Bikram vs Moksha

17 Nov

During the winter months, I really enjoy doing hot yoga.  When faced with frigid Montreal winters that reach well into the -30s, I like to balance things out by shocking my body into a room of +30 and sweating it out for a good 90 minutes.  Masochist- maybe; brilliant- definitely!


For the past couple of years this mainly encompassed Bikram Yoga. I remember my first class well; it was HOT.  But then I kept going and kept going, at times it really became a habit.  Not only did it help my running, but boy did it give me the core and leg strength to help me keep up with my Dad skiing.  No word of a lie, last year for the first time in the 16 years I’ve been skiing, I managed to out-ski my Dad. Something I’d never thought possible before.

My logic for selecting Bikram over other forms of Hot Yoga was one of real estate- there was a studio 5 minutes driving distance from where I lived.  However when I moved in the spring, I was no longer near my beloved Bikram Studio and though I put in a valiant effort, I pretty much stopped going.  Real estate agents are really onto something with that whole “location, location, location” thing.

Truth be told, there’s a Moksha studio 5 minutes walking distance from my apartment and I truly had every intention of trying it out since I moved there in April.  However faced with race training, injuries, and a crazy summer work schedule, I wasn’t able to find the time and fully commit to a trial.  Now a mere 7 months later, I was willing to go in there with an open mind and give Moksha-style hot yoga a shot.

While the two practices are done in heated rooms (generally 27-30 degrees Celsius), this is where the similarities stop.  And it starts right from the atmosphere in the studio.


Bikram offers a very basic, minimalistic neutral space with one wall of mirrors and carpeting panels on the floor to help you layout your mats.  When you walk in the lights our completely out, but when class begins fluorescent lighting is overhead and the bright lights keep you alert and focused on your practice.

Moksha on the other hand has a vinyl floor with mirrors on one wall. The colours are warm and soft creating a relaxing and almost zen atmosphere. During practice the lights are on but still slightly dim which was a bit difficult for me to adjust to coming from the bright-lit rooms of Bikram.


Ok so I sort of lied earlier, there is one slight similarity between the two classes with their structure:  they both open up with a breathing exercise, followed by warm-up poses, standing series and then floor series of postures. But really, all similarities stop there.  Really.

I won’t go into a pose-by-pose comparison but overall, I do find the postures in Bikram far more difficult and challenging.  From my perspective, the journey in your Bikram practice is one of progression.  You learn the postures and once you’ve established that foundation it’s about pushing yourself to go harder, deeper, and longer into the same constant 26 postures.

In Moksha, they take a gentler approach of having us ease into positions, and focusing on balance and control and don’t go too much into progression.  The poses will also vary from class to class, as well as offering different types of classes ranging from Power Flow to Yang/Yin Classes, which does lend a nice variety to the mix.

Teaching Style

What really set the two apart for me, were the teaching styles.  In Bikram our instructor would stay at the head of the class and call out poses, relying on the advanced students at the front of the class to guide the newbies into the positions. Rarely would an instructor come down from the podium to assist you or correct your stance. However, the Moksha instructors will actually get down into a lot of the postures with you or walk around the studio correcting stances and guiding your body into the right flow.

Overall, if I had to define the tone of each practice, I would label Bikram as structured and disciplined; and Moksha as varietal and loose.   Moksha and Bikram each offer you a unique practice and really which one you choose will depend on what you are seeking in your practice.

To be honest, while I am enjoying my experience with Moksha, I do miss the mental and physical challenges that Bikram gave me.  Maybe it’s because Bikram was my first foray into the realm of Hot Yoga, and they always say you never forget your ‘first’, but for now I think I am going to stick with Moksha.  The variety in classes offered, paired with atmosphere in the studio and the gentler tone to the classes I feel will better compliment my running.

Over the next week as my trial continues I’m going to try out a few more classes including Power Flow and Moksha Flow so stay tuned to see how that goes.


Have you ever done Hot Yoga? Do you have a preference between Bikram and Moksha?


4 Responses to “Bikram vs Moksha”

  1. Kristina November 18, 2011 at 9:40 am #

    Great blog, ladies! Jess, I’m not sure that we’ve ever met but I’m a friend of Tess’ from BU.

    Thanks for doing the comparison between the two styles of yoga, I’ve always wondered about Moksha.

    I’ve done Bikram a number of times and it was always a love/hate kind of thing- at first I was *so* put off by the idea of instructors telling you to ignore what your body was telling you- work through the pain, don’t leave the room even if you feel nauseous- but for me, in the end, so worth it!

    The studio that I went to sounded pretty different from yours- one wall with mirrors, wood floors, non-fluorescent lights that came on gently when the class started.

    How I do miss Bikram so and wish I could still afford it- now I just go to ‘hot yoga’ at my gym which is pretty much a joke- sometimes the room is hot, sometimes not. Don’t even get me started on the instructors’ competence. (Or lack thereof!) In any case, if anyone is thinking of trying hot yoga, they should definitely try out bikram for the real deal. Just my two cents.

    • Tess and Jess November 18, 2011 at 9:58 am #

      (Tess) Thanks Kristina! My Bikram experience was more similar to yours than to Jess’ actually (mood lighting, hard floors) but the instructor I had was very loud and monotone (felt more like bootcamp than yoga!). So I didn’t enjoy Bikram at all until I changed instructors, then fell in love with the workout and challenge that you and Jess are echoing as well. My Moksha experience was the exact same as Jess’ – softer, and a little more intrinsically focused. I don’t know if you live near any Moksha studios, but they usually have AMAZING deals for first-timers (something like $40 for unlimited yoga in your first month), so I’d definitely give it a try if you can!

      PS. Jess went to BU too! She lived at 192 Queen with me 🙂

    • Tess and Jess November 18, 2011 at 10:40 am #

      (Jess) Hey Kristina- I totally get what you mean by love/hate! I definitely do miss Bikram but like I said, I’m enjoying this gentler approach with Moksha. I would encourage you give it a shot because the one thing I definitely prefer is the variety in classes offered- sometimes I am just not in the mood for those 26 postures 🙂

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