Bikram Yoga & Cystic Acne

Bikram yoga, developed by Bikram Chouldhury, uses a system of 26 hatha poses and is practiced in contained spaces heated to temperatures of 85 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s as if you’re doing yoga in a sauna and have to carry a bucket to mop up sweat. While some claim that sweating detoxifies your system and clears severe or cystic acne, others suffer a breakout of acne after a session of Bikram yoga.

Severe Acne

Acne is a bacterial skin disease. Superficial acne -- whiteheads and blackheads -- that dot a teenager’s face typically disappears after puberty. Cystic acne is more severe. It causes cysts brimming with pus and deep irritated nodules. The cysts frequently erupt and turn into abscesses, resulting in lesions and scars. I is more common in men than women and can recur at any stage in life for reasons that remain unknown. According to “The Treatment of Modern Western Medical Diseases with Chinese Medicine,” by Bob Flaws and Philippe Sionneau, cystic acne is treated with isotretinion, an antibiotic. Side effects can include stiffness in your muscles and bones, lower back pain, dry lips and depression.

The Aggravators

Various triggers, ranging from heat to oily cosmetics, seem to encourage the recurrence of cystic acne. If you’re exposed to heat, pressure or a humid climate in which you sweat for extended periods of time, your skin swells. This can lead to clogged and inflamed skin follicles, according to “Milady Standard Esthetics: Fundamentals,” by Joel Gerson. Other triggers include hormonal changes, medication, friction and stress. A high level of testosterone can activate the sebaceous glands in your skin, resulting in oily skin, clogged pores and acne.

Nature’s Waste Removal

Your skin is a large organ -- 18 to 20 square feet -- that removes the waste from your body, according to Rodale Health Books. When you sweat in a Bikram yoga session, your skin is pushing heavy metals, such as lead and mercury, pollutants and other toxins out of your system. Bikram yoga instructor Kelly Senn was taking medication to treat cystic acne but was suffering from the effects. In search of a drug-free therapy, she took up Bikram yoga. Within nine weeks the acne disappeared, according to Orlando Power Yoga. While sweat helps to detoxify your system, the connection between doing Bikram yoga and the successful treatment of cystic acne has not been proven.

Heat as a Trigger

If you have cystic acne, the hot humid environment of a Bikram studio may trigger a breakout. In Bikram yoga, you perform one pose right another without stopping. Some instructors forbid breaks because Bikram is a form of meditation. A pause in the flow of movements can hinder your concentration, according to “Raw Food and Hot Yoga: From Severe Disability to Superior Health,” by Tonya Zavasta. A Bikram studio’s humidity prevents the sweat from evaporating, and that can cause your skin to reabsorb your body’s toxins. The sweat can also clog your pores and irritate your skin. Hydrate well and towel off the sweat -- or do another form of yoga that doesn’t require heat and humidity.