The Benefits of Hot Yoga in Cold Climates
I’ve recently moved from the tropical climate of Hawaii to Seattle. It’s been less than a week, but the chill I felt as I stepped off the plane and out of the airport was instant. My “endless summer” came to a halt even before I landed. A few hours before we began our descent, the pilot announced we would be experiencing turbulence thanks to a storm that was hitting Seattle. What a nice arrival present right? My short dresses and bikinis are packed away and out came my long sleeve shirts, boots and scarfs. I am ready to embrace the changing seasons and layer up for fall and the fast approaching winter. Exploring new yoga studios, I have found an abundance of hot yoga. There are many styles of hot yoga, but generally you can expect a hatha yoga class in a room heated to a temperature from 95-110 degrees. This makes complete sense given the 40-50 degree weather in the Pacific Northwest and my increasing desire to thaw my body!
Living in Hawaii for so long, classes were almost automatically hot because of the humidity and higher temperatures. A normal Hatha class had me sweating enough, so I saw no need to add on more perspiration with a 100 degree heated room! But in Washington, I was excited to head to a hot yoga class a few nights ago to give hot yoga another try. And wow! I forgot how much the heat adds to the intensity of the practice. Within the first 10 minutes I was sweating and feeling every muscle of my body (sometimes because they were shaking!) I made it through the practice and happily laid in savasana soaking up every bit of heat available.
There is however, debate over whether or not hot yoga is good for your body. Though there are many benefits of hot yoga, caution should be taken while preparing and practicing for class. Below are a few benefits of hot yoga along with a few things to be aware of before and during your practice.
Benefits of Hot Yoga:
Detoxification-Hello sweat! Sweat contains trace amounts of toxins which are eliminated through open pores during class. Also, the compression and release through twisting postures, backbends and forward folds can help increase circulation and rid the blood of toxins. You can also do daily detox with real foods too, to help clean everything out!
Increased Flexibility– I’m sure you’ve noticed it is much easier to stretch after a good warm up of the muscles. The heat will loosen and relax your muscles and allow you to go deeper into poses. You can also expect increased joint mobility and range of motion– but be aware of over-stretching.)
Improved Focus – Just like in a non-heated yoga class, practicing asanas and turning the attention to your breath stimulates concentration. That mental focus is challenged and pushed to its limits when the temperature is raised and you extend beyond your comfort zone.
Drink plenty of water before practice and always listen to your body (here are some tips for hydrating properly). Know when to rest. Dizziness, headache, nausea and muscle cramps are indicators that you may be pushing too hard or your body is not tolerating the heat. Take a few sips of water and rest in child’s pose. Connect and steady your breath. It is suggested to not practice hot yoga if you have high or low blood pressure or are pregnant.