Acute Cardiovascular Responses to a Session of Bikram Yoga: A Pilot Uncontrolled Trial

J Altern Complement Med. 2019 Apr;25(4):398-405. doi: 10.1089/acm.2018.0261. Epub 2019 Jan 30.


Introduction: Main cardiovascular parameters such as heart rate (HR), blood pressure, and myocardial oxygen consumption (MOC) are tightly regulated by a multifactorial, nonlinear control system. Increased HR because of physical activity is often accompanied by an increase in blood pressure. Postural changes have an effect on the baroreceptors, and stretching exercises and isometric contractions modulate muscle mechanoreceptors eliciting increases in blood pressure. However, a hot environment increases the core temperature inducing vasodilation and plasma volume changes that might contribute to a drop in blood pressure. During the practice of Bikram yoga, all these factors converge and little is known about the resulting changes in blood pressure and MOC.

Methods: Sixteen apparently healthy female volunteers, regular practitioners of Bikram yoga, were evaluated during a 90 min session. Systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) were measured immediately after each posture and HR was measured continuously during the practice.

Results: HR and estimated MOC increased significantly over baseline during the exercise (+62.3% and +63.6%, respectively). HR mean value across the entire Bikram yoga session was 126.6 ± 14.3 bpm reaching a maximum of 168.1 ± 20.2 bpm. SBP was not significantly increased over baseline at any time during the practice with a mean value of 117.0 ± 10.1 mmHg and DBP was significantly decreased over baseline most of the time (-10.1%, mean 71.2 ± 7.3 mmHg) with particular decline toward the end of the practice during the floor postures.

Conclusions: DBP during the practice of Bikram yoga was significantly different from that previously reported for nonheated Hatha yoga for normotensive subjects. Further studies evaluating the same group at both conditions are needed to better characterize the magnitude of the changes in HR, SBP, DBP, and MOC.

Keywords: Bikram yoga; blood pressure; smart monitors; vasodilation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Vasodilation
  • Yoga*