By Jenny Park
The term “hot yoga” may refer to a wide variety of yogic styles. Classes might include a series of static postures or a flowing vinyasa sequence with continuous movement. What “hot yoga” classes have in common is that they are typically practiced in a room heated anywhere from 90 to 110 degrees.
Yoga instructors and practitioners of hot styles claim the practice offers several benefits. The theory behind the practice is that the heat of the room makes the body “malleable” so that it is prepared to undergo changes in its construction. A “cold” body rejects such changes and risks injury. According to these yoga schools, these practitioners use heat, as well as humidity, to:
• Avoid overheating of the body during practice,
• Prepare the muscles for intense stretching,
• Detoxify the body
• Create a cardiovascular experience by increasing the heart rate.
The Ups and Downs
From an Ayurvedic perspective, hot yoga may benefit some people at certain times. For example, those with a Vata imbalance might find a hot practice of stationary poses to be soothing and balancing, especially in the winter months. However, those with a strong propensity toward Pitta might be aggravated by a hot practice and should avoid it altogether.
Yoga students who have pre-existing health conditions should consult with their physician before attending a heated class. It is important to improve your health, but some people don’t react well to high temperatures and there is a level of risk involved for some students with high blood pressure, heart problems and other conditions.
Critics of yoga training sessions in warm rooms say practitioners run the risk of excessive dehydration. Heated classes can run anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes long, and the heat combined with the intense postures make for a sweaty practice. It’s critical to continually replace the fluids being lost during class.
Students in heated yoga classes also risk stretching tight muscles beyond their limits. Excess sweat on the mat can cause slipping. Additionally, the heat may give the illusion that a muscle is more flexible than it actually is. When the student is back in room temperature, he might notice his muscle is overstretched and painful.
Finally, exercising in a heated room can lead to heat injuries, placing immense stress on the heart and possibly creating a medical emergency. Symptoms might include weakness nausea, dizziness and headache. The most dangerous form of heat injury is heat stroke, which can result in mental impairment and even death. Symptoms of heat stroke may include fainting, dry skin, vomiting, seizures, and unconsciousness.
Due to the fact that there is such a wide variety of strong opinions about the benefits and risk of hot yoga, anyone wanting to try the practice might consider consulting with their doctor first. It would also be prudent to find a certified instructor, who has graduated from a hot yoga teacher training program and be sure to monitor your body throughout the practice.
© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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