Is Hot Yoga Good for You?

Bikram yoga is a variation of yoga that is based on the concept of practicing yoga in a heated room. Bikram Choudhury developed this version of "hot yoga" back in the 70s. The room must be heated to between 90º and 105º F, and possibly even hotter, and with the humidity between forty and sixty percent. A hot yoga class lasts approximately ninety minutes during which the participant goes through a sequence of linked poses. It is a strenuous workout, even for the very fit person. So, is hot yoga healthy, or can it be harmful?

Is Hot Yoga Good for You?

Hot yoga does have its merits. Aficionados claim the sweat removes toxins from the body. Your heart can get the same workout during a hot yoga session as it can if you run a mile. Hot yoga seems to lessen the symptoms of many lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Practicing hot yoga also brings some risks.

1. Benefits of Hot Yoga

  • Flexibility

The beginner will learn to gradually stretch the muscles until they reach the desired flexibility. This is therapeutic for the body. The heat allegedly helps with this stretching process. Before long, you will be doing the more difficult exercises. Keeping your muscles flexible will benefit you all through life, especially into your old age.

  • Strength

Is hot yoga good for your strength? Yes. Hot yoga is a low impact workout, using muscles that you weren't aware of. Your body becomes a gym. Try doing the Triangle pose on carpeting without sliding! Spine strength is one of the primary focuses. A healthy spine contributes to a healthy, long life.

  • ŸBurning More Calories

Without ever leaving your mat, hot yoga moves will work your heart in much the same way as if you were to run a mile. This is especially true when you contract your muscles and balance at the same time. You can burn up to 1,000 calories in just one ninety-minute class. The stretches and compression of your glands and internal organs stimulates the metabolism to aid in burning calories faster all through the day.

  • Focus

The majority of hot yoga classes use the same twenty-six postures and two breathing exercises in each session. The ones that don't, use some type of routine, which helps advance your ability with repetition. The further you advance, the more focus and determination you gain. This discipline carries over into your daily activities. The ability to focus on the task at hand is a great asset to help you excel, which leads to greater enjoyment.

  • Detoxification

Not only does the hot room help you to stretch your muscles more and get a cardio workout, it also makes you sweat. Your organs, glands, and muscles are detoxified because of the positions you use, and the sweating increases the detoxification. 

2. Potential Risks of Hot Yoga

Is hot yoga good for you at any time? No, if you have certain health conditions. Learn the potential risks and when to avoid hot yoga. 

  • Heat Stroke

Heat stroke occurs when a person is exercising in the heat, whether indoors or out, and the body loses its ability to control its own core temperature. This causes heat stroke which is potentially fatal. The heart, kidneys, liver, and other organs simply shut down. Over the past twenty years or so, forty high school football players succumbed to heat stroke while practicing in hot weather. Hot yoga can also cause heat exhaustion which is expressed in muscle cramps, dizziness, feeling light-headed and/or nauseated, and just generally wiped out. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop the exercise. Don't worry about what others may think of you. You take care of yourself. Drink plenty of water, especially before you begin the yoga session. If you have a heart condition, diabetes, any lung disease, or you are pregnant, or take certain drugs (antihistamines, antipsychotics, antidepressants, anticholinergic, or alpha- or beta-blockers), you will be at a higher risk of heat stroke or heat exhaustion, so watch yourself.

  • Joint and Muscle Damage

Overstretching your muscles may feel good, but it actually backfires. It is claimed that a person can stretch deeper in a hot room, but this can lead to inflammation, arthritis, and joint problems. Many orthopedic surgeons are seeing an increase in yoga injuries. So be careful not to overstretch. You can feel tension, but not pain. Never bounce because that can cause small tears in the muscles. Instead, stretch and hold.

  • Infection

Germs thrive in hot, humid conditions. That heated hot yoga room just might be a germ nursery. Don't ever share clothing, towels, or mats with other people. If you must use a gym mat, use a disinfectant spray or alcohol wipes on it, or cover it with your own clean towel. If you have any open cuts, scratches, or sores, bandage them well before leaving home. If the room looks dirty and wet with sweat, just leave.

3. Who Should Avoid Hot Yoga?

Hot yoga is best avoided if you are over sixty years of age (unless you regularly practice yoga), pregnant, have diabetes, high or low blood pressure issues, or have dizzy spells. If any of these apply to you, choose a different type of yoga.

How to Perform Hot Yoga Safely

Is hot yoga good for you? Yes if you know the tips to manage the heat and find your limit. 

1. Manage the Heat

The hot yoga classroom may not feel so bad at first. But that's before you spend ninety minutes exercising. If you begin to feel dizzy or uncomfortable, sit down and focus on breathing to dispel the discomfort. Don't give in to the urge to gulp in air or water, wipe away your sweat, or run from the room. You will recover shortly by just breathing through your nose.

2. Keep Hydrated

Come to the hot yoga class well hydrated. Try to drink about a half gallon of water through the day, but don't drink too much during the class. Drinking too much just before exercising can upset your tummy. When needed, just sip water. Listen to your body and take it easy when you need to.

3. Eat Right

It's best to wait at least two hours after eating to go to a hot yoga class. A full tummy can be very uncomfortable when stretching or contracting muscles. But don't come hungry either. Eat a small portion of fresh fruit if needed, at least ten to fifteen minutes prior to class. Every body is different, so you may need to experiment to see what works for you.

4. Don't Be Late

It's important to be on time to class. New-comers should arrive at least half an hour early in order to get signed up, dressed, meet the teacher, settle in, and become acclimated to the heat. Let the teacher know if you have any injuries or limitations so he or she can work with you to heal rather than harm.

5. Choose Light Clothing

You are going to sweat, so plan for it by wearing light, breathable clothing. This will make the heat more tolerable. Some like to wear shorts and a short top, such as a sports bra, so they can watch their muscles contracting. It's okay to show some skin even if you don't yet have a trim body. 

6. Don't Push It

Go into hot yoga exercises gently, and gradually work up to more and more strenuous moves. You know the difference between pain and discomfort. You will experience some discomfort, but if you feel pain, back off. It's not a competition. If you can't achieve a certain posture at first, go into it slowly, then increase the movement week by week. If at any point, you feel lightheaded, dizzy, nauseous, or otherwise ill, take a break. Sit down, go into a child's pose, or leave the room.

7. Avoid Wiping Your Sweat

Sweat actually helps your body to maintain its normal temperature. When you wipe it off your skin, it disrupts the body's natural and highly adaptive self-regulation mechanism known as homeostasis. So just let the sweat run. Everyone else is doing it!

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