As I love to read everything about yoga, today I realized that I have yet to try hot yoga. Before trying of course, I think it’s super important we do our research, as with anything in life there are always advantages and disadvantages to anything that we do. Just by the name, I honestly feel a little intimidated by it… I mean, how hot is hot yoga!? So let’s dig deep and find out more about hot yoga benefits and risks.
History of Hot Yoga
As you may already know, yoga originated in India, but the history of the concept of hot yoga is a little different. It started with Bikram Choudhury, who comes from a lineage of Yoga taught by Bishnu Ghosh in India. Bikram eventually moved to Japan to give yoga classes. Inspired by Japan’s famous saunas, and also due to the cold weather there, he started to incorporate heat into his classes (which is very similar to the weather in India). Eventually he moved to San Francisco in California, and the concept was spread in the U.S., giving rise to the popular Bikram Yoga. Nowadays, Bikram yoga is not the only type of hot yoga.
Bikram Yoga vs. Hot Yoga
I used to think that Bikram yoga literally meant hot yoga, but that is actually not entirely true. Bikram Yoga is a specific type of yoga which is done in a heated room in 105℉/41C & and also the room has to have a humidity of 40%. It is composed of a cycle of 26 poses + 2 types of pranayamas (breathing exercises) done within 90 minutes. Bikram yoga is done in a quiet room, and has a more serious ambiance. In order for Yoga teachers to teach Bikram Yoga, they must attain a certification specifically in Bikram yoga. So what is hot yoga? Hot yoga is actually any type of yoga that is done in a heated room. The rooms can have any warm or hot temperature starting from 80℉/27°C up until 100℉/38°C, with varying humidity. Hot yoga classes usually have music and has a more “fun” ambiance. There are also some types of hot yoga classes that have been emerging in the last 20 years, such as Power Vinyasa Yoga and Moksha Yoga. So now let’s weigh hot yoga benefits and risks.
Benefits of Hot Yoga
Hot yoga practitioners love hot yoga due to the after feeling and the many benefits that it provides. There are already many benefits to practicing yoga in general, but find below the additional benefits to doing hot yoga:
- Heat Rate & Blood Flow Increases – as your body becomes warmer, your blood flow & heart rate start to increase, which helps to feed our muscles with oxygen & nutrients – making us stronger.
- Becoming More Flexible – this is because heat & exercise helps us to warm up our muscles, increasing our motion range. Isn’t it awesome if you are able to touch your toes, if you are like me, who could never touch them before?
- Breathe Better – It is much harder to breathe in a very hot room compared to just regular temperature, so this allows us to train our lungs to breather deeper.
- Lose Weight – due to the hot environment, our heart rate & metabolism increases…which means we are actually burning more calories as we are practicing yoga in a heated room. I guess you can skip that cardio class after practicing hot yoga, but don’t forget that a healthy whole foods diet is as important as exercise!
- Reduce Stress – Yoga is already well-known for reducing stress, but practicing yoga in the heat, you have to focus even more on your poses & breaths in a somewhat difficult environment – which makes you forget about all your worries during that moment.
- Makes Your Skin Glow – Not only do you have more blood circulating in your face which gives you more color, the heat & humidity also opens up your pores when you’re sweating, which gives it a nice cleanse.
Risks of Hot Yoga & Who Should Avoid It
Although hot yoga is generally safe, there are some factors you should consider before practicing hot yoga. I would say one of the worst risks of hot yoga is heat exhaustion, which is when your body overheats. If you don’t treat heat exhaustion as soon as possible, it can lead to heat stroke which can be fatal. These are the symptoms that you should look out for if you think you have heat exhaustion:
- sweating profusely
- feeling dizzy & faint
- feeling fatigued
- headache or migraine
- muscles cramping
- low blood pressure when standing up
If you have any of the symptoms above, just stop what you are doing and move to a cooler area, rest, and hydrate. This brings me to another topic which is dehydration. When doing any exercises in general, and specially hot yoga, it’s really important that you always stay hydrated.
Hot yoga can definitely be beneficial for some people, but for others not. There are some people who should avoid doing hot yoga, such as:
- pregnant women
- if you have high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes
- if you are sensitive to heat in general
If you have any health issues, always consult a doctor before trying hot yoga.
You Won’t Know Until You Try…
For myself personally, I am excited to try out hot yoga one day (once this quarantine is done, and no more corona virus!), but for sure I would start slowly and in a class that has lower temperature, such as 33°C – as I have noticed that I am quite sensitive to extreme heat.
I think the most important lesson here is to start slowly and to listen to your body so you can reap the benefits of doing hot yoga.
If you wish to start hot yoga as soon as possible, here’s how to prepare yourself:
- Make sure you are hydrated
- Don’t eat at least two to three hours before you practice
- Bring a big bottle of water to class
- Wear yoga clothing that you can sweat in (you can read about the different types of yoga leggings here)
- Always bring a towel to place on top of your yoga mat, you can also bring an extra towel to clean your sweat after
So have you tried hot yoga before? After weighing hot yoga benefits and risks, would you be willing to try it? Let me know your comments below!