For those of us looking to get our sweat on this summer, hot yoga has become one of the top choices for women looking to sculpt and tone their bikini bods. This wildly popular phenomenon has spread like wildfire across the U.S., and with its astounding amount of benefits, it's not hard to see why! However, experts have expressed growing concerns about the true nature of hot yoga and how it can impact the body. One study in particular, covered by Ace Fitness, calls attention to some of the pressing problems that have arisen in response to this steamy form of fitness.
Hot yoga, commonly referred to as Bikram yoga, consists of completing a 90-minute class in a 105-degree room with 40 percent humidity. It’s all about mind over matter when it comes to down-dogging in a pool of your own sweat! Or is it? One study, conducted by the University of Wisconsin, found that the heat might potentially cause some serious problems for hot yoga enthusiasts. Experts measured the core temperature and heart rate of 20 healthy yoga volunteers in order to better understand just how the heat and exertion would affect the participants’ bodies.
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Research revealed that, within the course of those 90 minutes, the core temperature of the participants increased drastically. The average core temperature was about 103 to 104 degrees, or the equivalent of a high-grade fever! Also, the average heart rate of the group rose significantly as well — to about 72 percent of the predicted maximum heart rate for the women. This raised a series of concerns for experts, who insisted that exertion-related heat illness and heat stroke become serious risks when the core temperature rises so steeply.
Keep in mind that these volunteers were practicing yoga, a form of exercise not necessarily renowned for its cardiovascular benefits, so much as for its power and endurance training. The balances that are completed during the 90 minutes focus firmly on breath, stability and strength, rather than boosting your heart rate. Despite the vast amount of sweating, participants are still unable to cool down their bodies sufficiently. With internal temps so high, Bikram enthusiasts may be risking their health.
The study concluded that there are three general recommendations that would improve the safety of hot yoga classes:
- Duration: Most participants begin to experience dangerously high internal temperatures around the 60-minute mark, so experts agree that cutting the class down would help prevent heat-related illness or stroke.
- Temperature: Unfortunately, this one is easier said than done, as many people believe that it is the sweltering temperature that actually promotes the various benefits of this style of yoga. However, even a couple degrees could make a difference!
- Hydration: Typically, a hot yoga class pauses once for a water break, although participants are encouraged to drink consistently throughout. Many people choose to push through their dehydration in order to remain mentally focused on the poses, which can greatly contribute to that dangerous spike in body temperature. Taking a couple seconds to sip at your water is absolutely essential! Keep in mind that symptoms like cramps, headache, dizziness, and overall weakness are the first signs of dehydration and heat illness, so keep that water bottle close at hand the next time you hit a studio!
Despite these potential pitfalls, hot yoga can do the body good, Ladies. Research has shown that the benefits of practicing Bikram yoga are numerous, as long as certain precautions are taken. Yogis often rave about the mental and physical rewards of practicing hot yoga. Some of the many perceived benefits include:
- Improved mindfulness
- Increased flexibility and strength
- Muscle toning
- Lower stress levels
- Improved cardiorespiratory endurance
- Better balance
- Decreased body fat percentages
- Improved glucose tolerance and insulin resistance
People thoroughly enjoy pushing themselves to complete the 26 poses and two breathing exercises, despite the overwhelming amount of perspiration and heat! These classes encourage participants to transcend their physical discomfort in order to reach a state of total relaxation and zen. For more information about hot yoga, check out the rest of the study by clicking here.