Have you ever wondered what it would be like to practice your yoga poses in the middle of a sweltering jungle? If this idea sounds appealing to you, you have a couple of options. You could travel to a beautiful, tropical, humid paradise and do your yoga on the beach. That sounds pretty spectacular… but it’s not always a feasible option for most of us. Vacation time is pretty hard to come by these days.
If you don’t live in or near the tropics and aren’t planning a vacation anytime soon, you have a second option: a hot yoga class. Hot yoga sessions typically take place in heated, humid rooms. The best known traditional type of hot yoga is Bikram yoga. In a Bikram yoga class, the room is heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, and the humidity level is set to 40 percent. Other types of hot yoga classes may be slightly cooler (as low as 80 degrees), and less humid.
This type of yoga isn’t for everyone, but if it strikes your fancy, you should know that when performed safely and under proper instruction, it may have some health benefits. The following are six of them.
Hot yoga may help reduce stress
A 2011 study performed by researchers at Boise State University tested the effect of Bikram yoga on the stress levels of 51 participants. On their results, the study authors wrote:
“Bikram yoga positively affected psychological and physical health in the sample population. This information can be used to further the understanding of mind-body based programs, and how Bikram yoga may give people the tools to decrease perceived stress, potentially having an effect on chronic stress-related illnesses.”
Hot yoga may help improve your flexibility
One of the most famous benefits of yoga in general is increasing flexibility. While there is not a whole bunch of empirical evidence on whether hot yoga is better for flexibility than regular, room temperature yoga, some practitioners say that it does help muscles to relax more effectively. It is possible for the higher temperatures to aid in relaxing muscles, but you’ll also have to be careful not to overstretch, as this can lead to injury.
Hot yoga may help prevent bone loss
A 2010 study published in the journal Chinese Medicine linked Bikram yoga to potentially helping to prevent bone loss in women. The study authors explain:
“Overall, the study findings suggest that the intervention of Bikram Yoga training may be beneficial for skeletal health and could prevent bone loss.”
Hot yoga may improve arterial stiffness
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that a brief intervention with Bikram yoga “improved arterial stiffness in younger adults.” While this did not hold true for older adults in the study, it could still be an important benefit for younger folks.
Hot yoga may reduce insulin resistance
The same 2013 study mentioned above also found that a brief Bikram yoga intervention was linked to decreasing insulin resistance in older adults. Interestingly, this did not hold true for younger adults in the study. More research will have to explain why this worked for older adults and not younger.
Hot yoga may improve your overall fitness
Upon analyzing a 2013 study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, the study authors found:
“Yoga subjects exhibited increased deadlift strength, substantially increased lower back/hamstring flexibility, increased shoulder flexibility, and modestly decreased body fat compared with control group. There were no changes in handgrip strength, cardiovascular measures, or maximal aerobic fitness. In summary, this short-term yoga training protocol produced beneficial changes in musculoskeletal fitness that were specific to the training stimulus.”
A few hot yoga precautions:
Before plunging headfirst into a hot yoga class, keep in mind that it’s important to take some safety precautions.
- If you have a health condition of any kind, check with your doctor first before enrolling in a hot yoga class.
- Do not sign up for hot yoga if you are pregnant.
- Wear light, comfortable clothing. Cotton is your friend.
- Bring a bottle of water with you, and drink from it often. You do not want to get dehydrated, or worse… experience heat stroke.
- Bring your own towels and mats to your yoga session. Don’t share with others, to avoid risking infection.
- If you arrive at your yoga session and things do not look clean and sanitary, turn and run, and start your search for a yoga class over again.
- If you develop a headache, feel dizzy or unfocused, or become sick or uncomfortable in any way, leave the hot room immediately for a cooler area, and drink some water. If you do not feel better quickly, seek medical attention.
Have you ever done hot yoga? What was your experience like?
— Meditation Daily