabilitation that led him to design his own style of yoga known as Bikram Yoga.  Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class is a series of twenty-six postures and two pranayama breathing exercises performed in a specific order, two sets of each, and in a roomed heated to 105 degrees or greater.  It is designed to be rehabilitative, restoring all systems of the body to healthy working order.

Barkan Method Hot Yoga

Created by Jimmy Barkan, The Barkan Method is built on the teachings and principles of Bikram Choudhury and Bishnu Ghosh, but also incorporates postures from other styles of yoga.  Jimmy, who was once given the title of Bikram’s Senior Most Teacher, found that “even though consistency is important to measure results, daily variations are necessary to challenge, excite and help students become unlimited in their practice.”  Jimmy has also developed a Hot Vinyasa (series of postures and movement coordinated with the breath) sequence based on Hot Yoga postures and philosophies.  The Barkan Method has a large network of teachers and studios all over the world.

Moksha Yoga

Founded by Ted Grand and Jessica Robertson, Moksha Yoga is based in Toronto with locations and affiliated studios worldwide.  It is a fundamental sequence of postures practiced in a heated room.  While it incorporates principles of Hot Yoga, Moksha Yoga also integrates the opinions of a wide range of experts and peers in the yoga community.  True to Hatha Yoga tradition, the series works to stretch and strengthen muscles while detoxifying the body and calming the mind.


CorePower Yoga

Based in Denver with locations throughout the United States, CorePower Yoga is built on the premise that yoga should be accessible to everyone.  CorePwer studios offer classes at varying levels and varying temperatures ranging from 80-100 degrees.  Classes they offer such as Hot Yoga, Hot Power Fusion and CorePower Yoga, combine a heated environment with the flowing style of Vinyasa and a focus on core strengthening.  They also offer Yoga-Pilates and Yoga Sculpt allowing students to find a practice that is truly right for them.

Related reading:

What to Expect at Your First Hot Yoga Class

Hot Yoga: So, Why the Heat Anyway?

Thanks for reading! I'd love to here from you. Please leave a comment below with any thoughts or questions.



4 thoughts on “What is Hot Yoga and How Is It Different from Other Yoga Styles?

  1. Sasha Shkolnikov says:

    Bikram Yoga is a very small and basic part of the complete 100+ Bishnu Ghosh yoga series. While Bikram Yoga is great to get one going, it is does not work the human body completely – despite what its proponents are claiming. Many aspects of work are completely missing. I see many long term Bikram Yoga students, who cannot do any other basic postures, and who are also very stiff in their upper and lower body. They absolutely panic when faced with another pose from the same lineage, and avoid it altogether.
    That is why I founded Bishnu Yoga, which greatly enhances the Bikram class, while keeping it at a beginner level. We are the only yoga studio in Canada to teach an extended yoga series, based on the Bishnu yoga tradition. Please check it out. You missed it during your research for this article.
    Best, Sasha

  2. Lindsay Fields says:

    Thanks so much for the info, Sasha! I love learning about Hot Yoga teachers and styles other than Bikram Yoga. The more awareness we can bring about this wonderful derivation of yoga asana practice, the better, right?

    By the way, I love your website at http://www.hotyoga.ca/ – lots of great information. I don’t know how I’ve missed it all this time!

    This article was intended as an introduction and more than anything to distinguish Hot Yoga as a lineage of its own, Bishnu Gosh being the innovator. There are many people who have studied and teach from the Gosh tradition that I left out of this post (I also did not include Tony Sanchez Yoga, for example).

    I agree with you that 26 postures only in your practice is quite limiting and over time creates imbalance in the body.

    Thanks again for sharing information about Bishnu Hot Yoga. I only wish I lived closer and could take a class! Do you have teachers in the States?


  3. Sasha Shkolnikov says:

    We are currently conducting our first winter 6 month TTC. Then there will be a spring and a fall TTC intensive. As the news spread, I am sure that there will be teachers coming to train in this method from the States as well. Let the ripples spread.

    Thank you very much for the feedback.


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