What Is Hot Yoga and What Are the Benefits and Risks?
Some like it hot… and some do not!
If you are someone that likes to pour out sweat when you exercise, then hot yoga may be right up your alley! The warmth is felt when you walk into a heated studio and the sweat starts almost instantly as you begin to move on your mat.
You may feel as if you’re a melting ice cube trying to resist turning into a puddle! But if you have or would like to experience hot yoga, the best thing to do is to embrace the heat and let your body move freely through an array of postures.
What is Hot Yoga?
Hot yoga is performed in a room heated between 80 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity at 40 percent. This style may be more physically rigorous than a traditional yoga practice.
Turning up the heat and humidity to a tropical intensity produces warmth that allows your muscles to achieve more flexibility and range of motion. The heat not only promotes flexibility in the muscles, joints and tendons, but also creates a challenge for the mind to sustain focus under such conditions.
Hot Yoga Styles
Hot yoga can be done in all different yogic styles. Depending on the yoga style, you’ll utilize either a set sequence performed each time or a ‘free flow’ sequence of poses chosen by the instructor that are appropriate to the class type and student level. Add some heat to any practice and you have “hot yoga!”
The most powerful and heated yoga styles include:
‘Bikram yoga’ is considered the original formal name for hot yoga. It’s practiced in a heated room for a 90-minute series of 26 postures held for a period of time while utilizing the breath to achieve more depth into the pose.
These postures require forceful yet well-controlled contractions of all major muscle groups. The intensity of the pose along with the heat is designed to raise the heart rate and tire the muscles. It’s a true challenge!
A vigorous, faster paced yoga style that flows through various strength and flexibility poses while focusing on breath. The instructor typically free flows sequences into a masterpiece of yogic artwork.
A dynamic flow of postures that link the movement to the breath. The postures range from all levels to accommodate the goals of the class.
These are the most common hot yoga styles. However, there are many studios today that practice yoga in a heated room based on their preferred method.
Hot Yoga Benefits
By performing yoga sequences in a super-heated room, you can expect wondrous health benefits that are different from room temperature flows. Although more scientific research is needed to explore the benefits further, several studies have been performed and reveal these positive effects:
- Detoxification helps eliminate and flush toxins from the skin
- Heat allows you to safely go deeper into the postures due to improved flexibility
- Heat forces the heart to beat faster to provide a cardiovascular workout which elevates the heart rate
- Increases metabolism and promotes more calories burned
- Increases blood flow making the blood vessels more flexible which improves and promotes circulation
- Stimulates T-cell production
- Boosts immunity
- Heat relaxes muscles and induces sleepiness which improves sleep quality
- Improves balance, stability, and control
- Improves breathing to help the body relax
- Develops mental concentration and mindful focus
Is Hot Yoga Dangerous?
Like any form of strenuous physical activity, there are risks associated with the style of workout, the exercises performed, and the individual partaking in the activity. That being said, hot yoga is not necessarily dangerous, however, because it’s a strenuous form of activity conducted in a hot room, it can be potentially hazardous if it is not practiced wisely.
Due to the intensity of the postures and the potential to cause any heat-related illness, it’s best to say hot yoga is not for everyone. It’s always best to check with your doctor before trying to exercise in extreme conditions, especially if you have any health concerns. Some of these concerns are associated with dehydration, heat disease, heat intolerance or heat-related illness such as heatstroke. Pregnant women should also be cautious when exercising in extreme heat.
Keeping hydrated before, during, and after class will prevent heat exhaustion. Additionally, being conscious of any muscle pain or strain felt during practice and being aware for signs of dizziness are key cautions to notice in your body to take rest, hydrate, and keep yourself safe.
We all have limits and sometimes we tend to push past those boundaries based on our own ego! It’s important to respect how you feel in the moment to avoid any issue from occurring.
Facts, Fictions and Feelings
The key to enjoying hot yoga is to learn the facts, understand the concept, and experience a feeling that will make you wanting to come back for more. Be prepared for the challenge and be aware of how you feel on your mat. Take care of your own health by staying well hydrated prior to a class, during and after to replenish the lost minerals and electrolytes.
Hot yoga is not a race. It’s not a competition. It’s a moment to let go and focus on the present moment in time. Practice every class at your own pace. Take breaks when needed and don’t compare yourself to your neighbor. Lose the ego and focus on your own capabilities.
On a given day, you may be more flexible, or stronger than other days. This is a good thing since our bodies are constantly changing. Let the surrounding heat lengthen your muscles and allow your body to flow freely, breathe deeply and feel warm inside and out. These elements of yoga create the mind body connection that is a consistent ‘work in practice’ over a lifetime.
Go Sweat and Flow
Turn up the heat and work on a seamless movement flow as your body and mind are challenged under variable conditions. Accomplishing a class will leave you with elongated muscles, a relaxed mind, and feeling sweatier than ever -were talking full on drenched!
So get inspired to practice yoga and embrace the heat!