Take yoga and all its health benefits, and heat to temperatures up to 100 degrees. That’s the recipe for hot yoga, a segment of the fitness and wellness spectrum that continues to, well, get hotter.
Here are five things to know about hot yoga:
WHY IT’S GOOD:
Centuries-old yoga brings benefits coveted by 21st-century fitness seekers. Per the American Osteopathic Association, those include better flexibility, increased muscle strength and tone, better respiration, energy and vitality, better metabolism, weight loss, cardio and circulatory benefits, better athletic performance and protection from injury. And the physical benefits are only part of the equation; devotees celebrate yoga’s mental benefits as well, including relaxation, stress management and improved focus.
THE HEAT FACTOR:
Taking traditional yoga poses and performing them in a heated environment heightens the activity, naturally warming muscles and tissues, increasing flexibility and promoting perspiration.
“I was amazed how great it made me feel. I became hooked,” said Michael Bradley, a former University of Kentucky and NBA basketball player. Bradley and his wife, Ellen, started doing hot yoga in Toronto more than a decade ago; today, they own and operate Modo Yoga studios in Fort Mitchell, Clifton and on the east side of Cincinnati.
BIKRAM OR HOT?
Hot yoga refers to any yoga performed in a heated environment. Postures, class durations and specific temperatures may vary. Bikram yoga refers to a specific form of hot yoga developed by yogi Bikram Choudury. Bikram studios are always heated to 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity, and require 26 specific postures in sequence. Classes are 90 minutes. Bikram yoga is practiced in the area at Bikram Yoga Cincinnati, 4794 Red Bank Expressway.
BE CAREFUL IN THERE:
As with any physical activity, injury prevention is important. “I do think the heat helps you get and stay loose,” said Dr. Tyler Browning of St. Elizabeth Sports Medicine, “but you still have to be sure you don’t put too much strain on your joints.”
Browning advises yoga newbies to remember their limitations. If a particular pose is too taxing, don’t overdo it trying to get it just right. Also, remember with higher temperatures comes more sweat; hydrating properly is key. Drink water, and ideally electrolytes, throughout the day. Don’t drink right before exercise, which will leave you feeling sloshy, and don’t rely on replenishing between poses; rehydrate at the end.
PROCEED WITH CAUTION:
In the end, just remember who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish for yourself. You’re there for you, not to impress anyone else. Find the classes, studios and instructors that are right for you.
“I’m absolutely a big supporter of yoga,” Browning said. “The key with yoga is to remember your level and be in a group with someone running it who can train you properly.”