Bikram Yoga: Gaining Weight

Bloated Ms. Spears

A couple of days ago, my weight escalated up 0.6kg literally overnight. This is after 4 days of daily Bikram yoga and a very well behaved raw diet. My eyes popped out staring at the scale. It didn’t make any sense. I remembered overhearing a discussion an instructor had with a student over in February. She said there are plenty of people misinterpreting Bikram as a fat loss tool, and that Bikram yoga finds your ideal weight balance, it’s not unusual she finds people who are too thin actually gaining weight in Bikram. I did in fact gain a tiny bit of weight during my 30-Day challenge.

This time around though, it really bothered me. It just can’t be right. Especially after I learned how much calories you burn in one Bikram session; using a fitness calculator, someone of my weight burns 819 calories in one session. On average people people burn around 600 calories. They should only be used as a guide however. Depending on each one’s weight, ability, and effort, they fluctuate. Someone who has been doing it for longer undoubtedly are able to perform postures more optimum, theoretically burning more. On top of all that, I am on raw food, a relatively low calorie diet. I couldn’t buy the whole ‘Bikram yoga finds your ideal weight, so you may gain’. It’s just physically impossible to gain fat on that basis. Nor would I gain muscle mass. Muscles would make you look more defined, not… bloated.

Still trying to make sense of the weight gain, I went in for another morning Bikram yesterday. It was probably the best class performance yet. I used to wonder how a previous instructor could sweat a bucket’s worth in one class. This time (well just a fraction of a bucket) I did it. I pushed beyond my capabilities and drenched the whole area of my mat. It doesn’t sound pleasant, but it was a good progress sign for me!

That night (last night), I realized my body had swelled up into a balloon. My thighs, belly, and arms had grown in size in a matter of hours. I never felt so bloated so suddenly. Something wasn’t right. I researched on Bikram yogaists who had gained weight. There were no clear explanation, only the same speculation of ‘finding an ideal weight’. Still didn’t buy it. Becoming physically fat in 2 days is impossible.

So, I tried another search. Water weight. I’ve heard the term a lot and used them occasionally. Did I understand them? Not really. I’m sure a lot of people don’t either. So this is the conclusion I managed to draw out.

  1. When you are not drinking enough, your body retains water to compensate. Technically, fluid retention can be eliminated by drinking more water, not less.
  2. My choice of exercise being Bikram, the more advanced you are, the deeper you go into postures, the more you sweat. The more you sweat, the more you ought to drink to replace what’s lost.
  3. You guessed it! I was sweating more than I was replenishing my body with enough water. As a result, any water my body takes (both from food and drinks) it’s retaining every bit of them to compensate.

Now it makes sense why I get bloated after long haul flights. I would get so bloated, my feet almost don’t fit in the shoes upon landing. I’m flying to Los Angeles tomorrow morning. I’m bringing an empty bottle with me for it to be refilled throughout the flight! No more water shortages for my dear body.

-Dom

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  1. I was going to say WATER WEIGHT! But then you mentioned it. Its the big one that gets most people who are otherwise lean. Most folks out there already have a good deal of padding, so some extra water hardly shows.

    I once ate so many salty olives, and the next morning I looked all bloated as if I had a hangover. Salt and lack of water will get the lean ones every time.

    Load up on ice age water if you see it out there…check out the santa monica coop if you are down south again, they have it.

    Ice age is the best tasting bottled water ive had. When you come to NY, youll have to check out the springs in NJ. Peace!

    • d3b
    • October 13th, 2009

    Hi Dom, just ran across your blog from We like it Raw. Loved the pole dancing and am enjoying reading you. Just got started on Raw myself. I do Bikram yoga as well, and I love it but I have some considerable weight to loose and have never seen that magic weight loss from it, and I used to get very hungry (which may explain the no weight loss).

    But I recently completed a 30 day challenge, and learned something. I was hungry for the same reason you gained weight… dehydration! After testing with different water intake methods, coconut water, and others…I found the key to fight my dehydration: Vegetable Juice!
    The keys are CELERY and CUCUMBERS. Watery and full of minerals. I also add one apple and some ginger. (Sometimes some greens or beets, depending on cumulative tiredness throughout the week). I make 2 liters (2 celery heads, 2 and 2 or 3 cucumbers). I drink as needed throughout the day (if evening class) or before bed and at wake (if morning class). But I drink most of it after the class and it is rejuvenating! You can tell the difference in the way you feel after class, level of thirst, hunger and just overall comparing it to simple water which for me is never enough after tough Bikram. With this juice I survived the Yoga challenge and managed to loose a couple of extra pounds!
    Worth trying!

