Bikram Yoga for Triathletes

Olga Allon from Hot Bikram Yoga explains how yoga can help with triathlon training.

As someone who likes dabbling in most sports, particularly those that involve pushing myself to the limit, triathlons are a natural fit. They provide the balance I’m looking for – I’m challenged without feeling it’s so intense I might injure myself.

I think it’s partly because the three disciplines work on different parts of my body. However I’m also convinced the strengths I gain from my practice of Bikram yoga are key, too. Bikram works every part of your body and is a great addition to a triathlon training programme.

Why bikram works
Most of us know how effective interval training is to build strength and fitness. So, for anyone who might still view yoga as a soft option, Bikram is identical in the results it achieves. You hold each pose for 20-30 seconds, then move into a state of 100% relaxation. It’s similar to weight-training – but using your own body as the weights and pulleys, which means you build lean muscle strength. And gaining the correct muscularity for your structure – rather than bulk – is what triathletes need.

Bikram’s usefulness for triathletes is borne out by how many I regularly see at Hot Bikram Yoga studios. Although it’s partly because it provides the ideal support for any sport, it also tends to appeal to the same sort of people. In triathlon training one day you link swimming with cycling, another day cycling with running, and a third you might cover all three. Bikram practice is perfect for days in between, feeding into and supporting each discipline in different ways.


My first triathlon was a big shock. The water was freezing, it was packed and there was so much going on that I could feel the panic rising. But by focusing on my breathing, in the way I do week in, week out in Bikram, I could feel myself growing calm and my focus returning. 

A session of Bikram is great, too, for stretching out those tight shoulder muscles after a swim. Half moon pose helps release tension in your shoulders and upper back, while standing separate leg stretching pose is a 360° stretch using your arm strength to lengthen your spine. 

Then there’s the awkward pose, which involves holding your arms parallel to the floor for one minute. It’s tough, but you really notice the increase in your arm strength. And, as Bikram works on building your core and leg strength, you’ll soon see the benefits – not least in the strength of your kick. 


When I first moved from a hybrid to a road bike, I really noticed the difference in my posture. My whole body was positioned much further forward. I can pick out the cyclists at Hot Bikram Yoga studios a mile off – they’re the ones with terrible posture and rounded shoulders!

After a session on the bike, Bikram’s great for checking in and correcting the alignment of my spine and shoulders. It’s vital; if everything is in alignment, it means my body is working optimally and I’m less likely to suffer an injury.

Knees and thighs take  alot of punishment in cycling. Two of the best ways to avoid injury are to build muscle strength around the knee joint to protect it, and to build a proper stretching routine into your training especially for those dreaded hamstrings. My two to three sessions of Bikram a week mean both are covered, and I’m free to concentrate on the rest of my training.


As a marathon runner, I know first-hand how much stress running places on my knees and spine. But, by working on strengthening the muscles that support them, Bikram helps protect them as much as possible.

Runners are also notorious for not stretching properly – a quick five minutes on a cold morning really doesn’t count, I’m afraid! A full routine that works every part of your body should be part of your training. I know it can be a struggle to squeeze everything into your day, but anything that helps keep you free from injury is worth every minute in my book.

Although I’d been fine during training for my first triathlon, I did notice a slight niggle in my hamstring afterwards. But after a couple of sessions of Bikram it quickly passed and I was soon looking forward to my next event.

I’d recommend Bikram yoga to everyone. If you love triathlons you’ll be hooked!

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Discuss this article

It's proven that Runners who practice Yoga are less prone to injury!!
Posted: 23/01/2013 at 20:58

zoe pierce wrote (see)
It's proven that Runners who practice Yoga are less prone to injury!!

Where's that proven? Not doubting you, but I'd like to read it first hand.

Posted: 23/01/2013 at 23:00

Says who ?
Posted: 24/01/2013 at 07:56

I do like a bit of downward dog

Posted: 24/01/2013 at 09:21

its also proven that runners eat food live longer than those that dont, you just got to love empirical science


Posted: 24/01/2013 at 09:22

cite your sources

Posted: 24/01/2013 at 09:23

I did Bikram for 3 months 3/4 times a week and whilst I enjoyed it and became a little more flexible I think there are better forms of Yoga out there. Why? Well at first I thought this is amazing and quite a good workout, then I took a friend along who practiced Ashtanga Yoga and she said Bikram was prety easy and it was only the heat that made it feel hard. This was confirmed to me when one morning the heating system was faulty so we had portable heaters in the studio. The heat was around 32c for the duration instead of the usual 40c+. The class felt so easy and I left feeling like I hadn't had any kind of workout. Since this episode I have changed my opinion on Bikram. To add to that, it is propbably the most un-green yoga around, the amount of energy used to heat those rooms must me emense which is reflected in the cost of a class, it was £13 a session when I went, it's now a whopping £16! Compare that to £8 a class for Ashtanga. For me it's a no brainer. Having said that, any form yoga will benefit those in need of a good stretch but I suggest you try a few flavours of yoga before signing up and parting with your hard earned cash!
Posted: 24/01/2013 at 10:09

I'm 50/50 on Bikram, I know people who feel it has helped but also know three runners who have sustained injuries during Bikram classes that stopped them running for months.

But as with any yoga class, it depends on the teacher - some of them are excellent and some classes encourage a ridiculous competitive practice.

Posted: 24/01/2013 at 10:15

Yep, I agree, the reachers definately make a difference. We once had a "guest" Bikram teacher from the US, she was so bad I took to wearing earplugs in class to block out the constant drivel!!
Posted: 24/01/2013 at 11:22

Triathlete's World you beat me to it I was going to write a forum on Hot Yoga.

I never tried it but my daughter has seen the classes  up town and she told me about it  I have also googled it

Apparently there is gym in Beceknham  that charges £15.00 a class - I love to try it to help my old shoulder and leg injury.  But the cost is too much and  I also fear I might pass out during the yoga. class.  I am very stiff it's really embarrassing. 

But if  I save up enough pocket money I will try it and let you  guys  know all about  it. I aiming to touch the top of my head with my foot.

Or naked yoga???    Nooo way

Also there's  that yoga with sheet and you are in the air. What's that one called???

Posted: 24/01/2013 at 12:09

£16 for a sesion of yoga....i do yoga but its free with my swim pass

Posted: 24/01/2013 at 12:33

Did read something about it being unhealthy due to the high amount humidity for the bacteria to live in but I'll assume that's only in a dedicated room and surely the same would apply to saunas. CBA with any of it,I train hard and never been injured through training so until I am I will stay an inflexible fitness luddite
Posted: 24/01/2013 at 13:04

for a home yoga workout (and therefore cheaper) i've found the Ryan Giggs Yoga inspired DVD really useful a couple of times a week.

 and we all know why he likes to stay flexible dont we...

Posted: 05/02/2013 at 18:14

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