Have you ever thought about trying Hot Yoga? The images of people drenched in sweat as they fold their bodies into various yoga positions are intriguing. According to many sources, slight wooziness and copious amounts of sweat means that the exercise is working its healing and revitalizing powers on you. While Hot Yoga claims to rejuvenate and strengthen the body, it’s hard to look past such drawbacks including hyperthermia, pulled muscles, and a rather nasty legal issue that will be discussed in a future article. Is Hot Yoga really worth your time or is it just another form of athletic torture? Here’s the low-down on this trendy form of yoga.
Fact 1: The Room’s Temperature is Set at 41 ° Celsius
As the heading states, Hot Yoga is performed in an insanely hot and humid room. Depending on which yoga studio you visit, the temperature varies from 38 to 41° Celsius. The heat helps the body to easily transition into the series of poses. The heat also provides a great cardiovascular workout since the heat accelerates your heartbeat. There are some risks to staying in a ridiculously hot room for ninety minutes. Dizziness, headaches, mild nausea, and muscle cramps are just some of the symptoms that occur for people who engage in Hot Yoga. Dehydration, heat stroke, and in extreme cases, hyperthermia, does occur but in rare cases. That’s why it’s important to continually hydrate yourself before and during the Hot Yoga class. Electrolytes will be lost as you sweat so constantly drinking coconut water and sports drinks can prevent dehydration. Also, the certified Hot Yoga instructors are trained in first aid and CPR and always remind the followers that they can move at their own pace. If you find that the intensity of the heat is too much to handle, you can always leave the room and cool yourself off with water and cold towels.
Fact 2: There Are Many Types of Hot Yoga
There are various forms of Hot Yoga. The oldest and most popular type of Hot Yoga is called Bikram Yoga. Bikram Yoga was founded by Bikram Choundry in the 1970s in the U.S. and combines traditional Hatha Yoga techniques with two breathing techniques and twenty-six postures called asanas.
Moksha Yoga is a relatively newer practice that started in 2004 by Toronto couple Ted Grand and Jessica Robertson. Like Bikram Yoga, Moksha Yoga is also performed in a hot and humid room of 41° Celsius. However, a large part of Moksha Yoga’s philosophy involves environmental consciousness and social consciousness. The Moksha website defines its exercise as such: We are a group of independent hot yoga studios committed to ethical, compassionate and environmentally conscious living, and believe that the benefits of yoga are limitless and accessible to all. Pay-what-you-can classes and recyclable building materials and equipment are just some of the methods used in Moksha Yoga to maintain its environmentally friendly status. In addition, Moksha Yoga features forty poses as opposed to Bikram’s twenty-six. Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga is a more intuitive form of Hot Yoga where the followers are strongly encouraged to move at their own pace and blends techniques from Bikram, Ashtanga, and Iyengar styles.
Fact 3: Toxins Are Released Through Sweat But in Very Limited Amounts
One of Hot Yoga’s biggest selling points is its claim that it aids in the detoxification of your body. It’s easy to see how the buckets of sweat pouring out of your body can be a rejuvenating experience. Unfortunately, this claim is all hot air (pun intended). To explain why that is, a quick lesson in biology is in order.
The human body is a fascinating unit that can produce its own internal heat as well as run its own detox process via the liver and kidneys. The body’s internal temperature rises from a chemical reaction caused by muscle contraction (i.e. exercise), which produces energy and released in the form of heat. When the body’s internal temperature rises, sweating occurs just to cool the body and keep it at a normal temperature range. When you’re stuck in a humid room for over an hour, you’re adding external heat on top of internal heat so there’s no way of cooling the body down. To make it worse, you’re in a room full of several sweaty, heavily breathing bodies. This biology stuff may sound boring but it’s necessary to explain how Hot Yoga isn’t releasing toxins through sweat.
Now, our bodies are regularly exposed to different chemicals, preservatives, and other pollutants in our environment. It’s actually the liver and kidneys that clears out the toxins that we consume and absorb into our bodies. After being broken down by the liver, the toxins are removed in the form of blood or bile, then sent to the kidneys and intestines for more filtering, and ultimately leaves the body in the form of urine and feces. As for the toxins being released through sweat, trace amounts of mercury and alcohol is eliminated in perspiration. However, you’re mostly losing water, salt, potassium, and other minerals when you’re sweating buckets in a Hot Yoga class.
So, while some toxins are being released through our sweat glands, it’s mostly our inner air conditioning system going into overdrive. That’s why it’s so important to drink plenty of water before, during, and after Hot Yoga. Doing so will rehydrate your body and help the blood move the toxins to the liver, intestines and kidneys. It’s all in our heads to think that sweat is forcing toxins out of our bodies (again, pun intended).
Fact 4: Hot Yoga Doesn’t Make You Any More Flexible
According to various Hot Yoga experts, the heat allows the body to be more supple, which makes flowing into the poses easier. There is some truth to this claim but not that much. When you’re in a heated room, your blood vessels are pumping like crazy, which results in faster blood circulation and can give you the impression that your muscles are more flexible. After all, warmed up muscles does allow you to go deeper into the poses. While this is a great benefit, it doesn’t really lend itself to the source of flexibility: the joints and ligaments. Joints and ligaments don’t receive that much blood flow so it’s impossible to make them stretch as far as the experts are suggesting. Stretching the ligaments too much could increase your risk of injury and cause joint instability. Most importantly, as with any exercise, flexibility takes practice and time. The muscles need time and repetition to be conditioned to the poses.
Hot Yoga is Not for Everyone
Everyone assumes that there’s no real risk of harm in yoga just because it’s simply a series of stretches. But with any form of exercise, precautions need to be taken. Consult your doctor before trying Hot Yoga, especially if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, or any health problems that could be worsened by a Hot Yoga class. Ultimately, the best way to figure out if Hot Yoga is right for you is to try it. Do your research and remember that if the heat gets too intense, it’s better to back out than to pass out.