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It's Shocking To Know that Hot Yoga can be Savage- Here's Why

I was going to a hot yoga class on the Upper East Side on a particularly cold day in January. Outside, it was freezing below, but inside, it was about

It's Shocking To Know that Hot Yoga can be Savage- Here's Why

I was going to a hot yoga class on the Upper East Side on a particularly cold day in January. Outside, it was freezing below, but inside, it was about 90 degrees, although the candles enlightening the space made it feel even warmer.

I found hot yoga tougher than regular yoga, having only been to a handful of yoga classes before. Every pose in the heat was more challenging; the sweater I became (and I sweated a lot), the more difficult it was to hold my arms and legs in place. It didn't help that I constantly interrupting my "flow" to cool down to drink water.

I lay on the mat somewhere between exhausted and relaxed, at the end of the class. And I could certainly sense the effect in the days afterward. My muscles were sore as hell, as they would after a workout of high intensity.

Interested to know and learn more about the heated exercise, I talked to a doctor qualified as a yoga instructor, as well as founders of hot yoga studios, and learned that while hot yoga has its benefits, it can have some potentially severe drawbacks for some.

Here's all you need to know about hot yoga, and how to safely practice it.

The advantages

Tamara Behar, founder of Brooklyn-based hot yoga studio Tangerine Hot Power Yoga, maybe "like getting your body out of the freezer" when exercising in the cold. "When it's cold, the body doesn't move as much as when it's dry, or a little cooler."

Hot yoga, therefore, makes your muscles "more limber." Your muscles are "easier to control in the heat as you pass through your practice," making you more flexible. But since your muscles are already warmed up, it requires less warm-up time. 

The Disadvantages

While it may sound like a good thing to improve your flexibility, it may surprisingly make yoga practice more challenging, according to Behar. "Yoga is especially hard for people who are incredibly flexible," she said, "because they have to pull back as opposed to people who are more rigid." Hot yoga will make you vulnerable to over-stretching with increased flexibility. 

"Also because heat loosens the muscle groups, you might be in danger of over-extending your body," said Sarah Larson Levey, co-founder of the hot yoga practice in New York City, Y7 Studio. Under the worst case, she said, "you could pull or strain a muscle." But, as per Dr. M. Fahad Khan, an assistant professor at NYU Langone Medical Center 's Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative Care, and Pain Medicine, ligaments and tendons, it is not only our muscles that can be affected.

In such a hot yoga class, Khan, who is also a certified yoga teacher, "you can get [ones muscle groups] to stretch out a little more than maybe you can right off the bat in a normal yoga class." It's because our muscles are really "vascular," meaning they have a strong supply of arteries and veins, making it easier for blood nutrients to get to them.
It's Shocking To Know that Hot Yoga can be Savage- Here's Why

Our tendons and ligaments, however, are more "avascular," meaning they don't get as much blood supply as our muscles. Although we can expand our muscles further, our tendons and ligaments "might not be as ready for some of that extreme stretch," said the doctor. "It may not be the muscle you eventually wind up having an overstretching problem with, but more so the other fibrous tissue like the tendons and ligaments."

Working in a hot room can also give away the internal temperature of our body, which can lead to dehydration and, in serious cases, lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke, Khan said. He clarified that when we exercise, our internal body temperature naturally rises and our blood vessels open up to allow more blood to flow to the skin so that we can sweat, which will cool down our internal temperature.

But when we do a workout in a hot room, our bodies cool down a harder time. "The usual processes of your body will not be sufficient to resolve the external heat," Khan said. "Essentially, you hacked this normal homeostasis [the fair equilibrium] that our body is trying to hold to the internal temperature."

While this isn't a problem for many people, it can lead to illness like heat exhaustion if the heat becomes hard to bear. "When [the temperature] becomes too much then this occurrence called heat exhaustion develops," he said. It might happen when "your body no longer regulates temperature and you become dehydrated." Because your blood vessels have dilated during workouts, your blood pressure may also drop, the doctor confirmed. If that happens, your heart rate will increase as your body attempts to pump blood to your organs to overcome the blood pressure drop.
It's Shocking To Know that Hot Yoga can be Savage- Here's Why

Heat exhaustion symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, and particularly nausea. "If you start to feel stuff like that, you really have to get out of that room," Khan said. "You could also experience something like a heat stroke in very serious situations and that could, under the worst-case scenario, land you in the emergency room.

Hot yoga is not going to detox you, either.

The notion that hot yoga is detoxifying is "a bit misleading," Khan said, "since the way we detoxify our selves is primarily through our kidney and our liver." Even though it may feel like it, in a hot yoga class you don't actually sweat out toxins. Instead, you mainly sweat fat, electrolytes, and some urea.

The only other way hot yoga can detoxify you indirectly, Khan stated, is by making you want to drink more water, boosting your overall metabolic rate, and making you want to urinate more. While hot yoga doesn't detoxify directly, Behar believes it's good for your skin. "I think folks who do hot yoga have very nice skin because you're releasing so much," she said.

How to comfortably do hot Yoga

Khan, who teaches a monthly yoga class at Mang'Oh in New York City, stressed the importance of finding an instructor and studio that would provide a "secure room" for sensitive hot yoga.

Infrarot heating technology is used by both Y7 Studio and Tangerine Hot Power Yoga, with panels mounted on each room ceiling. At Tangerine Hot Power Yoga, the eco-friendly panels heat up the atmosphere "like the sun," explained Behar, heating items rather than air, and if the space gets too hot, there are fans and an air conditioning unit.

Drink water before, during, and after class.

Hydration is, Levey said, "supercritical." "It's best to hydrate a lot before and after the practice of preparing and replenishing the water you lose," Behar recommends drinking water with electrolytes in addition to plenty of water, since you sweat them out too.

Do not arrive on an empty stomach to a class.

Even if after a full meal you don't want to go to a hot yoga class, you shouldn't come in with an empty stomach. "Having only had coffee, I've had a lot of people coming to early classes ... and they wonder why they're having a hard time in class," Behar said. She suggests getting at least one fresh coconut water beforehand, or half a banana.

Be mindful that exercise can cause illness in any hot room or at any temperature. You don't have to be doing hot yoga necessarily to get unwell. "If you don't know your limits, you could even be in a regular yoga class on a hot summer day and that might be more hazardous than a hot yoga class," Khan said.
It's Shocking To Know that Hot Yoga can be Savage- Here's Why

If the heat is intolerable, don't try to push through.

"If it gets too hot, get the hell out of the place," Khan said. "Don't try to push through." "When you start feeling particularly dizzy or tired or nauseous, you have to get up and leave."

Know thy body.

If you're starting to plan to do a hot yoga class and you're having any injuries, you 're heat-sensitive or have any chronic diseases, they might be affected, Levey said. Before training, let your teacher know about any health issues, and consult with your doctor if you're uncertain you should do hot yoga.

Relax.

Try to ease yourself into it if it's your first hot yoga, and also don't do too much at the same time. "As you should ease your way into it like any kind of workout regime," Levey said. "The long-distance runners don't start running 26 miles ... they start to build small."

Even though there is no blanket rule as to how much hot yoga you should do, Khan said that he would do hot yoga only once a week, personally. "I've seen MMA fighters taking some of those lessons and some of the UFC fighters do extreme workouts. They go to one class a week and they 're washed out," he said. "Those classes are very intense."

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