Heat.

So, I love yoga

Exhibit A:

DSC_3422
image by Jenn Gregory.

Okay.

I also love scary movies, but I absolutely hate films with nudity and typically think ill of horror flicks that use a woman’s breasts to gain attention.

Life is not black any white, right?

Relatively anyone who knows me knows my commitment and love of yoga. They probably know that for two years I did it daily, to the point where I needed to stop because I was becoming addicted (much similar to a running addiction). Or, that I still do it 3 times weekly, rather in a detoxifying atmosphere,  a vinyasa flow or sometimes I even add toning benefits. So, basically, you get it.

As a result, I can not count on my fingers how many times I get asked this question:

“Do you love hot yoga?”

hotgo

It is almost as if in order to be an actual dedicated yogi, you need to commit to hot yoga, which I have not. The moment I say, “not really, no”. I get looked at like I have six heads; and while sometimes I feel like I have enough thoughts in my head to support six physical skulls, I have checked and there is only the one. They never follow this look with any vocal distaste, but I can see it in their eyes.

First of all, let’s get this straight:

Yoga has been around for… a very, very, very long time and hot yoga has been around maybe a few decades. Do not quote my on this but I do know that Bikram designed his routine (which, honestly, is the one heated yoga routine I am on board with… I’ll explain) in the early seventies. So, yoga far predates the actual addition of a hot room. Though it is arguable that India, where yoga originated, has a very hot climate, that climate would be a natural heat, unlike the artificial one used in heated yoga classes. In all honesty, I have never been pro-hot yoga. I see its benefits and I agree to them, but for me there are a lot of risks involved, causing me to become a wee bit apprehensive.

What I Agree With

One of the issues with stretching is that our bodies are not fluid, so when we stretch without having properly heating up our bodies first, the chances of potentially harming ourselves does elevate to some degree. This is why a lot of people try to deter runners away from stretching prior to running and opt for more lighter cardio or dynamic movements. Think or our bodies as elastic bands. If you stretch an elastic band, it is going to snap.

Considering yoga is, for the most part, stretching, the idea of doing such an activity in a heated room is far more beneficial. First, your body will naturally warm up, sweating in order to try to cool it down, which will allow you to get deeper into your stretch while detoxifying your inner organs. These are the main principles of Bikram yoga, which is a series of 26 postures done twice through in a 105 degree Fahrenheit room. The poses in Bikram tend to be more static the fluid. So, you’ll hold the postures for 30 seconds to a minute (some postures differ) each. Because of the static hold, your body will need to engage its muscles, allowing for proper toning of them as well as increasing your heart rate as a result of core and leg work. So, all in all, I completely understand the principles behind Bikram. Unfortunately, for me, I prefer to flow more often than available in a Bikram class and tend to prefer variety in my practice. So, when it comes to Bikram, if I were to do it, I’d do it once, maybe twice a week. Similarly, my feelings on TriBalance Yoga and Forrest Yoga (two other heated yoga forms) are supportive of their approach. In all honesy, I would love to try a TriBalance yoga class one day.

What I Don’t Agree With

The current and ongoing fab of hot yoga for weight loss.

Some forms of yoga take a more… fast-paced approach. Instead of holding static postures in a heated environment, you flow through vinyasas. To me, this is not totally essential. The beauty of a vinyasa is that it in itself will heat up your inner organs and core, allowing you to activate your body. Naturally, you temperature and heart rate will raise. I will tell you, there are certain Vinyasa yoga work outs I’ve done that have gotten me well into the aerobic level. For me, the addition of an overly hot and humid room is somewhat dangerous.

Mostly this is in relation to the notion of ‘weight loss’. If you’re a moderately active and healthy individual, then  while I don’t see heated yoga being at all needed, I do not think it’ll cause any notable harm so long as you listen to your body. My concern is in regards to individuals looking to hot yoga in order to lose weight. In some cases, individuals who want to lose weight could very easily be out of shape. Perhaps they’ve not done any additional exercising in a few years. So, they’re bodies may be unprepared for this type of exercise. Yet, one of the major appeals of a hot yoga class (which, in my opinion is misguided) is to lose weight. The humidity alone can cause issues with breathing and if you’re not at a certain fitness level this should be a caution to you. I can speak first hand in saying that during my first ever hot-yoga practice, I felt very light-headed during some of the postures due to the heat and humidity.

For me, hot yoga is mostly a giant fad and no one really appreciates the actual reasoning behind it. Instead of looking at the detoxifying benefits, people are committed to the idea that the heat will aide in weight loss. While I am not saying it won’t, I just feel like there are other ways to lose weight in temperatures more comfortable for people used to our climate. Yes, yoga was originally done in India, but we do not live in India and have therefore not developed the proper tolerance to that specific climate.

All in all, I see both sides, but I prefer to do my yoga in the temperature I am used to. Before doing so, I always begin my yoga practice with rather (a) a ten to fifteen minute cardio session, or (b) a few good rounds of sun salutations A and B. This allows my body to get warm, naturally and provides me with the ability to deepen into all postures at a level most comfortable to me.

Again, if you’re a committed fitness enthusiast looking for a new challenge, I say go for it! But opt for Bikram or something with static postures. The combination of the heat and the static holds are what really makes the practice rewarding, in my opinion. On the other hand, if you just want to lose weight, just try simply vinyasa yoga! It will do just what you want without the risk.

Again this comes down to the same principle I discuss over and over and over again:
Do something because you want to do it, not because you feel you should want to do it.

Namaste,
and enjoy your practice – hot or not.

Caitlyn

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