The benefits of Hot Yoga

As a part of my New Year resolutions I always set a new fitness goal for myself and along with it try to incorporate in a new workout or athletic activity. Over the past year as I became busier with work and life, I found myself spending less and less time on stretching and getting my muscles warmed up before workouts.  I’d get in and out of the gym being as effective as possible without really warming up or cooling off. Big mistake I soon learned.

For the last several months I have been dealing with some severe hip pain. Until it can be diagnosed and treated, regular cardio and heavy lifting only seems to agitate it and make the pain so severe to the point that it affects my walking and everyday life. With a photo shoot fast approaching, I knew that cutting out all lower body exercise wasn’t an option; I had to find a way to get my cardio in.

After talking to a few friends about my issue, hot yoga was suggested. Initially I was opposed to the idea; I had tried yoga before and found myself bored to tears and not feeling the exhilaration that one gets after a good workout. But hot yoga, now here was something I hadn’t tried. I was desperate to find a way to get some cardiovascular exercise, so after doing some research into the benefits of hot yoga and how it compares to regular yoga I decided to give it a try. Those who are devoted to the practice say that hot yoga has many benefits. Detoxification and increased flexibility are its primary attributes. When they say “hot yoga” they aren’t kidding, when you live in Texas and “winter” days are sometimes in within 70 degrees, hot, is an understatement. The humidity outside combined with the 98.6 temperature in the room reminds me of a hot Texas summer day when your car a/c breaks because it just can’t keep up with the soaring temperatures outside and you feel like a bun in the oven stuck with no way to escape the heat because outside the car is no better than being inside.  Whew!

Within five minutes of being in the room without having even completed one exercise you are already sweating on your mat.  The detoxification starts when you begin to sweat and your body flushes the toxins from your skin. According to Isabel Lambert, director of Tula Yoga Spa in Toronto, working in a heated room also elevates the heart rate, which makes the body work harder. “It’s really for people who want a more intense workout—those who want to develop strength, flexibility and tone along with a cardiovascular workout.” She also says working in heat helps the body relax, improves breathing (which helps conditions like asthma) and focuses the mind, which develops better mental concentration.

While there are many different types of yoga, Bikram yoga follows 26 poses concentrated on focus and endurance and is considered the original incarnation of the form. With hot yoga, the heat allows your muscles to relax more which helps you go into a deeper pose. The important thing to remember with hot yoga is that you need to be prepared for it. You have to be aware of your own health and know how far you can push yourself.  Also be sure you are properly hydrated before taking your hot yoga class. One thing that is for certain is that you definitely sweat, so bring an extra change of clothes and towel.

At the end of the hot yoga class while lying in a savasana or corpse pose, I have to admit that despite the fact that I was soaked in sweat, more than I felt I had ever been in my life.  I was definitely more relaxed, energetic, and an overall clean feeling was inside me, as if all the junk and stress of the past year, my stressful day at work, and the ache in my hip had just washed out of me and was lying in a puddle beneath me.

Hot yoga can be challenging and intense, but everyone can get something from it! Whether you are looking to de-stress, detox, increase your flexibility and core strength, or to just try something new, you will not be disappointed.