Hot yoga is a form of yoga done under hot and humid conditions. Various modes of hot yoga, such as Bikram and Modo yoga, have become increasingly popular in recent years. It was estimated that 36 million Americans practiced some form of yoga in 2016, up from 20.4 million in 2012. Some hot yoga practices are said to mimic the heat and humidity of India, where yoga originated. The first type of hot yoga was devised by Bikram Choudhury, who created the popular style of Bikram yoga. Bikram yoga is practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) in 40 percent humidity. Bikram yoga consists of the same 26 poses and two breathing exercises in every class, with each class usually lasting 90 minutes. There are many other studios that heat their rooms but are usually not as hot as Bikram. Any yoga practiced in a heated room is considered hot yoga. Proponents of hot yoga claim that practicing yoga in the heat can improve heart health, cleanse the body of toxins and help with weight loss. Critics of hot yoga say there is no scientific evidence to back up these claims. Modern scientific studies on conventional, unheated yoga show the potential for yoga to lower stress, decrease blood pressure and increase flexibility and balance. Unfortunately, research on the benefits of hot yoga has involved small, limited studies that make it difficult to determine the effects of hot yoga. Practicing yoga in a heated room has sparked controversy and polarized opinions over the benefits and risks of hot yoga. In this article, we will dive into what we know about hot yoga so you can decide if the practice is right for you.
Is Hot Yoga for Everyone?
The simple answer to this question is no, hot yoga is not for everyone. Hot yoga classes will usually have disclaimers that caution those who are pregnant, have high blood pressure, heart conditions, osteoporosis, or disc issues to avoid hot yoga. Hot yoga, just like regular yoga, can involve spinal flexion, rotation, and side-bending. These movements may not be best for individuals with osteoporosis or bulging discs. However, just like with regular yoga, you will be able to find gentle hot yoga classes that may be accessible for you. Being pregnant, managing a heart condition, or having high blood pressure are all contraindications to exercising in the heat. Make sure to read the class description carefully before attending any yoga class.
For individuals in good health, hot yoga should not pose a major health risk. However, there are always some risks involved with high-intensity exercise. Dehydration is a top concern for hot yoga. While drinking water in class is important, it may be even more important to drink water in the 24 hours before class to ensure you are hydrated during the class. Remember to drink water after the class, too. Due to the high amount of sweat lost in a hot yoga class, you may want a sports drink with electrolytes to help replace the salt and other electrolytes lost during the class. As mentioned earlier, some health conditions put the practitioner at greater risk, such as heart disease, diabetes, arterial abnormalities, anorexia, and blood pressure issues. If you have any pre-existing conditions or are unsure if hot yoga is safe for you, speak with your doctor before trying a class. Always stop and take a break if you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseous. If you need to leave the room, always make sure someone is with you to monitor your symptoms.
Yoga, whether heated or not, can provide the practitioner with incredible benefits. The foundational idea of yoga is to be present. This can allow you to take a much-needed break from the stressors of your life, and learn coping skills that translate to all areas of your life. Many people find the heat allows them to truly relax their minds. Moving your body and exercising in any way is beneficial for the mind and the body. Yoga should always be a judgment-free zone. You can show up exactly as you are, with any ability level, and be welcomed into space. Yoga can help with stress and energy management, helping you cope with your stress and anything else you are dealing with in your life. Yoga can be a great way to increase your flexibility. In the heat, be extra mindful that you are not overstretching, as the heat can impact your pain response and make you more likely to overstretch. Hot yoga can also increase your strength. The higher heat can give your heart, lungs, and muscles a more intense workout than if you were doing the same class in an unheated room. This means you can burn more calories doing the same class when you’re in a heated space versus a non-heated space. The increased sweating during a hot yoga class can improve circulation, and it brings nutrient-rich blood to your skin cells which can help nourish your skin. Yoga in a heated or unheated environment has been shown to increase bone density, decrease stress and ease depression.
How to Get Started:
If you are new to yoga in general, you may benefit from trying a non-heated class first. Speak with friends who have tried hot yoga, or ask your yoga instructor about it. There are likely classes that cater to beginners. Look at the descriptions of the classes the studio offers. You might also want to try out a few studios before you decide which one is best for you. Most studios offer a discounted introductory month where you can go to an unlimited number of classes for one fee.
Hot yoga can be quite a different experience from regular yoga, so here are a few tips to get you started on the right foot. Remember to wear clothes that are lightweight and breathable. The clothes you wear to a regular yoga class may not work as well in a heated setting. Whatever you wear will stick to you and likely be covered in sweat, so keep that in mind when choosing your clothing. One of the biggest things to remember when going to a hot yoga class is to bring a towel. When practicing hot yoga, you will sweat onto your mat – a lot. The sweat makes your mat slippery, and without a towel, you will slide around, which is not much fun in the middle of a class. There are hot yoga-specific towels that are the size of your mat, but you can bring a beach towel or whatever you have at home. Many studios will rent you a towel for the class, but this might cost a fee. You might also want a small towel to use to wipe sweat out of your eyes or off your hands during the class. There are hot yoga-specific yoga mats as well, which will provide more grip when you get sweaty. There is no need for one of these, but might be a nice purchase if you practice hot yoga often. Lastly, in a heated room, your water will get warm if it is not in an insulated bottle. If you want to keep your water cold (which can be extremely refreshing), make sure to use an insulated bottle, and put ice in your water if possible.
Hot yoga is not for everyone, but yoga is. We hope the information and tips in this article leave you feeling more confident to step onto the mat, whether you decide to try a hot yoga class or stick to regular yoga instead.
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