So, I was doing my time to time cardio exercises and with global warming on the rise, it was a hotter than normal environment. I would have taken a second to switch on the air conditioner, but there is something about starting your exercise and not wanting to be stopped or interrupted for even a second, for fear that you may lose your zeal to continue. Well, I’m glad I didn’t. Now, this was a cardio routine I had been doing for a while and I always felt good about myself after. Like, I mean, way after the worst was over.
But something about this particular workout made everything feel a lot better – the heat. So, I started actually considering hot yoga, did my research, and decided to share it with you, in the hopes that we may start this new journey together.
Hot yoga refers to yoga exercises performed under hot and humid conditions. It is usually performed in a climate-controlled studio, with the temperature and humidity altered to tropical intensity. Originally, Bikram yoga was the only hot yoga. However, in these modern times, other yoga types have been modified and are performed under nearly similar environmental conditions and are now also referred to as hot yoga. The original, bikram yoga, was performed in an environment with the temperature cranked up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 41 degrees Celsius).
The relative humidity of the environment is maintained at 40 percent. Its fixed regimen was of 24 yoga poses and 2 breathing exercises. Modern hot yoga is now performed at a temperature of around 95 – 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It isn’t based on the 26 postures series but more of a flowing vinyasa style practice, linking one pose to the next. The hot environment helps promote sweating and warms up the body to increase flexibility and reduces risk of injuries.
Benefits of Hot Yoga
Normal yoga routines, alone, have a wide range of health benefits, physical, mental and spiritual benefits included. Hot yoga seems to maximize some of those effects, with a few additional effects of its own. The benefits of hot yoga include:
- Detoxification: this is one of the major benefits of hot yoga. Performing yoga in a hot and humid environment causes you to sweat… a lot! Lots of sweating removes toxins from the body. Hot yoga therefore detoxifies your body through sweat. Detoxification of the body comes with so many other health benefits attached.
- Weight loss and fat burn: hot yoga supports more weight loss and fat burn than even regular yoga because you sweat a lot more. It’s not the easiest yoga path to follow but is certainly the best. Also, because of the elevated body temperature, your body consumes about 10-40 more energy. Remember, after a while, your body starts to burn fat to provide more energy to keep you going.
- Increased flexibility: the hot and humid environment stretches and really warms up your muscles, making you ease into the postures better. Stretching when your muscles, ligaments and tendons are warm is an advantage, helping you go deeper into the stretches than normal yoga. Performing hot yoga regularly will make your muscles feel ‘used’ and it attains a more flexible capability in the long run.
- Better circulation: practicing in a hot room increases your pulse rate and metabolism, your blood vessels become more flexible and circulation becomes easier. This increases blood flow to the limbs and other body parts. It is therefore a great cardiovascular exercise.
- Less injuries: because of the increased flexibility of your muscles, you are able to perform poses better and with more ease, reducing accidents and injuries.
- Better sleep: heat relaxes the muscles and induces sleepiness, and also improves sleeping conditions. In a 2014 study, ninety-four percent of participants that performed hot yoga regularly for a year reported a better sleep quality.
- Increased heart rate: this isn’t always a bad thig. Performing hot yoga increases your pulse rate and number of heart beats per minute. Causing your heart rate to move faster causes you to challenge your body to work harder. Making your body to work harder is necessary when training your body for some events or conditions. It serves as a good form of cardiovascular training for athletes, swimmers and the likes.
- Healing purpose: yoga, basically, is a healing therapy and hot yoga is no different. The heat in hot yoga enhances the healing process. It has been proven to heal obesity, some kinds of cardiovascular diseases, asthma, diabetes, and even depression.
- Healthier skin: it’s no secret that sweating more gives your skin a better health. As you sweat, you detoxify your body and as you flush out these toxins, it reduces acne, skin rash, etc. increased blood flow to the area also provides your skin with more nourishment, giving you a healthier glow.
- More lung capacity: yoga focuses on breathing exercises. In a hot and humid environment, along with accelerated heart rate, you take in more air when performing breathing pranayama’s, increasing your lung capacity.
- Developing mental focus: mental focus is necessary in yoga. You focus on your muscles as well as focusing to control your breathing. This is a conventional method of multi-tasking. In hot yoga, you also have to mentally challenge yourself to deal with the heat. All these cause for more brain action. This improves the brains strength. Improved circulation also takes more nutrients to the brain as well as more oxygen gotten from your increased lung function. All these contribute to stronger brain capacity and mental focus.
