By now, you’ve probably heard about hot yoga. New studios seem to be popping up everywhere offering hot yoga, or a form of hot yoga called Bikram yoga. Bikram yoga was first created by yogi Bikram Choudhury, and has enjoyed increasing popularity over the last decade.
In this practice, a studio increases the temperature of the room to between 95-105 degrees. The philosophy behind hot yoga is two-fold. First, increasing the temperature encourages the body to sweat, thus removing more toxins than in a regular yoga class. Second, the hot temperatures allow the body to bend deeper and stretch further while avoiding injuries that may happen in a cooler environment.
During a Bikram hot yoga class, a certified instructor leads students through a series of 26 yoga poses; the series is always the same poses in the exact same order. The specific set of poses aims to target every part of the body including internal organs, joints, and muscles by the end of the ninety-minute class. Bikram hot yoga classes do not use aids such as blocks or bolsters, though participants do place towels over their yoga mats to avoid slipping on sweat.
Although Choudhury first popularized Bikram Yoga, some studios offer “hot” yoga that is not Bikram yoga. Rather, it is simply some other form of yoga done in a hot room in order to promote stretching and detoxification.
Fad or the Future?
Experts and yoga devotees seem equally divided. Though some health experts caution that the heat may be detrimental to those with certain medical conditions or taking certain medications, others laud the detoxifying effects of working out in a heated environment. The opinion seems equally divided among yoga devotees as well; some go to their first class and love it while others determine it isn’t for them. Many people who love yoga often take one Bikram class a week or every other week while maintaining a more intensive non-hot yoga schedule.
Maintaining a regular yoga schedule offers many benefits, whether you’re taking hot yoga or a more traditional class. The body can build strength and increase flexibility while the mind can center itself through concentration and meditation. Regular practice can also increase circulation while decreasing weight.
Here are some things to consider if you’re interested in hot yoga:
- Do you have any medical conditions that can result in dizziness or discomfort when exposed to heat?
- Are you currently taking any medication that could react badly to increased body temperature?
- Are you well hydrated? (Most experts recommend taking hot yoga only when well-hydrated, which means you’ll need to plan ahead)
- Do you have the proper clothes? (Those practicing Bikram yoga typically do so in loose-fitting, wicking yoga shorts and a workout-top. Pants or shirts with sleeves are not recommended).
- Does the studio have showers available after class for those who’d like to use them?
It’s a good idea to test-drive a few classes before committing to an entire session. If you’re interested in hot yoga, see if you can drop into a class or two to see if this form of yoga is for you. Remember: listen to your body. Those new to hot yoga often sit out a few poses throughout the class to help their body adjust to the new environment. The most important thing you can do when practicing yoga is honor your body’s current abilities.