One of the most popular forms of yoga, which requires participants to pull agonising poses in 40 degree heat, is no healthier than traditional yoga, a study has found.
In the first investigation of its kind, scientists established that Bikram hot yoga, which has attracted a devoted worldwide following since its inception in the 1970s, did nothing extra to prevent heart disease or stroke.
In recent years the practice has been taken up by Andy Murray, who described it as “tough and ugly”, as well as a host of other celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston.
Centres have sprung up across the UK and people have reported becoming addicted to performing the 26 postures in extreme heat.
The aim is to work progressively and systematically every muscle, ligament, tendon and joint, moving fresh oxygenated blood to every part of the body.
Bikram teachers claim that through regular practice students can gain muscle strength, improve flexibility and achieve weight loss.
It is said to help develop concentration, patience, determination and self-control, however it has also been reported to cause black-outs and hallucinations.
In a new study, researchers at the University of Texas compared 40 traditional yoga participants to those undertaking hot Bikram over 12 weeks.
The research showed that Bikram yoga can reduce changes in the lining of blood vessels that are involved in the development and progression of heart disease
It also found that it can possibly delay the progression of atherosclerosis, which is a disease in which plaque builds up inside arteries and can cause heart attack or stroke.
However, it found that it is not necessary for the yoga to be performed at a hot temperature with the effects also being seen at room temperature.
The findings follow a downturn in the fortunes of Bikram Choudhury Yoga Inc, which filed for bankruptcy in the US last November following the sexual harassment claims against the founder, Bikram Choudhury.
The 73-year-old is currently wanted by police in the US after a California judge issued an arrest warrant in May in order to satisfy a $6.8 million award made to Choudhury’s former attorney, who had accused him of sexual harassment, which he denied.
Stacy D Hunter, corresponding author said: ‘The new finding from this investigation was that the heated practice environment did not seem to play a role in eliciting improvements in vascular health with Bikram yoga.
“This is the first publication to date to show a beneficial effect of the practice in the absence of the heat.”
The new study is published in the journal Experimental Physiology.