- Boosts your mood: many people hate the thought of sweating… I know I did. But I have come to love it. When you sweat, you flush out a lot of toxins. It’s so relaxing to sweat and then soak in a hot bath. When your body is free of toxins, you feel a lot better and healthier. When performing hot yoga, your body also releases lots of endorphins, and you experience lots of happy emotions and feelings. You feel more confident about yourself, happier and at peace.
- Better life: all the benefits of hot yoga combined is sure to give you a better, healthier life. During yoga, you not only learn about your body, but also learn how to control your mind. You also enjoy all the benefits of yoga such as clearer mind, better shape, boosted self-confidence, and a healthier body.
I mean, with all the benefits of yoga, it’s tempting to indulge in it. You should. Like normal yoga, you can find lots of hot yoga classes on the internet. However, because of the temperature requirements of yoga, its best to join a class in an actual yoga studio specially equipped for hot yoga. If you have decided to start a hot yoga class, there are a few things you need to know before you begin this new journey:
- Your health conditions: as with every other exercise routines, yoga practices of any other life style changing activity you plan to venture into, you have to be safe and careful. Before you start, be aware of any health condition you may have and if you are at risk performing these routines. Consult your doctor before you start to be sure it is safe for you.
- Hydrate yourself: the main purpose of hot yoga is to get you sweating. When you sweat, you lose lots of your body’s water and important salt content. It is very crucial that you are well hydrated before you begin your class because you will need to have water in you to sweat out in the first place. I would also recommend including a small dose of salt prior to the class or have a natural sports drink that will replenish the sodium while sweating. You will get dehydrated during the process and will need to restore your water and salt levels, so make sure you go to the class with a bottle of water.
- The rules of eating: you should avoid eating too much before your class but you still need to eat something to sustain your energy during your class. Eat light snacks before your hot yoga classes to fuel your body properly. The best light food to consume would be fruits, particularly those high in water contents such as watermelon, berries, etc. Fruit containing sodium especially bananas would also be great and are highly recommended. You could also chew on seeds and nuts.
- Learning to handle the heat: this could be a lot more difficult for those living in colder regions and a lot easier for those in tropical regions. Breathing has an important role in coping with the heat. Try to get to the studio earlier so that you may adjust to the change in environment before you begin your class. This way, you also get yourself fully prepared before the start of the class.
- Do not overstretch: your muscles are warmer and you feel looser and more flexible than normal, making it easier to pull a muscle try not to overstretch or push yourself too far when you are just starting.
- Do not use a towel: it is really tempting to wipe off that sweat but you should not. Not until you are through with your exercise. Sweating is your body’s coping mechanism against the high temperature to maintain your body temperature as well as flush out toxins.
- Wear comfortable and light clothing: when performing any fitness activity, it’s important that you are as comfortable as possible. For hot yoga however, wearing comfortable clothes is not enough. You need to wear something light that will assist you when you begin to sweat heavily.
- be cautious of your body’s needs: always listen to your body. If you begin to feel like it’s too much and you can’t handle any more, stop! There is no pride or ego in yoga. Everyone’s body and endurance points are different and thinking you need to keep going because the other person is, even when you obviously can’t is one mind-set that should never follow you into the yoga studio. If you feel dizzy, nauseous or just weak, stop and leave the studio immediately. There is no crime in going out for some fresh air. Remember, its better safe than sorry.
- Replenish lost sodium and water after exercise: your body has lost a lot of nutrients, sodium, water and energy and these need to be restored. Be sure to eat a very healthy meal and drink lots of water after your class.
- Not for beginners: if you are new to any type of fitness routine whatsoever, hot yoga is not for you. You need to be familiar with exercising and yoga before you venture into hot yoga so that you may know your strengths and limit because it’s very easy to forget your limits and you may overstretch your muscles.
- be sure you are in a safe environment: it’s not very smart to perform hot yoga on a slippery floor now, is it? Make sure the floor is well padded. Go with your yoga mat.
Remember, everything requires time. It may seem like torture at first but I’d like to believe it gets better…. That you get better after constant practice. Consult your doctors and yoga instructors for more information on hot yoga. Good luck!