Practicing yoga has been popular in North America for over thirty years now. So somewhere along the way, we’ve probably all heard about the benefits of yoga: improved range of motion, increased flexibility and balance, low impact muscle training, and the list goes on. In the past six years, hot yoga has become really popular. But does adding heat to the room add any benefits or side effects to your workout? Is hot yoga good for you?
While I wouldn’t categorize myself as a yogi, I have been to many yoga classes taught by many different instructors throughout my lifetime. So when I got the offer from Jessie Bicks Fitness to participate in a hot yoga class, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into.
Is Hot Yoga Good for You?
I really didn’t think there was much difference between regular yoga and hot yoga. Even though I prepared a little differently for the class with a giant water bottle and a sweat towel, I expected to get the same results as I do with an average yoga class. But what I felt after 60 minutes of posing and breathing was nothing I’d ever felt after a yoga class before. As with any exercise, there are risks and side effects with hot yoga. But if practiced with care, hot yoga carries some pretty sweet benefits as well.
Before I go on to explain how I felt, I should mention that this whole post is about my ‘feels’. While there’s little scientific evidence to show that there are more benefits to practicing yoga in a hot room over a room at 22 C (71.6 F), I certainly feel differently about the two practices.
5 Benefits of Hot Yoga
Practicing yoga in a 98 F (36.666 C) room with 35% humidity carries the same benefits as doing a warm up before you exercise or stretch. Your muscles are warm so you’re safe and loose to stretch deeply, and if done carefully, at a lower risk of injury. And man, those deep stretches feel great!
Have you ever completed a halfhearted workout where you didn’t really sweat that much and felt like you wasted your time? Well that will never happen with hot yoga. You sweat so much that after just a few minutes, you’re going to feel like you worked it. While just standing in a hot room wouldn’t do much to get your heart rate going, the fact that you’re exercising in a hot room increases your pulse, allowing you to burn more calories.
Full Body Workout
One thing that surprised me was the level of difficulty of the hot yoga class. Take it from the instructor who, after making us hold ‘The Hundred’ for what seemed like an hour, said “…and you thought yoga was just stretching!” After the class, my whole body felt like it got worked on and for somebody who wants value out of every workout, I was impressed.
If you’ve read my other posts regarding living an active lifestyle, you know I’m all about a low-impact workout. I want to strengthen my body so that I can be strong and active until the day I die, and not have injuries due to high-impact workouts. Hot yoga is perfect for this. I got a full-body, low-impact workout that left me feeling spent, but strong, instead of sore and limpy.
Relaxed & Deep Sleep
I don’t know about you but after sweating profusely and stretching out my body, I feel relaxed and invigorated. The day I practiced hot yoga for the first time, I easily fell into a deep sleep and woke up feeling rested.
How to Prevent Possible Side Effects of Hot Yoga
Drink Plenty of Water & Avoid Coffee
It is super important to avoid coffee (it dehydrates you) and drink at least three litres of water the day you’re going to practice hot yoga to prevent dehydration. I’m a heavy water drinker and even I went through an entire litre during my class. You sweat a lot during a hot yoga class and the last thing you’ll want is to quit because you’re dehydrated.
Find a Reputable Hot Yoga Studio
If you’re looking to try hot yoga for the first time, you should find a reputable, certified studio that has the staff to monitor participants for heat exhaustion and dizziness, and can prevent blackouts. I practiced at a hot yoga studio here in London, Ontario, called Moksha Yoga. When I asked the owner and instructor, Cathy, the temperature at which the room is set, she had this to say: “[Our] teachers are trained specifically to measure the room and be aware of how student’s bodies react to the heat. There are so many factors to consider, like outside and inside temperature, humidity, the style of class, and the number of students, which is an important reason to ensure you practice with a reputable hot yoga certified studio.”
Be Aware of Your Body
While I do recommend taking a hot yoga class from a certified studio, it’s most important to listen to your body and know your own limitations. When you’re in a heated room and your internal temperature has been raised from exercising, your blood flow increases which may result in you feeling more flexible than usual. It’s important not to push yourself past your limits, resulting in injury like pulled muscles or torn ligaments. I consider myself a pretty active person and there were a few times I had to take a break while the other students were crescent lunging and tree posing. There’s no shame in recognizing your body’s limits and taking a break in child’s pose or leaving the room for somewhere cooler.
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