It is good? Bad? Somewhere in between? Hot yoga continues to create controversy and division among yoga enthusiasts. Some swear by the health benefits while others claim it is dangerous and unnecessary. So…what is the truth? There are several pros and cons of this particular type of yoga practice. Hot yoga involves Bikram yoga poses performed in a studio kept at 40 degrees C with a humidity level of 60 percent. The idea is that exercising in this warm and humid environment will produce certain health benefits. Before you decide to sign up for a class (or chastise someone you know for signing up), consider both the benefits and drawbacks.
Pro: Hot Yoga Gives You Glowing Skin
It may sound silly or even unlikely but one of the reasons many yoga lovers choose hot yoga is that there are serious skin care benefits. Yes, all of that sweating is actually good for the skin. When you get a good workout in, your pores open up in order for sweat to release. This helps your complexion look better and stay clear. Additionally, sweating detoxifies the skin. Sweat contains Dermcidin, which is a natural antibiotic. Studies suggest that this antibiotic can kill potentially harmful bacteria on the skin. Of course, during a hot yoga class, you can expect to sweat an awful lot. (More than you ever thought you could sweat!) All of that sweat benefits the overall health and appearance of your skin. By the time you finish your post-yoga shower…your skin will appear glowing and gorgeous.
Con: Dehydration is Common
Are you someone that drinks a lot of water? Before attending any hot yoga class, it is recommended that you do just that. Drink at least two liters (between six to eight cups) of water ahead of time. This will reduce the likelihood of dehydration. However, the intense heat and humidity can still make you feel thirsty and dehydrated. How significantly this affects you may vary. It all depends on the intensity of the workout, how much you had to drink beforehand, and whether your body is used to this type of yoga class. Be aware and listen carefully to the signs your body is giving you. Drinking water during the session is allowed but only in small doses. Gulping down too much at a time can shock the system or cause you to feel uncomfortable.
Pro: Increased Ability to Focus
There is nothing more frustrating. You are in the middle of a yoga class and then suddenly you start thinking about everything you need to get done post-workout. Like picking up the dry cleaning, going to the bank, and folding the laundry. During a hot yoga class those distractions are long gone. The intensity of the workout has been shown to increase your ability to focus. Due to the intense nature of the class…. all you will be able to think about are the movements, your breath, and pushing through. Not a bad way to let go of the little stresses life throws your way!
Con: Nausea and Discomfort
You know the saying, get comfortable being uncomfortable? If you intend to participate in a hot yoga class…get used to feeling a little out of sorts. Many people experience dizziness throughout. During a class you may also feel a little weak or excessively tired. This can unnerving or even scary at first. Especially since that dizzy feeling may continue even after your class is over for the day. In extreme cases, you might even feel nauseous due to the extreme heat. Know ahead of time that it can happen so you are prepared. If you start to feel off or sick in any way, stop what you’re doing, lie down, and take slow deep breaths for a minute or two. Small sips of water can help also. In some cases, leaving the class might be the best option. Always listen to your body.
Pro: Improved Flexibility and Deeper Stretches
Warming up is an important part of any exercise routine. When the muscles are cold, it becomes harder to stretch and get into more strenuous poses. One major benefit of practicing hot yoga? All of that heat relaxes your muscles. Really relaxes the muscles. This increases your flexibility, both in the moment and afterwards. This added flexibility allows you to push yourself further, try new things, and improve your skills. Warm muscles also reduce the likelihood of experiencing physical damage when you attempt a deep stretch or more challenging move. Another benefit? Being in a warm temperature means you will spend less time warming up and more time perfecting yoga poses.
Con: Higher Risk of Injury
There are many types of yoga to consider. However, if you are learning towards hot yoga…. be aware. As wonderful as it is to be able to stretch deeper than usual this can also cause potential issues. It is possible to stretch further than you should. When your muscles are warm and loose you may not recognize your limits. This can lead to pulled hamstrings, torn ligaments, and other concerns. While it is wonderful to go a little bit deeper with your stretches – and really challenge yourself with each pose you perform – remember not to overdo it. Sometimes, less is more.
Additional Pros and Cons of Hot Yoga
A few other benefits to taking a hot yoga class include: it is an intense workout that can torch calories, you can enjoy a refreshing post-workout feeling, hot yoga can help relieve areas of tension in the body, and the humidity opens up the airways, making it easier to breathe deeply and completely.
Other drawbacks to consider include: the heat can put additional stress and strain on your body and it may not be suitable for people with health conditions (such as low blood pressure or adverse reactions to extreme temperatures).
Hot yoga continues to be a point of contention for many workout enthusiasts. That being said, it is ultimately a personal choice. Consider the pros and cons…and make your decision accordingly. Remember to always listen to your body and trust your instincts. You know yourself better than anyone else!