In recent years, hot yoga has become a popular exercise with an ever-increasing number of studios advertising classes. You may even know someone who has tried a hot yoga class and either loved or hated it. But, what exactly is it and, more importantly, is it safe?
The terms “hot yoga” and “Bikram yoga” are, at times, used interchangeably. However, before attending any class, it is important to read the fine print so you know what to expect. Hot yoga refers to a generalized yoga class that takes place in warmer temperatures, ranging from 80°F to 100°F. Bikram yoga, on the other hand is a very specific practice in which the room is a steady 105°F, and the same sequence of poses and breathwork are performed in every single class.
Who shouldn’t do hot yoga?
Both offer benefits, and hot yoga is a great way to reach certain fitness and wellness goals, but it’s not for everyone. For instance, don’t attend a hot yoga class if you’re pregnant. Elevating the body temperature too much may put you and your baby at risk, not to mention the heightened risks for dehydration, fainting, and dizziness that may come from this form of exercise. Furthermore, if you suffer from heart or arterial disease, fainting spells, high or low blood pressure, or heat intolerance, do not attend hot yoga unless your doctor clears you to participate. Many studios require you to sign a liability waiver for these reasons.
What can I gain from hot yoga?
If you have a clean bill of health and would like to give hot yoga a try, it’s an excellent way to reach wellness goals, such as:
Improved flexibility. Hot yoga, because it warms the muscles quickly, helps you stretch deeper into yoga poses. It should be stated, however, that injuries can result from overdoing it, and you need to be mindful of what your yoga teacher calls your “edge,” the place where the stretch is just shy of too deep. However, when done correctly, hot yoga can vastly improve the flexibility of muscles and joints, resulting in less pain, especially for aging individuals.
Healthy weight. Hot yoga simply burns more calories than traditional yoga, making it a popular choice for those hoping to reach weight loss goals. Not only that, but because the heat raises your heart rate, you can also count it as a cardiovascular boost, therefore increasing respiration and metabolism.
Glowing skin. Sweating is a great way to glow from the inside out. Many practitioners of hot yoga attest to its abilities to increase the health of your skin. A warm environment also improves circulation, bringing oxygen and nutrient blood to skin cells and giving a glowing complexion to hot yogis everywhere.
Better mental health. The sedentary nature of our culture increases stress, anxiety, and depression. Moving the body is one great way to counteract this effect, and yoga is especially good at boosting your mental health. During any yoga class, including hot yoga, you will take part in breathing and stretching exercises meant to connect the body and mind and keep them functioning at their highest level.
OK, I’m ready to sweat it out. Now what?
To prepare for a hot yoga class, you first need to hydrate. It is extremely important when exercising in elevated temperatures to keep your water intake high. Don’t forget to take a full water bottle—insulated is best—to class. You will also likely need a towel, since you can plan on sweating. Wear light and loose clothing so you don’t feel uncomfortable. If you find yourself confused as to what to expect during a specific hot yoga class at your local studio, ask a teacher or staff member for details.
Hot yoga improves your flexibility, gets your sweat on, pumps up your cardiovascular system, and increases your circulation. By following our recommendations and proceeding with caution, you can enjoy the many benefits of hot yoga today!