Thoughts on Hot Yoga – aka Bikram Yoga
Bikram yoga, also known as hot yoga, is a subcategory of yoga that involves certain postures, positions, and breathing exercises in high temperatures. The practice combines hot sauna therapy and yoga to create an exercise that can provide both a mental and physical detox. Regular yoga is a demanding exercise that requires intense physical exertion and can be challenging without the added high temperatures. As a result, many fear that the combination of intense exercise and a heated room may be more dangerous than it is healthy. Like most sports, Bikram yoga does have its risks, but if practiced correctly it can significantly improve your mental and physical health.
Yoga involves a repetition of held postures, breathing exercises, and stretches. It helps to build all over strength and endurance while also helping to increase flexibility. Yoga is challenging, but relatively easy to begin. While you may not be able to hold certain positions when you first start, the goal is to practice to build endurance and eventually you’ll be able to bend your body in ways you first thought unimaginable. The type of muscle release associated with yoga can help with various health issues. The various stretches involved in yoga have a similar affect on the body as massages do; leaving your muscles loosened and relaxed by the time you have finished the session. Helping to release tension from the muscles has a physically calming effect on the body, which can in turn help you to reduce mental stress and frustration. In a similar sense, breathing exercises in yoga are intended to slow down the heart rate and promote a tranquil mental state.
Regular yoga is physically health promoting enough in the sense that it strengthens the body. However, adding a heated environment to the practice can in fact add to those health benefits. Similar to the effects of a sauna, Bikram yoga can help to detox and reduce water weight through sweat. Sweating is how our body naturally rids toxins, and so increased sweat helps to extract trapped toxins that’s we’ve built up in the body through poor diet, skin care products, and free radicals. The heated environment also forces the body to work harder, which can also build muscle and lung endurance. While yoga is challenging, Bikram yoga is more challenging meaning being able to do it is much more rewarding in regards to achieving a healthier state.
That being said, performing such extraneous tasks in a heated environment can still be dangerous if not practiced correctly. The heated environment means you are at risk of suffering from heat stroke if you do not take precautions. Most guided classes of Bikram yoga will conduct a session in a way that helps to reduce this risk. Instructors will often remind you to drink lots of water or take breaks as needed, which is exactly what you should be doing. The heat means that you could become dehydrated; it’s really not much different from playing sports outdoors in the hot sun. You need to constantly drink water to replenish what you lose through sweat and take breathing breaks whenever you feel strained. If you’re having trouble breathing or genuinely feel you cannot continue to hold a posture, then take a break and drink some water. Provided you are able to do this, then practicing Bikram yoga is totally safe and can be incredibly beneficial towards your overall health.
If you have a history of heart disease, diabetes or other major health condition, Bikram yoga may not be the way you want to begin. You may want to ease into it, by only doing a few minutes at a time once your health has improved. As always, you should get a physical exam before beginning any strenuous exercise program.