Hot yoga is a fitness technique that involves practicing yoga in a hot, humid environment to encourage muscle flexibility and enhance the health benefits of yoga. The benefits to your heart, mind, and immune system are significant, but there are also risks of dehydration and heat exhaustion. Some worry that practicing hot yoga every day is dangerous.
It is okay to do hot yoga every day so long as you pay attention to your body, hydrate yourself, and take breaks from the heat if you feel any dizziness or lightheadedness. As with any exercise, make sure to set achievable fitness goals for yourself.
Daily practice is safe, but you’ll see health benefits practicing even one time per week. This article will discuss more about the basics of hot yoga, including health benefits and risks, and ways to keep yourself safe during hot yoga classes.
There are many kinds of hot yoga, but the common theme is the performance of yoga in a hot and humid studio. The classic form of hot yoga is Bikram, in which the room is heated to 105℉ (40.56°C) with a 40% humidity.
Bikram involves 90 minutes of standing, stretching, and sustained muscle contractions, which increases the heart rate and strengthens the major muscle groups. These workouts are very intense and have many health benefits, along with a few risks.
Mainly, the hot environment warms your muscles and improves your ability to stretch and benefits the immune system, and exercises are good for muscular and mental health. However, excess heat can also cause dehydration or heat exhaustion if you’re not careful.
Hot yoga originated in the 1970s in Japan, when Bikram Choudhury, an Indian yoga instructor, was inspired by saunas to try heating the yoga studio. He tried heating the room to 82℉ (28°C) for his first few hot classes, mimicking the temperatures of his hometown, Calcutta, India. His students started exerting themselves more, so he tried another increase, to 104℉ (40°C).
Hot yoga gained popularity and made its way to the United States shortly after gaining popularity in Hollywood throughout the 1980s. According to some sources, former President Richard Nixon discovered Bikram yoga in the South Pacific and then brought the practice to the United States.
The story goes that Nixon was suffering from phlebitis, the inflammation of a vein, and Bikram was summoned to give the president his then-famous hot yoga treatment. Because he was so happy with the results, it is said that the president invited him to live in the United States, bringing hot yoga with him.
The practice became known as Bikram yoga, named for its founder. However, hot yoga now exists in many forms besides Bikram, often at temperatures closer to body temperature than the traditional 104℉ (40°C).
Heat increases blood circulation, making your muscles stretch more easily. This makes it easier to find and hold yoga poses and increases the chance that you’ll have high quality, deep stretches.
Because the heat makes your muscles more pliable, you’re also less likely to pull a muscle or sustain other injuries during hot yoga than you are in a traditional yoga class.
The practice of yoga in any form engages your body and your mind for a holistic health-boosting experience. Yoga involves holding poses that push and strengthen your muscles and practice rhythmic breathing and mental focus that reduces stress and promotes mindfulness. Together, this makes for an exercise that is equal parts challenging and relaxing.
Yoga can be considered a balance training exercise, essential, especially for older adults, and a core exercise that protects your back from injury. Both are important elements of fitness.
Yoga has many additional health benefits:
- Improving heart health
- Slower heart rate (good for people who have high blood pressure, or who have had heart disease or a stroke)
- Lower cholesterol
- Better immune system function due to the increased flow of lymph fluid
However, you should be sure to take into account the risks of hot yoga before trying it.
Spending an extended period of time in hot rooms can cause mild to severe dehydration, which can cause illness and even death in some cases. In 2009, two New Age guru students died in an Arizona sweat lodge after fasting for two days and then becoming severely dehydrated.
This could have been avoided with appropriate safety measures in place, but it proves that understanding and mitigating the risks of participating in hot yoga or other practices in heated rooms is very important.
Heat exhaustion is another major risk of hot yoga, recognizable by dizziness, nausea, and lightheadedness. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to remove yourself from the hot environment and rest. Any hot yoga professional should accommodate the need to pay attention to these signs, rather than pushing students to keep working through it.
If you have any of the following conditions, the risks of hot yoga may be especially great, and it is best not to participate:
- Heart disease
- Problems with dehydration
- History of heatstroke or other heat-related illnesses
- Heat intolerance
If you have any doubts, consult a physician before participating in hot yoga.
Practicing hot yoga every day is safe, so long as you’re paying attention to your body and being careful not to overexert yourself. You should always set achievable and manageable fitness goals that make sense for you to avoid injury, burnout, and over exhaustion.
Practicing hot yoga three times a week, or even once a week, is enough to see significant health benefits, especially in combination with other forms of exercise. Altogether, your exercise routine should include both 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week and two days of strength training per week.
- Check the temperature of the room. Generally, practice at a temperature close to normal body temperature is safer than temperatures at 100℉ (38°C) and above.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after a hot yoga workout, especially fluids containing electrolytes.
- Pay attention to your body. If you’re feeling at all dizzy or lightheaded, take a break. Leave the room, lie down, wait until you feel normal again before resuming.
- Arrive to class 15 minutes early and give your body time to adjust to the temperature before exercising.
Practicing hot yoga at home could be as simple as turning up the thermostat, but unless you have a room-specific heating system, it’s likely that you’ll want to take another approach.
One simple way to do hot yoga at home is to take to the outdoors, weather permitting. A hot summer day can provide the same benefits as a hot studio, and the connection with nature can enhance the mental health benefits of yoga.
Another option is to take a hot shower, letting your bathroom fill up with steam, and become a small at-home hot yoga studio.
Finally, you can create an at-home hot yoga studio with a small space heater. This option has the added benefit of allowing you to choose a set temperature and allows you to choose any room for your studio so long as it has an electrical outlet.
If you do practice yoga indoors, make sure that you also incorporate calming environmental elements, like plants, meditation pillows, or candles. The BBabe Zen Meditation Fountain, for example, would provide a calming touch to help center you throughout your practice.
Hot yoga has many health benefits for the mind and body. It is safe but not necessary to do every day, and can improve the function of your heart, immune system, and mental health, with practice even with one day a week.
- Mayo Clinic: What is hot yoga?
- WebMD: Try Hot Yoga
- HuffPost: 7 Things No One Tells You About Hot Yoga
- Yoga International: Hot and Bothered: The Hype, History, and Science of Hot Yoga
- WebMD: The Health Benefits of Yoga
- Wikipedia: Lymph
- Livestrong: How Often Should You Do Bikram Yoga for the Biggest Benefit?’
- Livestrong: Symptoms of Exercise Overexertion
- How Stuff Works: Yes, Hot Yoga Can Still Be Hot at Home
- LiveStrong: How to Create Your Very Own Hot Yoga Studio at Home
- Mayo Clinic: Fitness training: Elements of a well-rounded routine
- CBS News: ‘Hot’ Yoga Burns Bright
- WebMd: Phlebitis
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