This is probably the question I am asked most often as a Hot Yoga teacher.
Yes, the room is intentionally heated to about 90-95 degrees and in some studios, even hotter (Bikram studios will be around 105). While it is true that the heat is not necessary to practice yoga, it is absolutely safe and, in fact, has many benefits.*
Here are a few examples:
- The heat warms your muscles which allows for extra flexibility and a deeper release in your body with less chance of injury and improved resolution of injury.
- Capillaries dilate in the heat. This in conjunction with the specially designed asanas (yoga postures) helps to oxygenate the tissues, muscles, glands and organs more effectively.
- Improved circulation. The body, as it is trying to regulate a safe body temperature, increases heart rate and volume of blood ejected from the heart with each beat in order to transport heat from the body’s core to the skin surface. The benefit of this is improved circulation to your extremities.
- It is great for endurance and willpower. A challenging environment strengthens self control, concentration and determination (if you can do this, you can do anything).
- Sweating flushes toxins through the skin which, after all, is the body's largest organ of elimination.
All that said, the heat will effect people in varying ways and caution should always be exercised. The heated room is a tool and not something you should have to survive against. Always listen to your body and take care of yourself. Proper hydration is essential before, during, and after class. As the sweat rate increases in a hot yoga class, body water loss increases, and without adequate fluid replacement, the body’s ability to dissipate heat is compromised. Electrolyte supplements like Ultima Replenisher are also helpful, especially when beginning a hot yoga practice and acclimatization process.
One final note, I have found that reminding myself of the benefits that the heated room brings during a difficult part of class completely shifts my energy and I am able to push though those layers of self doubt. It is my hope that this information also helps you in your personal practice.
Here are some related Hot Yoga articles:
Thanks for reading!
*Practicing yoga in a heated environment is contraindicated for people with Multiple Sclerosis. Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.
(ref. "Physiological Concerns while Exercising in the Heat " by Leslie S. Funk www.wellness-design.com )