Hot yoga has become one of the hottest (pun intended) trends in yoga in recent years.
Bikram yoga is practiced in a room that varies in degrees from 100 degree Fahrenheit to 117 degree Fahrenheit. The allure of practicing in such an over-heated environment is the amount of sweat that the body produces throughout the 90-minute session of 26 strenuous asanas.
Losing high amounts of sweat allows for the body to drop a considerable amount of weight if practiced regularly. Hot yoga is advertised as improving mental and physical health- increasing your flexibility, flushing toxins from the body, easing back problems and even curing asthma and other ailments.
However- is the practice of being in a room of 100-117 degree heat for an hour and a half really healthy for the human body? The cons of practicing in such high temperatures range from dehydration to heat stroke.
As I mentioned above, one of the boasted pros of attending a hot yoga session is that your body naturally sweats out and releases toxins. This is not entirely accurate. Your kidney, colon and liver eliminate negative toxins from the body- sweating profusely releases a majority of water from your skin.
What this means: all you’re really doing is sweating out profuse amounts of water. You become dehydrated more quickly, leading to symptoms that many yogis report feeling during a hot yoga session: dizziness, weakness, a nauseas stomach and increased heart rate (to name a few.)
If you overheat during a hot yoga session: drink electrolytes, move to a cooler area and lie down. Bikram instructors are known to encourage students to not leave if the room if they feel overwhelmed by the heat; however: listen to your body, it’s warning signs and disregard any pressure or persistence you may feel to stay and participate in class.
To avoid overheating: Drink water at least two hours before class to make sure your body is hydrated, and continue drinking in class. Bring a sport drink with electrolytes into class to replenish your body of the sweat it’s losing.
One of the many reasons my friends love attending hot yoga sessions is because of the increased flexibility they can achieve in the high heat. They love being able to master more difficult poses that they normally would be unable to do during a regular non-heated session.
Increased flexibility is great, however, not when you only experience it in high temperatures. The high heat manipulates your muscular and joint flexibility, making it easier for your body to contort itself. When your muscles pull and contract this is your body’s natural of telling you you’re leaving your “safe zone” and heading into unfamiliar territory that it may not yet be ready to master. If you push yourself too far without listening to your body, you have the potential to pull and strain your muscles.
A potential issue of hot yoga is that it increases the blood flow to your ligaments and tendons- places that usually don’t have much access to a strong blood flow. Your ligaments are in place to stabilize your joints (aka give you those “safe zone” signs.) When you’re in a heated room your joints and ligaments loosen up, allowing your body to master those positions without a warning sign that your body might not actually be able to comfortably master that pose yet.
The more you stretch and lengthen your ligaments when you can’t feel that they want you to stop, the higher at risk you’ll be for tearing one. If you stretch them too far your joints can’t support themselves, and if your ligaments become permanently stretched it could cause joint instability.
To avoid harmful stretching: recognize your limits and go at your own pace. Do not feel pressure to push yourself as far as you can go- you know your body and you are the only one who knows when it’s time to ease up on it.
Hot yoga has an incredibly large and devout following of yogi’s who swear by it and the benefits of a session. If you’re thinking of trying out a class, go for it! Make sure however that you’re aware both of the risks and benefits before proceeding with the session- most of the risks mentioned above happen to beginners who are unfamiliar with the intense heat and strenuous moves. Educate yourself beforehand and make sure you’re physically up to the challenge!
Love hot yoga? Hate it? What’s your opinion? Comment and share below!
Sky Andersen holds down the role of blog writer at Yoga Accessories. Currently studying Public Relations at Virginia Commonwealth University, she writes for many different publications and is passionate about all things photography, travel and of course- yoga.