What’s Behind the Hot Yoga Craze
Yoga is a great way to center the mind, sculpt the body and burn some calories, but what happens when you add a 100 degree room into this workout mix? Bikram Yoga, that’s what.
By Maggie Ledford
What is it?
Bikram Yoga, commonly referred to as “hot yoga,” was created by Bikram Choudhury in 1974. This particular class of yoga focuses on 26 basic yoga poses, each held between 30 seconds and 1 minute. During a class session (which usually lasts between 90 minutes and two hours), each pose is repeated twice in a room heated to about 100°F. The repetition of the 26 poses makes the workout not only effective, but manageable for people of all skill and experience levels.
What’s so HOT about it?
While all of this may sound appealing, you may still be asking yourself why you need to perform this workout in 100° of heat! Overall, a higher temperature will increase the difficultly of the physical aspects of the workout. The intense amount of heat allows for the muscles in the body to be more flexible, so they are stretched and strengthened more than in a normal workout. Hot yoga also offers a more intense cardiovascular workout than other forms of yoga, and the heat allows the body to sweat more than average, cleansing the body and ridding it of harmful toxins.
And of course, you can add to this the benefits of normal yoga, which include building and stretching muscles, burning calories, and the calming aspects of meditation, which can lessen stress levels and lower blood pressure. Although it may seem exhausting at the time, hot yoga is shown to actually give people who participate in it regularly more energy, coordination and better quality of life.
Risk vs. Benefit
Though the benefits of hot yoga are plentiful, it’s not a workout for the faint of heart. People who are not in good cardiovascular condition, prone to dehydration, or have suffered from a heat stroke should not participate in Bikram yoga because of the added stress the heat places on the heart and body. Even participants over the age of 40 should approach this type of workout with caution.
For healthy individuals who want to try hot yoga, it is extremely important to make sure you are properly hydrated before attending a session. Also, you should be careful to not push yourself too hard too quickly. While the heat in the room allows muscles to be more flexible, it can also make you more likely to pull or damage them.
Now that you’re well-researched on the topic, here are a few tips on how to get started.
First and foremost, get and stay hydrated, drinking around 1.5 liters of water before a session. Make sure not to eat at least two hours before your session, and wear comfortable, lightweight clothing. It will also help if you familiarize yourself with the 26 poses so that you’re not completely unprepared.
Now pick up your yoga mat, grab a bottle of water, and swan dive into your first hot yoga class!