“The right way is the hard way.” -Bikram Choudhury
Yoga is growing rapidly but among students, teachers, and health professionals there is an on-going debate: is hot yoga good for you or not?
The reason many styles of yoga, such as Bikram, are practiced in the heat is because it is believed to benefit the practitioner’s body and mind. The added heat to the room helps to warm your muscles, making it easier to bend, twist, and stretch. This can therefore prevent injuries like pulled muscles. In addition, if you’ve practiced yoga in the heat you may have noticed your heart starts to beat quicker, even if you’re moving rather slowly. This is due to the heat; higher temperatures increase pulse as well as metabolism. Hot yoga is also believed to be detoxifying, as the heat causes you to sweat a lot, and sweat is thought to help remove toxins.
In addition to the physical benefits, hot yoga is also thought to benefit the mind. The added heat provides an element that is thought to cause students to forget about what is going on in their lives and focus more completely on the practice at hand. Increasingly, athletes are practicing yoga in the heat to hone their mental focus and endurance. Professional MMA fighter Nick Moghaddam practices Bikram yoga regularly throughout San Diego and notes that the discipline that it takes him just to stay in the room and withstand the heat is similar to the tenacity to keep fighting in the ring.
While there are numerous benefits of practicing yoga in the heat, some people feel there are also precautions and dangers of hot yoga. In “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body”, the New York Times reports that health professionals have cautioned that the extreme heat of some hot yoga classes like Bikram can cause practitioners to overstretch or tear cartilage. Specialists have explained that ligaments fail to “regain their shape once stretched out, raising the risk of strains, sprains, and dislocations”.
If you do choose to practice yoga in the heat, there are some steps you can take to keep it as safe a practice as possible. Be sure to drink plenty of water before you even step in the hot room. Equip yourself with a towel to wipe your sweat or a Yogitoes to lay on your mat to absorb the sweat so you prevent slipping or falling. If when you are practicing you do feel lightheaded due to the extreme heat, it is best to keep your head above your heart rather than dropping to child’s pose or lying down.
Ultimately, choosing to practice unheated or heated yoga is up to you. Some people care for heated experiences like hot tubs and saunas while others do not; some people just favor the heat more than others and when it comes to yoga it is no different. Know that it does take a few classes to get used to the heat, but there are plenty of unheated yoga styles such as restorative and yin that are beneficial for different reasons.
If you have any questions on choosing a style of yoga best for you, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.