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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cross-Training with Bikram Yoga

by Alex O'Meara

Cross-training with Bikram --- or hot --- yoga delivers an array of benefits. It builds core strength and loosens leg muscles that may have become tight, or out of balance, from running. Cross-training with Bikram also helps build mental tenacity and sharpens focus --- important factors for any athlete, but particularly for endurance athletes, such as marathon runners. Consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen.


Cross-training employs various methods of exercising to strengthen and improve your ability to do one specific exercise, explains Jessica Matthews, continuing education coordinator for the American Council on Exercise. Some benefits include reducing risks of injury and losing weight more efficiently and faster. Yoga is an effective cross-training option because, according to, it offers improved flexibility and increased strength, two valuable assets for any athlete.


Bikram yoga is a series of 26 hatha yoga poses in a space heated to 105 degrees F. Heating the room softens and loosens your muscles and increases flexibility. According to New Jersey's Synergy Hot Yoga studio, combining hatha yoga poses with such intense heat allows for deeper tissue stretching, lengthening and strengthening than would be possible at room temperature.

Cross-Training Program

How often you wish to incorporate Bikram yoga sessions into your exercise regimen is a matter of personal preference. If you run three days a week and cross-train two, you can make one or both of those days a day for Bikram, for example. Jada Wright, a marathoner and Bikram enthusiast, was practicing Bikram twice a week training for a half-marathon. Writing on the Alumni Wellness website, Wright credits Bikram's recovery-enabling properties for allowing her to run a half-marathon and a full marathon in consecutive weeks. After that experience, Wright practiced bikram every day for 60 days straight and continued racing successfully.

Tips and Warnings

If you're new to Bikram be sure to come to each Bikram session well-hydrated. Bring water with you and prepare to drink at least a quart of fluid during a class.

You are never required to complete, or even attempt, all 26 poses. If a pose makes you uncomfortable or hurts, skip it, recommends.

If you have blood pressure issues --- high or low --- or if you are nursing, pregnant or if you have a low heat tolerance, check with a doctor before you step into a Bikram studio.