Hey there friends!

How are you doing this morning? Based on the comments on my Miso Glazed Salmon with Sesame Slaw recipe of the week from yesterday, it sounds like there are a lot of big salmon fans out there!! Let me know if you try the recipe – I can’t wait to hear what you think!

You may remember that back in July I tried Bikram yoga for the first time, and promised that I’d post a comparison of Moksha and Bikram. Well, that day has finally arrived!

I had a few chats with some yoga experts nearby and did some reading on both types. Here’s what I found out:

Origins and beliefs

What is Bikram?

This type of hot yoga was founded by Bikram Choudhury, who was born in India in 1946. He and his wife founded a yoga college in Beverley Hills, and ‘Bikram’ has become the brand that labels their yoga style – the script that instructors follow, the room atmosphere and layout, and the order and number of poses.

What is Moksha?

Moksha is another style of hot yoga which was founded in 2004 by Ted Grand and Jessica Robertson, two yoga teachers from Toronto. A large part of the Moksha philosophy has to do with social consciousness, and this is reflected through community initiatives, environmentally friendly studios, and karma classes (pay-what-you-can classes to make yoga accessible to all) etc.

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According to the Moksha website:

We are a group of independent hot yoga studios committed to ethical, compassionate and environmentally conscious living, and believe that the benefits of yoga are limitless and accessible to all.

It was very evident to me very quickly that the ‘green’ value is strong across Moksha locations. I’ve visited 2 locations and checked out others online, and each boasts features like VOC-free paints, energy-efficient heat panels, filtered faucets, environmentally friendly cleaning products, and bamboo studio floors.

Room temperature

According to the Bikram website, a studio must be heated to 104-105F in order for it to be an ‘official’ Bikram studio (or a ‘Torture Chamber’ as Bikram himself calls it). From what I’ve experienced, I felt that the Moksha studio was hotter than the Bikram one. However, after talking to a few other yogis and reading reviews of both types of hot yoga, it seems the general consensus is that both classes are done in a room that is heated to temperatures between 95 and 105F. (I didn’t bust out a thermometer in the classes so I can’t confirm!)

What’s the reason for the heat? In theory, a doing yoga in a hot room allows the body’s muscles and joints to soften and stretch to maximum length and range of motion.

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Poses

The difference here is pretty clear-cut: Moksha has 40, Bikram has 26 that are done twice through. Some of the poses (also known as ‘asanas’ overlap, but there seems to be more variation in Moksha classes depending on the instructor.

Moksha:

  • More variation than Bikram – there isn’t just a single ‘Moksha’ class. You have options like Vinyasa (flows), silent practices, Ashtanga, etc. For descriptions and differences, click here.
  • The order goes something like: Start in savasana (corpse pose), set an intention for the practice, standing series of asanas, floor series, final savasana. However, there may be some variation in order within the floor series or standing series.
  • Has several rounds of downward dog ‘vinyasa’ flows, whereas Bikram classes don’t have any.

Bikram:

  • Same 26 postures performed in the same order for every class, with no instructor variation.  (For more detail and for the Sanskrit names, click here.)

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Class Atmosphere

One of the biggest differences I noticed was the style of instruction. Bikram classes are entirely scripted, so there’s no room for variation. The instructor stands on a little stage and shouts out the poses. In the classes I did, the instructor didn’t leave the stage but I’m not sure if this is a requirement. After reading and asking around about this, I learned that the theory behind the constant chat is that it helps people in the class to stop their minds from wantering and losing focus.

By major contrast, Moksha instructors seemed to be much softer in vocal tone, and again there was more variation depending on the person.

Other differences:

  • Moksha: Less of an emphasis on encouraging students to get as close to full pose expression as possible. Slower, gentler speech. Seemed less intimidating and demanding than Bikram.
  • Bikram: Constant reminders to push your limits and give 100% (again, perhaps just my experience, but Bikram seemed much more militaristic). Quick, demanding speech

Class length 

Moksha varies in length – usually between 60 and 90 minutes, but Bikram is always a 90 minute format.

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Expected benefits

I found a lot of similarities here. Both types of hot yoga are believed to have the following benefits:

  • Stronger, toned muscles
  • General sense of well-being (physical and psychological)
  • Improved flexibility
  • Increased mental clarity
  • Detoxification (through sweat)
  • Alleviating many ailments including stress, arthritis, muscular pain, insomnia, and asthma
  • Potential for weight loss

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So which one did I like better?

Long story short: I haven’t decided. I liked that Bikram gave me one booty-kicking of a workout. I was really, really tired and super sweaty at the end – sweatier than I think I’ve ever been after a spin class or a balls-to-the-wall run. I also liked that the poses were repeated because I found I was often able to get deeper into them on the second round. However, I’m not sure I liked the constant instruction.

There’s something about Moksha that is more peaceful and calming, yet at the same time, it still delivers a fantastic workout. You can push yourself as hard as you want to, whereas in Bikram, it seems the instructor wants you to give 100% ALL the time. I also like the slight variation in Moksha yoga classes. I feel that if I did Bikram regularly, I’d get bored with the poses. At Moksha, there’s always an element of surprise which keeps things interesting.

Ideally, I think both styles have their benefits, and if yoga were free, I’d do a combo of both!

So tell me….

  • Have you tried Moksha and Bikram? Do you prefer one over the other?
  • If you have tried either form of hot yoga, would you agree with the comparisons above? Please feel free to correct anything I’ve said that is wrong – this is all based on my experience, but I’m by no means an expert!
  • When you attend group fitness classes (yoga included), do you prefer consistency or slight variation in instruction style?