Yoga is getting hot. And that doesn’t just mean it’s gaining in popularity. The temperature in yoga studios across the country is literally going up.
Hot yoga is the practice of yoga in a room heated to between 85 and 105 degrees, usually with humidity ranging form 40 to 60 percent. It has an increasing number of devotees as well as detractors. So why, especially in summer when we spend most of our time trying to keep our cool, would people purposely work out for an hour our more in a sweltering room, sweating profusely and surrounded by other profusely sweating bodies?
Fans of hot yoga say it cleanses the body of toxins, and that it allows them to go deeper into stretches and poses because warm muscles are more pliable and less prone to tearing than cold muscles. Other benefits cited include reduced anxiety and weight loss.
Plus, hot yoga advocates say, it will raise the body’s core temperature, which is kind of like having a fever, elevating white blood cell production to fight viruses and bacteria.
Detractors say the liver rids our bodies of toxins, so the intense perspiration caused by hot yoga simply eliminates water, and maybe a few minerals. The only thing it does beyond regular yoga, the anti-hot yoga crowd says, is dehydrate a person. Any weight loss associated with hot yoga is probably just water weight, critics point out, and any yoga practice can reduce anxiety.
But it’s hard to argue with the legions of hot yoga fans and the growing number of studios across the country cranking up their thermostats, so here are a few tips to keep in mind if you’d like to test out hot yoga for yourself:
– Considering how much people sweat in hot yoga, bring your own mat.
– Bring a towel to put over your yoga mat to absorb sweat and help avoid slipping on a slick mat.
– Wear light comfortable clothing, preferably shorts and a tank top.
– Drink plenty of water before, after, and during a hot yoga session.
– Don’t eat much the two hours before or two hours after.
– Don’t push yourself too hard. It’s okay to take breaks and sip water or go into a relaxed position like “child’s pose.” Definitely stop if you feel dizzy.
Heat can increase heart rate, so hot yoga may not be safe for pregnant women or people with high blood pressure, heart problems, or autoimmune disorders. Check with your doctor if you are not sure hot yoga is appropriate for you.