Yoga has already gained immense popularity in the United States with studios popping up in almost every neighborhood. Yoga trainers are busy trying to innovate and create new forms of yoga to solicit more interest. Among the new forms of yoga that have emerged, hot yoga has attracted some attention, especially for people who lean towards aerobic exercises.
Hot yoga teachers talk about its numerous benefits like higher calorie burn and increased flexibility. But are they true and should you go for it? Here are a few myth-busters you should know before you enter a heated room with your yoga mat.
1. You Might Get A Heat Stroke
Hot yoga, as the name suggests, is done in room that’s usually kept at temperature of over 100 degrees. The temperature combined with continuous movement from one posture to another makes you sweat excessively. As your body heat increases, your body works to maintain temperature (homeostasis) through a negative feedback system which causes you to sweat and cool down.
However, the heat in the room does not allow your body to cool down causing a disruption in the body temperature which may result in a heat stroke or dizziness and nausea. So be careful about not getting too dehydrated and always talk to your doctor if you have preexisting health conditions like high blood pressure.
2. You’re Not Burning More Calories
Hot yoga proponents claim that by doing poses in a heated room, they get a better cardiovascular workout and burn more calories. The higher temperatures and all that sweat may make you believe that you burnt a lot of calories. Research, however, shows otherwise.
A study done by the Colorado State University on Bikram Yoga, a standardized 90-minute session featuring 26 postures in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit and kept at 40 percent humidity, showed that practitioners burned, on average, 460 calories for men and 330 for women. That’s not very high for a 90-minute workout.
3. Sweating Is Not The Same As Detoxing
Sweat is mostly made up of water with small amounts of other chemicals which include salt, potassium, ammonia, and urea. The real toxin eliminators of the body are your kidneys, liver, and to some extent, your colon, not your sweat glands.
While promoters of hot yoga might say it’s a great way to detox, the facts beg to differ. Unfortunately, an hour long session of hot yoga where you sweat profusely does not really detoxify you. If you’re serious about getting a detox, talk to your doctor or a nutritionist for advice.
4. Hot Yoga Does Not Make You More Flexible
One of the most popular claims made by hot yoga teachers is that hot yoga makes you more flexible. Flexibility in your body is a function of your ligaments and tendons. To maintain their stability, they have lesser blood flow compared to other parts of the body. When you work out in a heated room, there is a natural increase in blood flow which makes you feel more flexible than you really are.
Your ligaments have a stoppage point beyond which they begin to tear or break. During hot yoga, you may be putting more strain on your ligaments without realizing it, increasing your chances of a ligament tear. Also, when ligaments are over-stretched, they stay that way causing joint instability.
5. Studies On Hot Yoga Not Conclusive
Bikram Yoga has been credited for popularizing hot yoga throughout the United States. A study done on Bikram Yoga suggested that it improves balance, lower body strength and range of motion for both the upper and lower body, and might even help improve arterial stiffness and metabolic measures like glucose tolerance and cholesterol levels, as well as bone density and perceived stress.
However, one also needs to look at how the study was conducted to know if hot yoga is beneficial to everyone. The study included only one randomized controlled trial with experienced practitioners. Also, most studies do not track adverse events and included only healthy adults. While yoga in general has been proved to be beneficial, the jury is still out on the specific health benefits of hot yoga.
Hot Yoga is generally safe. If it sparks your interest or if you think it’s helping you achieve your health goals, there is no harm in practicing it. But if you are sensitive to heat or have suffered from heat strokes before, talk to your doctor before signing up. You might be better off with regular yoga. And always take precautions by staying well-hydrated. If you feel nauseous or dizzy in a hot yoga session, listen to your body and step out immediately.