Why We Use Heat in Yoga
At HEALTHWAYS Yoga we teach a variety of vinyasa styles of yoga including Baptiste, Bikram and Ashtanga . Many of our classes are taught in a heated environment. We occasionally get asked what the heat is all about, so we wanted to take a moment to share the philosophy and also some of the specifics of practicing yoga in a heated room.
Please consult with your healthcare provider before beginning any new exercise program.
Why we practice in the heat
There are a lot of reasons why we choose to practice yoga in a heated room. The heat helps our bodies warm up (sort of like stretching before running) and makes it easier to get deeper into postures more safely. In our experience, the many benefits of practicing yoga asana are amplified by doing so in the heat. Sweating helps us clean out our systems, because toxins are carried to the surface of the skin in sweat, where they float magically away during the process of evaporation.
The heat also:
- ·Helps us burn fat more effectively by boosting metabolism and melting away water weight in sweat
- ·Dilates our capillaries to boost the “oxygenation” of all our cells— tissues, muscles, organs, etc.
- ·Boosts circulation and gets the heart rate up, at times rendering yoga an aerobic activity
- ·Enhances our immune system by slightly elevating the temperature of the body, which increases T-cell functioning
- ·Elevates the functioning of the nervous system and decreases anxiety by relaxing the body
Another subtle effect of the heat that you don’t always hear about is that it actually helps us concentrate and stay in the moment. The intensity of practicing in a warm room is hard to ignore, and (at least in our experience) this helps our minds wander less. Since yoga is about staying present in the moment, the heat can function as our ally in this way.
By far the biggest reason we practice yoga in a heated room? Because it feels good! Sometimes the warmth can be intense, and the sweating messy, but it feels so, so wonderful to purify our bodies in a heated practice (and then go home and take a nice rinse). Heated yoga isn’t for everyone, but many people find that after an initial adjustment period they never want to go back to “cold” yoga.
On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes students get so addicted to the heat that they can’t enjoy their practice unless they are really en fuego. To all, we say, experiment with the middle path!
How hot is it, anyway?
Regular vinyasa (flow)classes are set at 95 degrees and our beginner classes 80 degrees. However, because we are all working and sweating together, it can get pretty humid in there, which can make it feel hotter. The good news? A moisture-filled room actually encourages us to sweat more which— you guessed it — means more cleansing and detoxifying.
A word about water
We encourage you to stay hydrated — particularly before you come to class.
We definitely advise you to drink water well in advance of your practice. We also encourage students to bring their own clean enviro-friendly canteens/bottles.
Some traditions discourage drinking water while practicing yoga. We aren’t dogmatic at HEALTHWAYS Yoga, but it can be a challenge to sip your water while we're flowing vigorously. If you need to drink water during class, be mindful when doing so. And try not to put out the fire by drinking too much!
Make sure you drink water after class too. Getting adequate intake of liquids is a pivotal part of benefiting from your Vinyasa Flow practice.
Things to look out for
If you have any doubt, and as always before beginning a new exercise program, please consult your doctor for a “second opinion” before you launch into a heated yoga habit. Once you’ve joined us, here are some uncommon but important things to look out for when practicing in the heat:
- ·Stay hydrated! You might be surprised how much water your body can handle when you’re sweating for 90 minutes a day.
- ·If, at any point, you feel overheated, dizzy, or nauseous, by all means relax on your mat. Ideally, do so while you are still able to do it gracefully— not when it’s too late! Child’s pose and savasana are great options when you need to take a quick break. We encourage you not to leave the room suddenly if you feel lightheaded. Whenever possible, stay on your mat and relax. Never hesitate to signal an assistant if you need support.