Yoga is a great way to stay in shape, de-stress, and cultivate mindfulness in your day-to-day life. If your New Year’s resolution involves finding new ways to stay healthy and keep in shape, you may have heard of hot yoga. Hot yoga is a style of vigorous Bikram yoga that’s performed in unusually hot and humid conditions. A typical Bikram yoga class lasts about ninety minutes, and the room can be up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hot yoga is intense, invigorating, and challenging, making it a great fitness program. However, its intensity can mean that it can be risky for people with heart conditions or other health problems. The high temperatures also put hot yoga practitioners at a higher risk of dehydration from exertion. Before beginning any workout program, including hot yoga, you should always consult with your physician.
Why Hot Yoga?
If you’re used to working out in an air-conditioned gym or home workout room, you know how hot and sweaty you can get in even 70-degree temperatures. You might wonder why on earth anyone would want to do yoga in such ridiculously hot conditions. Well, there’s actually a reason for it. The high ambient temperatures during hot yoga can actually boost your cardiovascular function. Hot yoga has been shown to increase isometric strength and trunk flexibility, as well as helping to reduce cholesterol in both younger and older adults. There’s also some evidence that the heavy sweating during hot yoga may have a detoxification effect.
It’s also been shown to have a positive effect on well-being. Yoga is about more than just fitness: it’s a meditative practice centered on positivity, mindfulness, and learning to create a stress-free mindset.
Staying Safe during Hot Yoga
If you decide to try hot yoga, it’s important to understand the risk of dehydration, exhaustion, and other issues, especially if you’re over 60, significantly overweight, or have heart problems. Here are a few useful tips for staying safe, healthy, and hydrated during your hot yoga sessions:
- Understand your limitations when you decide whether hot yoga is right for you. Hot yoga may be unsafe for pregnant women, people over 60 who are not already yoga practitioners, and people with diabetes or abnormal blood pressure. Always talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.
- Get a yoga towel. Naturally, you’ll sweat a lot during hot yoga. This can make your yoga mat very slippery and difficult to use. To avoid using your balance– and to stave off body odor– invest in a yoga towel. You can find one in the sporting goods section of any big-box store. You may also want a mat that goes beneath the yoga mat, preventing it from slipping around on the floor.
- Respect your limits. In yoga, it’s important to relax and ease your body into the postures, rather than trying to force yourself to go further than you’re able to. Stretching and warming up is very important to help prime your body’s flexibility. In hot yoga poses, especially twisting poses, you never want to push too far. Over time, you’ll gradually built more and more flexibility, but if you push too hard too soon, you could strain or even injure yourself.
- It’s okay to take a break. If you feel dizzy or short of breath, it’s always okay to collect yourself and take a moment to rest. You can sit on your mat, go into a basic child’s pose, or even step out of the room, if that makes you more comfortable. The last thing you want is to pass out during a hot yoga class!
- Drink plenty of water. Exercise can be dehydrating as it is, but with hot yoga, it’s more important than ever to stay fully hydrated. When you feel thirsty, drink. (Also, it can help to empty your bladder before you begin your workout).
- Don’t eat right before hot yoga. You don’t want to eat a heavy meal too soon before hot yoga practice. You’ll feel gassy, bloated, and uncomfortable. Instead, eat a light meal or snack a couple of hours beforehand.
- Dress as lightly as possible. Wearing too much clothing for hot yoga can cause you to overheat. You don’t have to strip down to your underwear or anything, but be sure to wear cool, light clothing.
By following these general tips, you should be able to stay safe, healthy, and hydrated during even an intense hot yoga workout. Although hot yoga isn’t for everyone, if you’re ready to get in shape for the New Year, it’s a great choice to change up your workout routine.