What is hot yoga? Originating in ancient India, yoga has become incredibly popular in the past 20 years or so in mainstream health clubs and specialty studios in the U.S. No longer is yoga only for diehard yogis, but has devoted followers that comprise a broader audience including athletes, seniors, exercisers, kids and more.
Yoga became more well-known in the Western Hemisphere in the mid-1850s, and was first taught in the U.S. in the 1890s. In Sanskrit, the word “yoga” means to unite or join, referring here to the body and mind. Today, most of the traditional yoga styles are still offered, along with new fusion versions that add a more contemporary feel to the practice.
Among the common types of yoga are:
- Hatha – Typically, this is a slower paced, gentler yoga where poses are held for several breaths.
- Vinyasa – Here, poses flow from one to the next at a faster pace, and breath is matched to movement. Intense exercisers and Type A personalities tend to like this more active style.
- Iyengar – Focused on precise body alignment, this style holds poses for a while and makes use of props like yoga blocks and straps.
- Ashtanga – Comprised of six series of sequenced poses, Ashtanga flows and builds heat.
- Kundalini – Emphasizes kriyas, which are repetitive physical exercises and intense breath work, while meditating, chanting and singing.
- Yin – Poses are held for several minutes to promote relaxation and restoration while emphasizing flexibility.
- Restorative – Slow-moving and incorporating props, this style aims for deep relaxation.
- Bikram – The original hot yoga, Bikram is a specific series of 26 poses and two breathing exercises practiced in the same order in a room that is 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 40 percent humidity to promote flexibility and perspiration.
- Hot – Like Bikram, hot yoga is conducted in a heated room, but isn’t limited to the same 26-pose series.
Why Hot Yoga?
Hot yoga has received a lot of attention in the past several years. While there hasn’t been significant research on its specific benefits, they include:
- Greater flexibility
- Better balance
- Reduced stress
- Increased stamina and energy
- Improved bone density
- Enhanced circulation
- Stimulated lymphatic system
- Relief for chronic joint pain
Recommendations for Hot Yoga
Given the temperature extremes, some people get light-headed, dizzy and nauseous, or can experience muscle cramping, during hot yoga sessions. While participants adapt to the heat over time, note these considerations for a safe practice:
- Hydrate before, during and after class – Drink lots of water and even consider a sports drink after class to replace electrolytes like sodium and potassium that are lost through sweat.
- Have a light snack – Don’t eat a heavy meal before yoga, as a full stomach can be uncomfortable. A piece of fruit or a handful of nuts, along with water, can keep your energy level up during the workout.
- Don’t cover up – Forget layers and long pants. Expose as much skin as possible to allow the perspiration process to cool the body more effectively.
- Lose the self-consciousness – Everyone is sweating buckets and standing in pools of sweat, so don’t worry about what you look (or smell!) like.
- Get to class early – This way, you can stake out your spot and get acclimated to the heat faster.
- Take breaks as necessary – If you are light-headed or not feeling good, sit down, drink and relax your breath until you feel better. Leave the room if necessary.
- Try more than one class – It can take a few experiences to feel more comfortable in hot yoga.
Try a hot yoga class and let us know what you think! Stay fueled.