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"Hot" Bikram Yoga: 10 tips for Safe Sweltering

Tim Boyer's picture
Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga, also called “Hot Yoga” is a popular style of yoga utilizing 26 Hatha Yoga poses performed in a room heated between 90 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The benefit of Hot Yoga is the claim that exercising in a hot environment will help the body sweat out toxins while at the same time achieve deeper Bikram yoga poses safely. Before participating in Hot Yoga, however, read on to learn about 10 tips for safe sweltering you need to follow before trying Bikram Yoga for the first time.

Hot Yoga was developed by Indian yoga guru Bikram Choundhury and has gained increasing popularity with yoga students seeking a method that will allow them to achieve greater levels of flexibility during a yoga workout.

However, recent news stories about yoga-related injuries have raised some concerns over participants who try too hard to reach levels of flexibility that are beyond their body’s limits. Furthermore, some poses are contraindicated for people with underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure, weakened blood vessels supplying blood to the eye or other eye myopathies.

Engaging in Hot Yoga has likewise raised concerns that not all participants should try this type of yoga without clearance first by their primary care physician. One concern is that Hot Yoga will result in ligament and tendon injury because a participant may have false sense of flexibility while in a heated room.

According to a health news release from the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, Diana Zotos, a certified yoga instructor and physical therapist says that, “Yoga of any type is physically challenging, and the heated environment of hot yoga makes the practice especially demanding. The heat makes people feel as if they can stretch deeper into poses and can give them a false sense of flexibility. This can lead to muscle strains or damage to the joint, including ligaments and cartilage,” she says.

A second concern is that heat related injuries such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke or cardiac arrest may easily result from over-doing it under hot environmental conditions.

“The heat factor also puts more strain on the heart and challenges endurance. That being said, people should be of good cardiovascular health; have healthy hip, knee, spine and shoulder joints; shouldn’t have balance or neurological issues; and should have a general tolerance for excessive heat,” advises Ms. Zotos.

As a result, yoga instructor Ms. Diana Zotos offers these 10 tips for people who want to try Bikram “Hot” Yoga for the first time:

1. If you have any questions whether hot yoga is safe you should consult your physician— especially if you have hypertension, low blood pressure, heart disease, sensitivity to heat, easily dehydrated, a history of heat stroke or tend to get fatigued or dizzy.

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2. Be well-prepared. Bring a mat and towel, and wear shorts and a tank top. If possible, bring a buddy. It can be more fun and less intimidating if you take your first class with a friend.

3. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids well before class (but not coffee or soda). Don’t eat anything too heavy (more than 200 calories) two to three hours prior to class.

4. Make sure the studio and teachers have a good reputation. Ask about their experience and credentials. The teacher should be certified in Bikram or another form of yoga.

5. Try to arrive early. This way you can introduce yourself and speak with the instructor, pick a good spot in the studio to set up your mat and get comfortable with your surroundings and the heat.

6. Start slowly and learn the basics. Never push yourself to the point of pain while stretching or assuming a position.

7. Listen to your body. Stop at the first sign of discomfort. If you are extremely fatigued, take a break. Do not try yoga poses beyond your experience or comfort level.

8. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t reach a pose. It’s not a competition.

9. Ask questions if you're not sure how to perform a pose.

10. If you get dizzy, lightheaded, overheated or experience chest pain, STOP immediately. Seek medical assistance if necessary.

Image source: Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Reference: Hospital for Special Surgery (2012, January 16) via Newswise