What do you Really Burn in Bikram?

If I burn under 1000 calories in an hour and a half run, about 15 or 16 km, jogging, I have a hard time believing that a 90 minute Bikram session will burn the equivalent.

I tried a couple of Bikram Calorie Counters – both on studio websites, and this was my result:

Image(1)

I also calculated that for 90 minutes of vigorous yoga in a non-heated room I would be burning about 650.

Then came a wealth of conflicting information.

Fitnessista blogger Gina recorded her calorie burn using a her heart rate monitor, HRM, and only reached 234 calories in the 1 hour and 30 minutes, while practicing at 100%.(4)  However, commenters on Livestrong and MyFitnessPal burned close to the estimated 1000, based on their HRM.  This information lead me to see that according to the Mayo Clinic’s health education website, a person weighing around 160 lbs. will burn about 300 calories during a 30-minute session in the sauna(5).  Some Bikram sites explained that you could expect to burn between 500-1000 calories per session.  Considering that could be the difference of an entire class, its a bit vague.  Contradicting that was evidence that you burn very few more in a sauna than the 68 calories you would sitting at room temperature. 

These contradictions begin to make sense when you realize that HRMs are not designed for hot temperatures, tending to record exaggerated calorie burn.   While your heart rate might sit at 110 in high heat, it is not from energy output.  A high heart rate registers as being from activity such as hiking, cycling, running or swimming.  Therefore, when your heart rate is elevated from being in a hot temperature, the monitor registers your caloric loss as if it is from activity.  This explains how it can be proven that you can burn an extra 532 calories per hour by turning up the temperature.  Thus, practicing yoga in a heated room provides no greater calorie burn than it would in a regular temperature.

Ashtanga yoga burns 300 calories an hour, while vinyasa burns 450(3).  The level of intensity of a Bikram class would fall approximately between the two styles.   From this I would estimate that a Bikram class would burn between 5-600 calories, depending on weight, height and intensity.  I was hoping to find a clear answer for how many calories a Bikram sequence would burn in a regularly heated room but there was no information.  While there are benefits  – and detriments – of the hot room, caloric loss is only marginally affected.  

  1. Calorie Calculator . (n.d.). Bikram Yoga Burnaby. Retrieved January 12, 2014, from http://www.bikramyogaburnaby.ca/about-the-yoga/bikram-yoga-calorie-calculator/
  2. Calories Burned During Bikram Yoga. (n.d.). LIVESTRONG.COM. Retrieved January 12, 2014, from http://www.livestrong.com/article/115471-calories-burned-during-bikram-yoga/
  3. Calories Burned for Yoga. (n.d.). FIT day. Retrieved January 12, 2014, from http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/fitness/cardio/calories-burned-for-yoga-is-it-enough-for-weight-loss.html#b
  4. Hot, but not a scorcher. (n.d.). The Fitnessista. Retrieved January 12, 2014, from http://fitnessista.com/2012/04/hot-but-not-a-scorcher/
  5. Sauna Benefits: Calories Burned. (n.d.). LIVESTRONG.COM. Retrieved January 12, 2014, from http://www.livestrong.com/article/242883-sauna-benefits-calories-burned/#ixzz1wrsSNy2n
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