What is Hot Yoga?

Hot Yoga classes are held in a heated studio where the temperature is between 28 and 30 degrees Celsius, with 50% humidity.  This allows for dissolving tension in the body, while detoxifying the entire system. Heat softens muscles making them more pliable and movements more fluid.

Hot Yoga: The Good, The Bad And The Enlightened

by Tracey Folkard B.Sc., N.D.
The Natural Path
1415 Queen St East
Sault Ste Marie, ON
P6A 2G1
Telephone: (705) 254-1080
Web: www.naturalpathonline.com

It won’t be long before you start noticing the benefits of Hot Yoga. The heat allows you to improve metabolism, burn fat, experience a greater range of motion, oxygenate tissues, detoxify and increase T-cell function. The goal is to improve performance through consistent training and to support recovery. The heat presents new obstacles when it comes to performance and recovery but most problems can be prevented by being aware of red flag symptoms and following a few simple guidelines.

Thermoregulation is challenging in a heated environment, especially if the air temperature is greater than the skin temperature. Three of the four ways the body releases heat are not viable options (radiation, conduction and convection) in a hot yoga class. This forces the body to rely on evaporation to dissipate the heat generated by exercise. Excessive wiping off of sweat is not recommended because this will reduce evaporation. It is important to understand that sweating alone does not cool the body, the sweat must be evaporated. When the room is warmer than the body, the body will actually gain heat from the environment, increasing core temperature. Humidity impairs evaporation, which increases the rate of sweating, which in turn can lead to dehydration. To prevent dehydration in a hot yoga class 8-10 8 oz glasses of water should be consumed daily, of which 16 oz’s should be consumed prior to exercise. During exercise drink frequently, and early, before you are actually thirsty. Your goal is to replenish fluids at the same rate that you are sweating. The maximal rate of replacement is 20-40 oz’s per hour, based on absorption of fluid by the stomach. After exercise, evaluate change in body weight. Consume enough fluids to return to your body weight prior to exercise. If you are not sweating freely during class this can be the first sign of dehydration or blocked detoxification. As little as a 2% loss of body mass from fluid loss will impair exercise performance and endurance. Yoga breathing is another way the body cools itself through evaporation, so don’t forget to breathe deeply and consistently throughout practice.

There are several types of heat illness, the most common being heat exhaustion. The symptoms of heat exhaustion include a weak rapid pulse, dizziness, headache, general weakness and low blood pressure when upright. Body temperature is not severely elevated and sweating may be moderately reduced. To treat heat exhaustion one should move to a cooler room and rehydrate by taking fluids with electrolytes. Heat cramps are a less dangerous but painful form of heat illness. By definition heat cramps are muscle spasms that occur during or after intense physical activity. To prevent heat exhaustion or heat cramps during hot yoga, work at your level of ability and include electrolytes with your water intake during and after class. Several electrolyte mixtures are available. Many commercial electrolyte drinks are full of sugars and artificial colours which are not recommended especially when you want to improve health and muscle definition. Simple carbohydrates reduce health by affecting blood sugar leading to weight gain. They also interfere with detoxification, and cause an acidic pH that can lead to stiffness, inflammation and a compromised immune system. Caffeine or alcohol is also not recommended before hot yoga because it accelerates dehydration and heat illness.

Heat acclimatization is a way to train the body to tolerate the temperature of the room to reduce risk and improve exercise performance. Acclimatization involves the body adapting to heat stress by stimulating physiological changes that will improve heat tolerance. Ideally the body should be exposed gradually and the duration and intensity of the exercise sessions should be systematically increased in small increments. If you are new to hot yoga regardless of your fitness ability you should start with the lowest temperature class first and gradually work up to a more intense heated class over a period of 10-14 days.

For maximum performance you need maximum nutrition. The benefits of hot yoga can be enhanced if you support detoxification, protein needs, hydration, and recovery. Balance your blood sugar by consuming a low fat protein, complex carbohydrate and a mono or polyunsaturated fat at each meal. Do not skip meals. Low blood sugar is the main reason why people crash in the middle of a workout or fail to loose or maintain weight. Support digestion with sprouts, herbs, relaxation and proper cooking/ and eating techniques (avoid microwave cooking). If you have a problem digesting fats add inositol, choline ,lipase and bile with your meal. Bitters such as lemon, beets, and herbs can also help. Supplements may include a protein shake that includes phase 1 and 2 detoxification enzymes, multivitamin and antioxidant support (i.e. Protoclear, Detoxtech etc.), greens (Greens First, Prairie Naturals), essential fatty acids and electrolytes (endurlyte etc.). Recovery from injury can be enhanced with arnica homoeopathically, and a natural anti inflammatory (bromelain, picrorhiza, boswellia, turmeric, ginger, glucosamine, msm, and/or hyluronic acid). It is best to seek the advice of a qualified health professional such as a Naturopathic doctor if you have questions or if you prefer an individual assessment.

What are the benefits of Hot Yoga?

The benefits are of hot yoga are numerous.  A few are listed below.

  1. Deeper stretch and improved range of motion in joints, muscles and ligaments which decreases the likelihood of  injury. 

  2. Stimulates the body resulting in increased circulation and metabolism thus effectively burning fat.

  3. Strengthens the cardiovascular system.

  4. Detoxifies  and cleanses the body through sweating - similar to the effect of a sauna.

  5. Develops mental focus and awareness.

Is Hot Yoga for me?

As long as you are in good health this yoga practice is adaptable to all levels and abilities. 

If you have medical conditions such as diabetes , high blood pressure, heart conditions or are pregnant-you should not participate.

It is recommended that you consult a physician prior to any new exercise program to make sure you do not have any underlying medical reasons that would restrict you from taking part in a heated class.

What should I bring?

You should bring a yoga mat, strap, block, large towel and water.  We recommend an electrolyte replacement drink such as Gatorade, E-Load etc.


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