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No Joke: Mom Brings 4-Year-Old to Hot Yoga Class

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When I attend Bikram yoga (a.k.a. "hot yoga") class, my body goes into survival mode. Twenty-six postures in a 104-degree room for 90 minutes is an intense -- make that extreme -- workout. So you can imagine my shock this weekend when a mommy yogi brought her 4-year-old into the studio. Really?! Was this a good idea?


Hot-yoga creator Bikram Choudhury calls these 104-degree studios "torture chambers" for a reason. It's the kind of workout where, during the practice, instructors repeatedly say that it's natural to feel nauseous, dizzy and even (depending on the amount of sleep you've had and the crap you've put into your body) black out. I say this only to set the scene, not to scare anyone who hasn't tried it: It's an amazing workout, and I am 100 percent addicted! No matter your physical health, Bikram yoga is a mental workout, too, and it requires extreme focus and meditation to reap the benefits. None of these characteristics do I normally associate with children -- especially 4-year-old children.

So when a mom brought her 4-year-old into my hot-yoga class this weekend, I was quite taken aback. I noticed that some of my fellow students looked questioningly at each other, but the instructor welcomed the child. At the beginning of the class, this little yogi was trying each of the moves, naturally having trouble holding any pose. By 15 minutes into the class, the poor thing was playing with her water bottle, spraying herself and rolling around on her towel.

I am in my mid-30s, and I can barely stay focused for the hour and a half. So I totally understood how this little one was bored out of her mind. As the class continued, she got up and down and tried more moves. Of course her mom kept trying to correct her, but the instructor insisted that she let her daughter learn on her own. Meanwhile, I was hot as hell and wondering, Is this healthy for the child?

So of course, back at work, I just had to get an expert opinion. Pediatrician and momlogic expert Dr. Alanna Levine said the following:

"I do not recommend that young children participate in Bikram yoga. Children handle high temperatures differently than adults. They have a higher surface-area-to-mass ratio, which means they absorb heat more than adults do. They also have a smaller blood volume, which makes it harder for them to dissipate the heat. Lastly, they have a slower rate of sweat production than adults, and sweating is a mechanism to cool us off. Children are not 'mini adults' -- and should not be treated as such."

I thought it was only fair to call up the Bikram Yoga College of India and talk to someone there. Jessica, 32, has been a Bikram instructor since 2008. Here's how our chat went:

ml: Does Bikram have a minimum age requirement? 

Jessica: There are no strict rules, as long as the child is quiet and well-behaved. There's a youth category for the annual Bikram competition. Bikram, the founder, has three children, and they all started doing "hot yoga" at a very early age.

ml: How old was your youngest student ever?

J: I haven't have any younger than 9 or 10. Sometimes younger students wait outside during  the standing series and come in for the floor series.

ml: How would you respond to our doctor's claims that Bikram is unhealthy for kids?

J: With any physical practice, you should have a doctor's recommendation. A decision to do Bikram should be taken person by person. It's case by case.

What do you think? Do kids as young as 4 belong in a hot-yoga class? Have you ever brought your child to yoga? What types of yoga are acceptable?

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37 comments so far | Post a comment now
Rebel Road Sister July 8, 2010, 5:52 AM

NO WAY should kids go to hot yoga. I can barely stand being in there, a child should not have to suffer through the heat.

Steve July 8, 2010, 11:29 AM

My wife just got back from Bikram teacher training in Las Vegas. They told her that in no way should children take Bikram Yoga under age 11. Kids can not adjust to the heat and will FRY their hypothalamus which regulates body temperature. The yogi should have known better. Maybe you should check with Bikram himself.

