What About Hot Yoga?
“What about Hot Yoga?”
I’ll do my best to answer this frequently asked question we get at Winter Garden Yoga.
But first, let’s take a couple of steps back.
I’ve done tons of hot yoga.
I’ve tried Bikram Yoga, Baptiste Yoga, Astanga Yoga, and other forms of Hatha Yoga performed in hot rooms. Some of them had temperatures of 105 degrees Fahrenheit. I’ve even practiced in my patio, at home, that could reach 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
Yes, I have hot yoga experience 🙂
I’ll do my best to answer the question about Hot Yoga’s claims based on studies versus my personal, experiential data.
But before we get to it, I’d like to throw this out there … if there’s a form of exercise that gets you off the couch and doing something … do it. Whether it’s Hot Yoga, biking, running, you name it. If it keeps you from being sedentary, I’m all for it.
The most recent scientific evidence shows there’s no difference in benefit between Hot Yoga and Not-Hot Yoga.
In other words, if you do Hot Yoga, the benefits are the same if you do Not-Hot Yoga. And if you do Not-Hot Yoga, the benefits are the same if you do Hot Yoga.
I would encourage to consider the facts before choosing between Hot Yoga and Not-Hot Yoga because Hot Yoga enthusiasts tend to over exaggerate the benefits of the practice.
“At the end of this exploration, it looks like these hot yoga claims are partly marketing, and partly mistaking correlation with causation. There is a strong correlation between ice cream and drownings. But this isn’t because ice cream causes drownings. It’s because as the weather gets hot, people swim more (more drownings), and eat more ice cream. In the case of yoga, it isn’t the hot room that causes these great things to happen, it’s you!” – Michael Taylor, Hot or Not? Untangling Fact From Fiction in Hot Yoga
“If you’re into Bikram yoga and its extreme conditions, the study results suggest you can continue it. But if the thought of hot yoga makes you queasy, you’d probably be just fine to do yoga at room temperature and still reap the benefits.”-Alice G. Walton, Hot Yoga’s Heart Benefits May Not Come From The Heat At All
I would also encourage you to consider the benefit-to-hassle ratio between the two offerings.
For example, Hot Yoga studios recommend a lot of preparation before, during, and after class.
An article from Huffington Post suggests …
“Hydrate every hour before your class. As a first-timer, I would recommend a hot yoga class later in the day versus first thing in the morning. This will help you prep for the class with adequate hydration. Whether you are taking a lunchtime or evening hot yoga class, hydrate every hour until just before class especially if you sweat easily. Not only is it important to drink water, but it’s also important to eat water-rich foods such as oranges, watermelons, Greek yogurt, oatmeal, berries, cucumbers, and pineapple. In addition, keep at least 32 fl oz of water with you during your yoga class.
Bring cold towels. Sure, an Equinox or a Pure Yoga may offer cold towels but traditional yoga studios may not be equipped with a cold towel fridge. Keep a towel or two in your freezer and transport it with ice in a ziploc bag into your class. While the cold effect may wear off quickly depending on the length of class time, it’ll certainly refresh you temporarily and hopefully keep you going! Even if you have to take a break, keep it on your neck to relieve dizziness or shortness of breath.
Wear cool clothes. Choose lightweight or breathable workout wear for your hot yoga class. If you’re not used to wearing a bralette or crop tops, now’s the time to try! Either wear layers that are easy to remove or wear less to begin with so that you’re not distracted by the heaviness of workout attire under a sweat fest. Oh and don’t fret about how you look in less clothing, be kind to yourself and focus on getting through a challenging workout.
Plan a pre-workout energy boost. Aside from adequate hydration, fuel is equally as important. You can’t fight through any workout feeling hungry or hangry because you’ll lose focus. Try to consume between 150-200 calories about 1 hour or so before your class begins in the form of a carbohydrate / protein / fiber combination. For example, consider a banana + 1 Tbsp nut butter, string cheese + 3-4 crackers, or a Greek yogurt with 1-2 Tbsp chopped nuts.”
Compared to a Not-Hot Yoga prep list:
Wear comfortable clothes. Most guys wear board shorts and t-shirts. Most ladies wear capris and sports tops.
Bring a towel (if you tend to sweat). You may or may not sweat. It’s a good idea to keep a towel handy in case you need it to keep from slipping on your mat.
Bring water just in case. It’s always a good idea to have water on hand to stay hydrated before, during, and after class.
I would also ask you to consider the risk-to-benefit ratio for both types of yoga.
To be clear … yes, Hatha Yoga is a physical activity (with or without heat). Yes, there are risks involved when you perform said physical activity (with or without heat).
And those risks can be exacerbated when you do yoga incorrectly or try practicing postures that may be extreme for your current level of ability (with or without heat).
But there exists some potential dangers specific to Hot Yoga vs. Not-Hot Yoga.
Consumer Reports lists some for your consideration …
“Problem: Heat stroke
Why it happens: Exercising in the heat (outdoors or indoors) can overwhelm your body’s ability to control its core temperature. That can lead to heat stroke, a potentially fatal condition in which your heart, liver, kidney, and other organs shut down. In the last 20 years, 40 high school football players have died from heat stroke caused by workouts in hot weather, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina. Far less serious, but more common, is what happened to Pepe: heat exhaustion. That can cause muscle cramps and can make you light-headed, dizzy, and physically wiped out.
What to do: Drink plenty of fluids and watch out for the early signs of heat stroke, including dizziness and exhaustion. Stop if you start to feel feverish, dizzy, lightheaded, confused, or nauseated. Be especially cautious you’re at increased risk of heat illness because of your age (50 or older), your health (you are pregnant, or have heart disease, diabetes, or lung diseases), or the drugs you take (antidepressants, alpha-blockers and beta-blockers, antipsychotics, diuretics, antihistamines, and anticholinergic drugs).
Problem: Joint and muscle damage
Why it happens: Some people think they can stretch deeper in the heat. “Although it may feel good, overstretching your muscles actually backfires,” Win Chang, M.D., clinical professor of orthopedic surgery at New York University’s Hospital for Joint Diseases, said. That can lead to joint problems, inflammation, and arthritis. Orthopedic surgeons are seeing more and more yoga injuries, says Chang.
What to do: Avoid overstretching. You should feel tension, not pain. Hold the stretch; never bounce. That can cause small muscle tears.”
And The Telegraph, UK makes it clear that yoga (hot or not) isn’t as safe as you were [maybe] lead to believe.
From The Telegraph’s article, “It’s not all bad news, however, as 74 per cent of participants in the study reported that existing pain was improved by yoga, highlighting the complex relationship between musculoskeletal pain and yoga practice.”
“Pain caused by yoga might be prevented by careful performance and participants telling their yoga teachers of injuries they may have prior to participation, as well as informing their healthcare professionals about their yoga practice.”
Bottom line: If you enjoy hot yoga … enjoy! If you don’t enjoy hot yoga … don’t sweat it because you’re getting just as much yoga awesomeness while practicing at room temperature.
Check out a video version of this blog (more or less) …
You’ve got this!
PS: You can check out our popular yoga book here: https://tinyurl.com/y7uv7xxg
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