Hot yoga sounds very tempting to me in these cool winter months where every flash of warmth is cherished lovingly. A growing number of people however love hot yoga in all seasons, both in the already sweltering summer months and the icy winter ones. In fact hot yoga is so hugely popular in the US that in some cities it’s very hard to find a normally heated class.
Advocates of hot yoga love the heat, the sweat and the stretches. They proclaim a feeling of euphoria after the class and are convinced of the heat induced flexibility.
Some people however experience nausea, digestive issues, dehydration, headaches and intense tiredness after or during a hot yoga class. So what is great for some is not so good for others.
Without discounting the positive effects, it’s a good idea to look sensibly at the disadvantages of doing hot yoga. Personally I love clean fresh air, I love opening up my lungs in a yoga class and allowing the air borne prana to fill up all the subtle places in the body, helping with a feeling of strength, openness and positive energy. But in a hot yoga class where the room is heated to 40 degrees the air becomes very humid from all the sweat, this means that every inhalation is laden with lots of moisture and less oxygen, positive ions and prana.
With the increase of heat the muscles become very easy to stretch. It’s a great feeling to stretch deeply but unless one is very mindful while stretching one may go past their limits and overstretch not just their muscles but their tendons and ligaments as well, which paves the way for joint instability.
Of course the biggest concern is the possibility of heat exhaustion. Where the body cannot cope with the heat stress so the blood pressure goes down leading to increased heart rate and producing feelings of nausea, dizziness and weakness. Anyone with a weak heart or blood pressure problems should steer clear of hot yoga classes and anyone experiencing these symptoms should leave the heated room, not push through the pain.
So if you are tempted to take a hot yoga class take the precaution of hydrating well before and after class and taking plenty of sips of water throughout. Stay focused on how you are responding to the poses, the pace and above all the heat and don’t go beyond your comfort, knowing that everyone has a different level of how much heat they can handle. Personally, I would advise people to practise in a normally heated room and keep the body warm with flowing movement and strong poses both of which activate blood flow to the muscles and warm the body from the inside out.
By Vrndavan Dasi
Founder and Principal of Veda Yoga Teacher Training