Timothy Byyrd July 8, 2010, 1:43 PM

This has to be seen as meddlesome as the writer talked to everyone except the immediates. Try asking the mother why? Their might even be some medical reason why she bought the child. Did the child seem to be post-traumatize in any form or faashion from your professional eye further did you go back and share this intelligence that you have gathered with the mother who brought this child? If your answers are to the negative; then I suggest to you stay focus on raising your child(ren) and help make America better and safer with your parental skills securely bounded to your house!!!

sara July 8, 2010, 4:28 PM

It doesn’t sound like the child was suffering any more than a child raised in the middle east. She wasn’t being forced to hold the poses, she had a water bottle, and was happily hanging out near her mom. Honestly, that’s like saying it’s bad parenting to let a child live anywhere where it gets to 104 (ALL DAY LONG in California…)

I do hot yoga, and it is because of the strenuous poses that I sweat so much and am so melted by the end. I could lay there on my towel all day in total bliss. As the mother of five beautiful boys, I wouldn’t balk at bringing them as long as they had lots of water and knew how to behave.

If you are REALLY concerned about it, consider suggesting starting a childcare for the studio so that parents can have the yoga they NEED for their mental well being while still caring for their children. Would you have preferred she leave her child to wait outside? silly lady….

agnes July 8, 2010, 10:02 PM

This is child abuse plain and simple. If this mom and I use the tern loosely couldn’t find a babysitter then skip the class.

tracy July 8, 2010, 10:11 PM

I don’t believe children belong in an adult class to begin with, hot or otherwise, unless it is a mom/tot designated class. It isn’t a matter of the child being there or not, the mother should have made other arrangements or taken the child elsewhere to spend time with her for the day had her plans changed last minute.
It seems to me that it was an adult class and the other participants paid for their session, as well. You can get a wonderful impromptu workout chasing and playing with a 4 year old on a playground.
As far as the heat factor goes, outdoor heat 104 or otherwise depends on air quality, children’s levels of activity and adequate hydration. Otherwise, most children fair quite well playing outside given these weather related conditions. Just making sure, as this little one was to have proper fluids so dehydration doesn’t become a problem and plenty of sun protection/shade/sunblock are used.

Young Yoga Masters July 9, 2010, 10:11 AM

Is taking a child to hot yoga more “child abuse” than the parents in line with their kids at the McDonalds drive through? A McDonalds practice guaranteed to harm kids health.

This is far worse than a child in a hot room, rolling around on her mat and spraying herself with water. It’s been over 100 degrees for the last three days where I live and she wasn’t forced to exercise.

But as a teacher of both kids and adults, I don’t like kids in adults classes because kids are usually distracting for the adults.

Many adults go to yoga to get a break from the kids and they expect a kid-free sanctuary. So in that way if a class is listed as an adult class - I think it is fair to expect no kids, whether it is hot yoga or not.

Kim July 10, 2010, 7:07 PM

I took a few Bikram classes where a child of around 8 or 9 was attending with her mom. The child was very well behaved but it was still a major distraction. I can’t imagine taking a class with a 4 year old child present! I probably would have refused to take the class. I would have been too worried about the child to concentrate on my own practice. The rooms can get much hotter than 104 depending on many conditions. I’ve seen adults flee the room in panic, pass out completely and throw up on their mat. If parents at this studio want to have a special class for children, hopefully with much lower temperatures and humidity, they should schedule a class with one of the instructors.

roy July 11, 2010, 5:05 PM

millions of kids have to withstand 104 degree weather on a regular basis.

mojoyogini July 12, 2010, 11:38 AM

It’s too bad we still have to put up with “Bikram” and “Yoga” being used together. As if one has to do with the other. No kid should be exposed to that!

littletea July 13, 2010, 5:03 AM

That is a SELFISH mother who would not give up “her” yoga time because she did not have child care.

The child was probably fine, and not scared for life, but so wrong on the part of the mother and the studio.

I undertstand not confronting the mother, but you have to talk to the studio. It’s just not acceptable.

