Bikram vs Moksha – A Comparison
Comparing Bikram vs Moksha yoga is a little like comparing fraternal twins. Both practices are grown from the same root (hatha yoga) and also connected in other ways. After practicing Bikram yoga for 4 years followed by Moksha yoga for the last 7 months I now have enough insight on both sides to do a comparison. I have read other online reviews on this subject and some bloggers are simply regurgitating what they’ve read in other online reviews or they have a strong bias or affiliation with one or the other of these practices. I do not. I am a Hatha Yoga teacher, but not a hot yoga teacher. My viewpoint for this post is strictly as a practitioner and hot yoga enthusiast.
If you haven’t already done so, you can go to the individual reviews of each practice for the facts and ratings of both Moksha (Moda) yoga and Bikram yoga. This post is strictly a comparison post with the view to provide some clarity for people wanting to start practicing hot yoga and trying to choose between these two big players in the hot yoga marketplace.
Are Bikram and Moksha are related?
At the most basic level both practices are based on traditional Hatha yoga postures. On a more interesting note, the founders of Moksha yoga were both trained Bikram yoga instructors prior to their incarnation as founders of their own regime. Does this make Moksha yoga a watered down version or worse yet, an altered plagerization of the Bikram series?
I have pondered this carefully and for me the answer is no. Bikram did not invent any of the 26 postures in the Bikram yoga practice. He simply put them in a certain order and added heat and humidity to the mix. It was a serendipitous recipe for Bikram, combined with the age old lucky strike of ‘the right time and place’, the practice was embraced and he now has over 1000 franchises bearing his name. I believe that the Moksha founders did have the Bikram practice in mind when they designed their series. They took what was there and changed it to suit the masses, keeping some aspects of the series and changing others so the entire series would be more accessible to the beginning or average yogi. There would have been nothing to stop Bikram from doing this himself. Yet he did not, so really at some point someone had to. Then along came Moksha.
What is Bikram – What is Moksha
Bikram: This practice is more difficult, the teachers “dialogue” is unforgiving, urging participants to push further, try harder, hold poses longer. All classes are 90 minutes, which is a long time in a room that is hotter and more humid than most other hot yoga rooms. Each posture is repeated so just when you think you can’t do the posture again, you have to. In my opinion the Bikram series is not suitable for an absolute beginner, although they claim it is. It is gladly embraced by more experienced hot yogis the world over.
Moksha (Moda): Definitely the easier yoga series. The teachers are very careful not to push the participants to do anything outside of their comfort zone. Quite the opposite mentality to Bikram, and likely designed to be that way. Most classes are 60 minutes, with some longer class options. Different class types offered, some studios even offer non-heated classes. The average participant is at beginner to intermediate level.
Bikram: The teachers have been put through the ringer, so to speak. Nine weeks of grueling training presided over by the man himself (Bikram Choudhury). The training costs an arm and a leg. Of the roughly 30 some odd Bikram instructors I have met and taken classes with, I would say about 50% of them fall in the “edgy” category. To me “edgy” does not have a negative connotation. It means the instructors have interesting personalities and quirks, despite teaching from a scripted “dialogue”. I’ve met the odd warm and fuzzy Bikram teacher, but they are in the minority. There is a cult like quality amongst the teachers who are often quoting or telling stories about Bikram. That they are teaching from a script written by Bikram speaks to the level of dedication and belief they have of the power of the practice. I found certain phrases from the dialogue to be annoying (“now fold together like a japanese ham sandwich” -really?) but as a participant I found it generally worked well. Also, I would often see teachers practicing in the room with me when not teaching which is again a testament to their dedication to practice what they teach. Still, generally, the nature of the scripted practice means you get a consistent work-out, fairly comprehensive safety tips, and it doesn’t matter who the instructor is, you can depend on the same 26 x 2 postures time after time.
Moksha (Moda): The teachers all have a Moksha yoga basic training, 1 month long, then they are assigned to one of the franchise locations to complete the next 11 months of training, somewhat like a practicum or a stage. Moksha teachers are actually warm and fuzzy. They all talk in a very mindful manner and since they do not use an actual script, there is the opportunity for them to interject their philosophies of life, yoga, and other subjects once in awhile. Bikram teachers do this too but sooner or later have to get back to the script so it’s not as prevalent. For me the yoga, the breath, and the heat is what brings me to a spiritual place. I tend to tune out when the philosophizing starts. One thing I’ve noticed about some Moksha teachers is their tendency to speak very very slowly, enunciating each syllable of each word. This drives me a little batty because it sounds somewhat inauthentic. I have a post touching on the subject of “the authentic voice” in the teacher’s corner page.
Bikram: I have been inside 5 different Bikram locations. One word: Spartan. Just like the many of their teachers, these places are not warm and fuzzy. Comparing the 3 main studios I attended, the classes at first location still had carpets in the hot room (which frankly is pretty gross) which is the main reason I went to the 2nd location, which was ok, but it had open showers which brought back memories of grade 7 (not a good year for me). None of these locations were places I liked to hang out in after I was done class, ever. The facilities range from adequate to in need of maintenance. If you’re looking to get comfy Bikram yoga isn’t too conducive to that. The staff at every location I’ve been are rather perfunctory which for me is not an issue. I go, I do my yoga, I shower, I leave. If you’re a member some (but not all) Bikram locations offer a free first class if you bring friends or family (sometimes they provide a mat and towel also), which is a very nice offer, that I’ve taken advantage of several times. For more details about the Bikram practice, the studios, the negatives and positives please see my specific review of Bikram Yoga.
Each franchise is individually owned so the vibe of each location can be very different. However, I’ve visited 3 Moksha different locations so far and they were all very inviting. They all have a common area where people can and do gather, sip tea, have a chat both before and after their classes. Teachers, studio owners, and students all mix and mingle. In my studio there is always tea and sometimes people bring treats to share. I never expected to, but I’ve made some pleasant acquaintances in a few short months. The staff are very engaged and do a great job remembering everyone’s names, which is part of what creates the “community” feeling of Moksha yoga. They have an “ambassadors” program allowing select individuals help out in exchange for free class and merchandise benefits. The changing facilities are excellent, spotless, and very well maintained. Operations wise Moksha definitely wins hands down over Bikram. For more details about the Moksha practice, the studios, the negatives and positives please see my specific review of Moksha Yoga also known as Moda Yoga
Which is better Bikram or Moksha?
Full disclosure, I actively practice both Moksha and Bikram yoga. I go to Moksha for my everyday practice and I top up at Bikram when I’m needing the extra “jolt”. Lately that’s been once or twice a month. But If I had to choose one or the other, it would be …. drum roll please …. Moksha, pretty much hands down.
That’s all folks for the comparison of Moksha vs Bikram. For more information about the basics of hot yoga please see click on → Types of Hot Yoga ←.
Comments are welcome, please leave them in the box below. Regards, Connie