What Is Hot Yoga And How Does It Work?
Yoga is an ancient mind/body/spirit practice dating back thousands of years, originating in India. Yoga was introduced to the United States by Swami Vivekanada in the 1890s, and gained popularity as part of the counterculture in the 1960s, and then again in the 1980s as a form of fitness exercise. Today, over 37 million people in the US practice yoga in a wide variety of styles such as Iyengar, Kripalu, Kundalini, Vinyasa, and Bikram yoga, also known as hot yoga.
History Of Hot Yoga
Bikram Choudhury is credited as the developer of Bikram yoga, which is a series of 26 postures practiced over a 90-minute time period. In addition, this style of yoga is practiced in a room where the temperature a humid 95-100 degrees. According to Choudhury the high temperature helps to warm and stretch the body’s muscles, while it sweats out impurities.
Yoga was traditionally practiced in countries such as India, where it is normal to practice in high temperatures and high humidity. As yoga grew popular in colder climates (and with the introduction of air conditioning), it became more common to practice yoga in cooler temperatures. However, many yoga exercises require heat for increased flexibility.
Benefits Of Hot Yoga
Hot yoga promotes increased flexibility for yoga asanas, so the risk of injury during practice is decreased. Deep breathing exercises incorporated into hot yoga sessions help to calm the mind and increase oxygen circulation throughout the entire body.
Other benefits of hot yoga include:
- strengthening of muscles and joints
- greater range of flexibility
- alleviation of stress
- improved posture
- reduced pain
- strengthened immune system
- removal of toxins from the body
- weight loss
Cautions For Practicing Hot Yoga
Because of the intense heat used in hot yoga, it is worth remembering the following points when you practice:
- Drink lots of water before, during and after a hot yoga session.
- If you feel dizzy, nauseous, fatigued, weak, or have a headache, stop practicing immediately; these are signs of heat exhaustion.
- If you are pregnant, suffer from heart problems, are elderly, or are taking certain medications, you should seek medical advice before practicing hot yoga; it is usually not advisable to practice hot yoga with these conditions.
- Allow your body to breathe (i.e. sweat) during a hot yoga session by wearing light, comfortable and functional yoga clothing.
- Bring plenty of towels to a hot yoga practice to avoid slipping on your yoga mat.
When you find a qualified yoga instructor and pay attention to your individual needs and symptoms, hot yoga can be practiced by most anyone for a fitter, healthier body and a more integrated sense of well-being.
Alexandra Ross is a freelance writer, food lover and healthy lifestyle writer.