There are “children’s” yoga classes and there is certainly no heat involved, it’s fun and interactive, and not at all like what a parent does in a traditional, never mind Bikram’s, class. Yoga itself should not be restricted from children, but it should be tailored to them, their bodies and skills. My son is 9 months old and already does downward facing dog :)

-Former yoga instructor

Lora July 13, 2010, 12:04 PM

I own a Bikram studio. We let kids under 11 do the floor series only, so they are only in the heat for 45 minutes. Before they have all their sweat glands, which develop during puberty, I don’t encourage the whole 90 minutes. Also, 6 and under don’t usually have the attention span. That said, I love teaching kids and we have several who come to the studio.

Laura July 13, 2010, 4:59 PM

The main problem for me is that a child is in an adult class. I don’t have enough medical background to say whether or not it was bad for her, but she should not have been there. It is an adult class, and I know I would have had a hard time concentrating if some kid was spraying themselves with a water bottle and rolling around on a towel, plus listening to the mother constantly correcting her. Shame on that mother for imposing her kid on someone else’s workout time.

Angie July 13, 2010, 7:42 PM

Yes, the temp outside can get pretty high. But does your 4-year-old stay outside for an hour and a half exercising in that heat? Or do they stay indoors? There are even laws for chldcare in place to ensure children do not stay outside when the temperature reaches a certain point. A young child’s body does not have the advanced cooling capabilities that an adult’s has.
Also, Bikram Yoga is just plain dangerous. Puking and blacking out is not healthy. And “hot yoga” is also taught by amateurs (I know it’s suppose to be trained—but that’s not always the case) who don’t understand the link between heat and humidity and how the body’s cooling system works. So they pretend it doesn’t exist and that’s when the dangerous medical problems come in to effect. Google Bikram lawsuits or medical emergencies and you will see what I mean.

norman July 27, 2010, 8:40 AM

Bikram Yoga is no more dangerous than any other form of yoga. In fact, the postures taught during a Bikram sequence are themselves pretty basic and are probably less dangerous for the average person doing or trying yoga than many other forms of yoga being taught.

The heat is used to help loosen up the muscles and to help a person focus on their body. It is not meant to torture people or make them puke or pass out. Occasionally those things happen in a Bikram class, but no more so than in any other form of yoga. Who hasn’t felt dizzy or nauseous occasionally when straining their body beyond their usual level of activity?

There is nothing that I have read here that persuades me it is either dangerous or beneficial for a child to do Bikram Yoga. The opinion of the doctor is not based on actual observation. Nor do we even know what specialty the doctor practices.

I would prefer to have something more than anecdotal evidence before I make any decision.

Best wishes to all

Denice McClure October 4, 2010, 12:42 PM

Regarding the mother bringing her child, I have been bring my ten year old, 12 year old and 14 year old to Hot Power Vinyasa Classes for the past two years. The two oldest go to perform better in sports. The youngest just loves the poses. The kids go everyday to a 90 minute class. They approach it as serious as the other yogi’s. I have been asked by others why I bring them and I respond to them that this is where they want to be. My kids not only benefit from the physical benifits which are immense, they benefit from the mental aspects even more. In today’s soceity, kids need to be taught better ways to deal with life issues than overeating, bullying, getting bullied, smart mouthing others. They need to be taught the Yamas and the Niyama: non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-excess,non-possessiveness, purity, contentment, self-displine, self study and surrender. Yoga does this for them. Focusing on a dhristi, focusing on breath, focusing on sensations of the body while being subjected to heat and posses that cause you to intentional struggle, allow kids to breathe in life rather than fight or flight. My kids are kind, smart, focused and have great energy. Way to go Mom for bringing your four year old! So for the woman judging the other yogi for bringing her kids, I ask you to think about what yoga brings to you and allow it to be brought to kids too.

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fionaclare December 10, 2010, 4:55 AM

We let kids beneath 11 do the attic alternation only, so they are alone in the calefaction for 45 minutes. Before they accept all their dglands, which advance during puberty, I animate the accomplished 90 minutes. Also, 6 and beneath usually accept the absorption span. That said, I adulation teaching kids and we accept several who appear to the studio.

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