WHY PEOPLE SHOULD BE CAUTIOUS AND INFORMED WHEN DOING HOT YOGA?
I have always been a bit biased as to the external heat when practicing asana (Noticed I didn’t say Yoga right?) And to this day, I still am. Back in my corporate days, I was one of those obedient yogi soliders that went to Bikram because it was right down the road from work, so why not get my groove on before my day started. It wasn’t until six months later that the sequence got tiring and the teachers’ ego smelled horrible. They seriously weren’t teachers, just robots following the book of “Bikram” – kissing his ass.
13 years later, now more aware and informed of my personal practice, I realized that the internal heat I created made me a better person. Don’t get me wrong, I love a warm heated room. Ana Forrest has her room set up for workshops at 80 degrees, the right temperature. However, there’s a science to her sequencing that compliments the need for a warm room.
By the mercy of a Canadian brother, Yoga Teacher Kreg Weiss shared his thoughts on Hot Yoga and I complimented what he had to say; especially when the practice is designed for advanced students who can take that heat passed 95 and have strong lungs and can pace themselves. So below is his “two cents.”
*ELASTIC EDGE – our muscles and connective have a finite elastic edge where, once you pass that edge, the tissues simply break (ie tears) … we have sensory mechanisms that help us feel when we are reaching this elastic edge to prevent injury … in hot yoga, the excessive heat can readily dampen these sensory mechanisms allowing us to pass our elastic edge and fall into acute injuries
*DETOXIFICATION – the claims that sweating detoxifies the body is an exaggeration … the liver, lymphatic system and kidneys are our dominant detoxifying mechanisms … the skin accounts for a very MINOR amount of potential detoxification … by dehydrating the body in hot yoga, we actually diminish the function of the major detoxification mechanisms leading to the next point
*DEHYDRATION – rapid dehydration (especially without correct preloading) depletes cells of intracellular water … all (I repeat, ALL) chemical reactions in the body function in a water state … dehydration via hot yoga can lead to reduced energy, constipation, adverse effects on metabolism, and other unwanted physiology effects like increased heart rate (next point)
*SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS REACTION – when we exercise (yoga), our body requires an increase in oxygen which is delivered via our heart and blood vessels … our CARDIAC OUTPUT (volume of blood x beats/min) increases to meet oxygen demands … however, by rapidly dehydrating the body (sweating), we pull water from the blood … blood volume goes down, so in order to maintain cardiac output, the heart has no choice but to increase beats/min … for me, the primary benefit of yoga is to tap into the parasympathetic nervous system as much as possible to heal, purge stress, and to restore … an increase in heart beat is brought forward by the sympathetic nervous system (our ‘fight or flight’ system) … given that people are already chronically stressed and sitting in constant states of sympathetic activity, this seems counterproductive
… staying on the sympathetic nervous reaction thought, I hear so often that people are encouraged to stay and sit through feelings of nausea – literally fighting the emergency response that the body is calling out to them … again, this is counterproductive to the healing nature we are trying to achieve in yoga … if you feel dizzy, nausea, faint, you are in a fight or flight state (near maximal levels) and could be causing damage to systems of the body
My take home message – know what you are getting yourself into – be mindful of biased claims by hot yoga studios and teachers – be bold in asking questions on those claims including ‘where is the science behind your claims’ – most of all, HOT YOGA IS NOT FOR BEGINNERS, it is an advanced form of practice and if a studio/teacher suggests it is ok for beginners, they are not looking out for the students’ best interest (ie just trying to make $) and/or are highly misinform