3 Reasons Why Bikram Yoga Is Great for Chronic Arthritis

I have a friend with rheumatoid arthritis who swears by Bikram yoga—she says it’s the only exercise she’s tried that loosens up her stiff ankles. Bikram is performed in a room at a whopping 105°F. That heat gets joint fluid flowing and can loosen stiff ankles, knees, and hands.

See When and Why to Apply Heat to an Arthritic Joint

Yoga and tai chi can aid in alleviating symptoms of chronic arthritis. See Tai Chi and Yoga for Arthritis

Below are 3 more reasons why people with chronic inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis can benefit from Bikram yoga.

See What Type of Yoga Is Best for You?


1. It’s a great way to monitor your condition over time

The 90-minute classes consist of a fixed series of 26 poses, each done twice with a short rest in between. No matter what Bikram yoga studio you attend, the class is essentially the same.

See Exercising with Arthritis

Because every class presents the same poses performed in the same order, participants are able to monitor their joints’ flexibility and function over time. People who attend class typically report that they notice slow and steady progress towards increased flexibility.

2. It gets your heart pumping

Bikram requires students to hold each yoga pose for 30 to 60 seconds while breathing through their noses and maintaining stillness. It’s physically and mentally demanding and gets hearts pumping fast. Research suggests that performing these types of yoga poses benefits the cardiovascular system. 1 Hunter SD, Laosiripisan J, Elmenshawy A, Tanaka H. Effects of yoga interventions practised in heated and thermoneutral conditions on endothelium-dependent vasodilatation: The Bikram yoga heart study. Exp Physiol. 2018 , 2 Hunter SD, Dhindsa MS, Cunningham E, et al. Impact of Hot Yoga on Arterial Stiffness and Quality of Life in Normal and Overweight/Obese Adults. J Phys Act Health. 2016;13(12):1360-1363. This is especially important to people with rheumatoid arthritis and other types of inflammatory joint arthritis, because they are at an increased risk for cardiovascular disorders. 3 Renjith AS, Marwaha V, Aggarwal N, Koshy V, Singal VK, Kumar KVSH. Prevalence of left ventricular dysfunction in rheumatoid arthritis. J Family Med Prim Care. 2017;6(3):622-626. , 4 Castaneda S, Gonzalez-juanatey C, Gonzalez-gay MA. Inflammatory Arthritis and Heart Disease. Curr Pharm Des. 2018.

See 5 Steps to a Healthier Heart

3. It’s easy on the hands and wrists

Many other yoga classes require participants to frequently put weight on their hands. For example, downward dog pose requires people to rest much of their body weight on their hands. Bikram yoga avoids poses like that—in fact, the last 30 minutes of class is spent doing poses while sitting, kneeling, or lying on the floor. (And if you can’t kneel or sit on the floor, don’t worry. A good instructor will help you or give you other options.)

See Yoga and Tai Chi for Arthritis Relief

If you are new to Bikram, tell the instructor about your joint problems ahead of time; he or she can help you come up with alternative poses when things get too challenging. And trust me, it will get challenging. In fact, teachers tell new students if they can’t keep up with the poses, that’s okay—their job is to stay in the room and breath deeply. Lie on the mat and breath? You can handle that.

Learn more:

Ways to Get Exercise When You Have Arthritis

Understanding Joint Pain

Jennifer Flynn worked as a Senior Editor at Veritas Health. She worked with physicians to develop original, comprehensive, and unbiased health content. Jennifer specialized in content related to arthritis, joint injuries, chronic disease, and diet. She has more than 15 years of medical and health writing experience.