Hot Yoga 101
Some Like it Hot, Some Not.
Hot yoga classes are one of the most popular styles of yoga in the U.S. today. Without debate, those that like hot yoga, really like hot yoga. Hot yoga isn’t everyone’s favorite, however. Whether it’s your thing or not, studies are showing while there are some amazing benefits to perspiring in your poses, it is important to understand how heat affects the body while exercising.
How hot is Hot?
The temperature of a hot yoga class isn’t a fixed number, it varies from studio to studio. Some studios call 85 degrees hot, while at the hottest end, Bikram classes are at 105+ degrees. Asheville Yoga Center defines our hot yoga classes as 90+ degrees. We also offer “warm yoga”, which has a thermostat reading of 80-89 degrees, because sometimes that feels more comfortable.
Hot yoga got its start from Bikram Choudary, founder of Bikram yoga. This style of yoga involves holding postures for one minute in room with 105+degrees plus 50% humidity. It took root and grew in the U.S. (Hollywood, CA), in the 1970s and is still a widely popular style today, with Bikram himself still leading classes. Ashtanga yoga was probably the next style to adapt to a hot environment, as old school ashtangis wanted to replicate the birthplace of Ashtanga yoga: southern India, where it is 90 degrees by 8 AM! This style caught on in America in the 80s. Power yoga birthed from Ashtanga, so some power yogis decided to take the heat with them, thus the growth of Hot Vinyasa (flow) yoga. And this trend grew and grew to its mega popularity today.
Hot yoga has a variety of benefits including: deeper detoxing, increased flexibility, improved cardio, and may even help with depression. Yoga postures themselves are detoxifying for the muscles, glands and organs and sweating increases that greatly. The heat increases joint lubrication as well as safer and deeper flexibility of muscles. Your heart can achieve great cardiovascular benefits in a yoga class (hot or not), whether holding and contracting muscles in postures, or moving through a Vinyasa flow class. The heat can help stimulate your metabolism so you are burning calories outside the room as well. Sweating has been proven to boost endorphins and boost immunity. The Massachusetts General Hospital Depression Clinical Research Program says that, “regular practice of hot yoga may regulate certain physiological functions that could contribute to the reversal of a depressed state.” In addition, those that suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder could get some respite from yoga as it increases blood flow to the brain, increases energy. Anecdotally, some seasonal sufferers have reported a sense of warm weather well-being while in a hot yoga class; perhaps tricking the body into thinking it is somewhere warm and sunny?
A study by the American Council on Exercise in July 2013 found that core temperatures for both the typical and hot classes fell well below the critical zone of 104 degrees. Although study participants perceived that the hot class was more difficult, researchers concluded that the hot yoga class was not dangerous for the average exerciser.
While hot yoga offers great physical and mental benefits, some things to be mindful of are dehydration, dizziness, headache, mild nausea. If any of these symptoms occur, it is recommended to remove yourself from class and go cool down in the lobby. For dehydration-prevention: drink, drink, drink! This includes before, during and after class. Drinking coffee is not recommended as it is naturally dehydrating. To help with dizziness, try moving slower up and down, it is not imperative to keep up with the class if your head is spinning! Headaches can be caused from dehydration, detoxification or a myriad of other things. Often, exercise helps, but not always. Sometimes, exiting class is best. For nausea, try lying down, the floor is often cooler. Drink water. And perhaps exit the class as well.
While these symptoms can occur in any style yoga class, all are common results of detoxification and are intensified in a hot environment. They are usually not harmful, just uncomfortable, so ultimately it is up the student to decide what is best for them: Hot, intense, detoxifying practice? Medium, warm, detoxifying practice? Cool, gentler, detoxifying practice? Luckily, Asheville Yoga Center offers all of the above.