As the temperatures outside continue to stay below the freezing mark many of us find it more difficult to get outside and exercise. Hot yoga can be a great alternative exercise during the winter months to warm the body and increase strength and flexibility. Hot yoga classes are similar to traditional yoga classes but are conducted in a room heated up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. They can be taught in a variety of styles from a traditional hatha class, to restorative yoga, and even a more fluid vinyasa flow class. The diversity of styles of hot yoga make the classes accessible to a variety of beginner, intermediate, or advanced yoga practitioners.
The benefits of hot yoga are very similar to traditional yoga classes and have been shown to promote stress reduction, assist with managing depression, increase flexibility, and build strength. According to research conducted at the University of Windsor the most significant difference between hot yoga and traditional yoga is that the heat of the room in hot yoga increases a participant’s heart rate and metabolic intensity to that of aerobic exercise (heart range increases 40-90beats per minute with only 1 degree change in body temperature), and reduces arterial stiffness to promote cardiovascular health (Shepherd Gawinski, 2011).
Traditional hatha yoga is not intense enough to be classified as aerobic exercise, which is why some individuals do not find weight loss a benefit from traditional yoga practices. By performing the same practice in a heated room, it causes the body to work harder without increasing force on the joints or muscles that may be experienced with other aerobic exercises.
Long-term exposure to heat also has been shown to enhance blood vessel function, balance blood pressure, improve body composition, promote detoxification and increase insulin sensitivity. Due to these benefits thermal therapy in the form of saunas and hot baths have been used for centuries as homeopathic remedies for individuals with heart problems, digestive issues, and diabetes. By combining thermal therapy with yoga poses individuals receive the healing benefits of both the heat and yoga at the same time.
When trying hot yoga for the first time, beginners can expect to feel warm throughout their entire practice with little to ample sweating occurring throughout the body. Frequent participants of hot yoga often claim that the heated room makes their practice feel like a more intense workout but they feel a sense of release and calm afterwards.
Hot yoga is still a relatively new practice and more research is required to confirm all of its advantages and disadvantages. So, like any exercise program it is important to consult with a health care professional prior to starting a new exercise of regime. Everyone practicing hot yoga should be mindful of hydrating with water both during and after class to compensate for fluids lost through their sweat. Hot yoga is generally not recommended for individuals who find it uncomfortable to be warm or those who are advised to avoid rigorous exercise.
Hot and warm yoga classes are now available at Pura Vida Soul Institute located in Severn Bridge. For more information visit PuraVidaSoulinstitute.com or call Jennifer at 705-999-9939. To read more about the research by Shepherd Gawinski (2011) from the University of Windsor visit http://scholar.uwindsor.ca/etd/260/.
By Jennifer Kavanagh
Jennifer Kavanagh is owner and founder of Pura Vida Soul Institute, a hot yoga studio and retreat dedicated to helping adults bridge the gap between the body, mind, and soul. She is a certified yoga instructor, a transpersonal coach, and a PhD student who focuses her research on finding new ways to teach adults to reconnect with their soul’s desires.