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The Hot Yoga Debate: Is It Actually Good for You?

Hot Yoga is the practice of yoga in a heated room. It's typically practiced in heat that is 100 degrees or higher. If you just said, "Yikes, no f'ing way could I do that," I'm with you. I've tried many times and finally landed smack dab on not for me. But there are many who absolutely live for it and there are legit reasons why. Let's discuss.

Facts about Hot Yoga

Hot Yoga, aside from happening in an extremely heated room, is often thought of interchangeably with Bikram Yoga. This is a common mistake. The high temperature is the defining component, not the sequence. Many styles of yoga utilize high heat to accompany the style. These include Baptist Yoga, Barkan Method, and Modo Yoga.

Reasons for practicing in a very heated room

Advocates of Hot Yoga feel very strongly about the remarkable benefits they've personally derived from practicing in the extreme heat and sweating profusely while doing yoga. They describe it as life-changing. Here are the main hard-core benefits if this practice is something you're either currently enjoying or interested in trying:

  • It's mentally challenging. If you've never tried it, the only way to find out for sure if it's right for you is to give it a go. But there's no denying that getting through a 60 or 90-minute class is hard as hell. Putting up with the sweat and the difficulty in breathing is a big part of the payoff according to long-time practitioners. Knowing you can persevere has lasting positive effects.
  • It can help with finding calm in the midst of the constant storms that cross our paths. Staci McCool, owner of Bluespot Yoga in Columbus, Ohio offers both Barkan Method and a variation on Bikram Yoga called Hot 26. She is firmly rooted in the Hot Yoga camp and articulately explains why. "It trains your brain to breathe before you react. How? For one, it's uncomfortable. It's hot and you're holding poses. And all you want the instructor to do is crack the damn door. But she won't. And you learn to let the sweat drip, your hair to fall in your face, and you find stillness."

Hot Yoga isn't for everyone

Staci McCool acknowledges this, as do many other hot yoga advocates. How does one figure out if it's not the right fit? First, identify your goals via yoga. Start with these questions:

  1.  Do I practice for strength, discipline, and to challenge myself? If yes, and the heat just feels too oppressive to you, there other styles of yoga that will offer you the above benefits and not require that you practice in a sauna. But if you enjoy sweating, you'll probably dig Hot Yoga once you get used to it and learn to breathe through it.
  2. Do I prefer a comforting, gentle practice that offers me ease, nurture, and a calming environment? If yes, go for a warm room (between 78-85 degrees).
  3. Do I get light-headed and feel dehydrated often? If either or both of these describe you, Hot Yoga is probably not the best practice for you. Those who regularly practice get used to hydrating before class and getting enough water after to replace electrolytes. But if you know you don't handle heat well, try a Vinyasa or Ashtanga class to build heat internally without overdoing it.
  4. Am I highly inflexible? If yes, practicing in a hot room will help with the pliability of your muscles and tendons. However, it's important to make sure you're not going too far. If you have any degree of hypermobility in your joints, be careful. The extremely hot room can make it even easier to go deeper. This is not a great idea for everyone. And yoga, in general, will help with increased flexibility even in a room-temperature space.

Bottom line, yo

Hot Yoga is fine for some and not so much for others. It's a matter of preference, goals, health, and what attracts you. If you love it, then do it. If you can't stand it, there are other ways to satisfy your desire to challenge yourself. I've most definitely given it many chances to seduce me and it only repels me further. And for those who just dig it so very hard, I'm so happy it exists for you. It's good for you if you feel positive effects. If it just pisses you off, no need to force it.