    • I agree with you. This post has been written a while ago so there had been some updates from my side of hydration experimentations. I cannot say for certain whether or not different waters make a difference in terms of hydrating the body. Water is water after all. What I do agree on is the satiation and rejuvenating effects you get from vegetables and fruits juices simply because of their sugar content and other nutrients included in the liquid, yet still relatively low calorific.

      I myself have been drinking lots of lemon + mint water before and after bikram now. Mainly for its alkalizing properties, which I believe celery and cucumbers are too. I might look further in the alkaline topic sometime soon. I wouldn’t get too detailed here before doing my full research. You can look it up if you want to know more yourself sooner.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Thank you for the information, I took my first bikram class today and was wondering why my instructor suggested drinking water all day instead of just before class. All-over bloating sounds painful!

    • eva
    • April 20th, 2011

    I know I am way past on the previous posts here but I just started Bikram Yoga again two weeks ago and I seriously look pregnant!! I just took a test that was negative so I know thats not it. When reading that it might be lack of water instead of too much it all makes sense! I live in Arizona, and it is getting warmer here and in addition to that, my job forces me to be outside all day long. So I guess if I am not drinking enough water, doing Bikram Yoga and also am outside all day long then that might be my answer. I will try to drink more water and see what happens. My body right now is horrible, I feel so fat!!!

    • SavageLettuce
    • May 5th, 2011

    I thought I was going mad! It seems physically impossible that in the past week I have gained weight after adding Bikram back into my life. Simple physics indicates that if you expend more energy than you take in (though calories), you lose weight. So why have I packed on an extra 4 lbs when I’m trying to LOSE the extra 8 I already had??? It’s incredibly frustrating and not at all motivating. And the bloat seems to be in my midsection, which has always been slender. Time to step up the water intake before I get so frustrated I pack it in and go back to being sloth on the sofa! Thanks for your post.

    • Jen
    • August 2nd, 2011

    I just googled Bikram and fluid retention – could not, for the life of me, figure out why I had gained weight, gotten really tired, etc after a solid week of Bikram. I think potassium levels might have a lot to do with the fluid retention – sweat a lot, lose a lot of potassium, retain water. I also drink distilled water which may be a reason why my levels seemed to get low.

    • Sandra
    • August 18th, 2011

    Genuis. I lost 30 lbs over the last year, and decided to take on a Moksha 30 day challenge to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the day I first committed to losing weight. Imagine my horror when, after two weeks of yoga every day, I had gained 3 lbs!

    I was also not buying the “muscle weighs more” reasoning. There is a miniscule amount more definition, but mainly I just feel heavier. I was not pleased.

    This makes complete sense. I haven’t really upped my water intake, but I have upped my yoga classes from 2 per week to 7 per week. The math makes sense.

    Thank you for this!

    • Lisa
    • June 27th, 2012

    I’m glad to find an answer to my inability to lose any weight and frequent bloat-y look. I started bikram 6 weeks ago and haven’t lost 1 lb! Clothes fit better, energy level is fantastic but no weight loss. I will double my water intake, see what happens.

  3. This is a really great article, it’s so refreshing compared to the ‘ideal weight’ rubbish out there (especially since I’m overweight and gained 1kg in a week!). Thank you for this 🙂

    • Lisa
    • August 24th, 2012

    I’m on my last day of an 8 week challenge (YAHOO!!!) and have not lost 1 pound. I have, though, gone down one dress size. Almost two sizes, So I guess I’m at my ideal weight now. Still have LOTS of learning to do, but that is the fun part.

  4. It’s actually a great as well as valuable little bit of info. Now i’m fulfilled that you provided this useful details with us. Remember to keep us up to par like that. Thanks for revealing.

  5. Fantastic site. Lots of helpful info here. I’m sending it to a few pals ans also sharing in delicious. And of course, thank you to your sweat!

  6. Basically had the talent you might have, I’d be content.

    Your post has inspired me to be always a better writer.
    Thanks so much.

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