Bikram Yoga is a patented brand of yoga, involving 26 poses practiced in a heated room.
Thousands of devotees claim 'hot yoga' is better than drugs for treating health problems ranging from arthritis to depression.
Joseph Encinia, a yoga teacher from the U.S, credits Bikram Yoga for his incredible recovery from juvenile arthritis and the heart attack he suffered at the age of 13, thought to be caused by the drugs he took for treatment.
He said: "After that I was told not to exercise,’ he says. ‘The pain and swelling became less in my late teens but I was still uncomfortable and not very mobile, so I put on a lot of weight. I had a walking stick."
Then, against the advice of doctors, Joseph tried Bikram Yoga. Now, he has the physique of an Olympian and can contort his body into a range of impressive shapes.
Professor Mark Williams of the University of Oxford's Department of Psychiatry says yoga was first developed as a way of preparing the body for meditation. Studies measuring electrical activity in the brain found that when people meditate, the amygdala (that part of the brain that controls panic) shrinks. This may be why meditation has been used as an effective treatment for depression and pain.
There are countless testimonials from people who claim Bikram Yoga is something of a 'miracle cure'. For example, 21-year-old music student Sam believes Bikram Yoga cured his depression, while teacher Alison, 48, says yoga stopped her from needing a hip replacement
Today there are around 500 official Bikram Yoga classes worldwide. Most of the teachers come from a background of painful health problems and credit yoga for their incredible level of fitness today.
To find out more about yoga as a therapy, please visit our Yoga Therapy page.
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