3 Myths of Hot Yoga: It Feels Good, But is it Good For You?
Last beautiful Sunday morning I went to a hot yoga class at Tula West, a very relaxed studio in Toronto's West End. I know that hot yoga is nothing new but I’ve only done it a few times and every time, I leave feeling renewed and very, very sweaty. Yummy feeling. Yes I’m good at sweating and proud of it. I am one of those people that loves steam rooms and saunas. Sweating makes my skin feel healthy and cleansed. I also love hot weather and could live in flips flops and shorts year round. So hot yoga is a good fit for me.
By far, most popular brand of hot yoga is Bikram. Founded by Bikram Choudhury a few decades ago, he is credited for starting the now pervasive hot yoga trend. Mr. Choudhury started cracking down on the use of his trademarked name thus forcing many hot yoga practitioners to switch over to a more generic description, AKA hot yoga or join a spin-off, Moksha yoga, unless they were certified through him and paid him to use the name.
Hot Yoga Myth #1: All That Sweating Makes You Burn Fat
Many people gravitate towards hot yoga because they think sweat = fat loss, however sweating alone won’t cause fat loss. It’s what you do to make yourself sweat that will cause fat loss, burning calories through physical effort. It would be like saying that sitting in a sauna will make you burn fat. Hot yoga will leave you lighter after class but that’s due to a loss of water.
TIP: Abs are made in the kitchen so if you want to lose fat, clean up your eating.
Hot Yoga Myth #2: All The Heat Helps Your Body Stretch Further
Then why is hot yoga special you ask? Choudhury claims that the series of postures performed in a hot humid room provide for new oxygenated blood rejuvenating the body.
Like most yoga practice, the postures are designed to stretch and strengthen the entire body. When warm, your muscles can generally stretch further into postures. But herein lies part of the controversy. Sometimes being in a hot room can provide a false sense of flexibility and people stretch too far and potentially get injured.
TIP: Yoga isn’t about being macho and pushing yourself. It’s about starting exactly where you are at and forgetting about competing with yourself or anyone else. Be patient and listen for signals that you might be overdoing it.
Hot Yoga Myth #3 All That Dizziness Comes From Your Body Detoxifying
Choudhury also claims that many of the postures massage the lymphatic system and aid in lymphatic drainage, assisting to eliminate infection, bacteria, and toxins. Our skin is one of our best detoxifying organs, so sweating will certainly help cleanse our bodies. But be warned! Many hot yoga practitioners also believe that the dizziness people can feel are actually toxins leaving the body when what they are actually feeling is dehydration. You can become dangerously dehydrated in a matter of minutes. In my books, being dizzy while exercising is never a good thing. Many people suffer serious injury due to injuries from falling.
TIP: Arrive hydrated and stay hydrated throughout class. Don’t wait for the instructor to give you permission to drink water!
If you have a sensitivity to heat, ever had heat stroke or get dizzy easily or dehydrated quickly, have high or low blood pressure or heart disease talk to your doc before trying hot yoga.
Be prepared for the Bikram devotees who show up in basically nothing (men in speedos and women in bra tops and short shorts). They can test your commitment to staying focused despite distractions around you. Enjoy!