Getting hot hot hot!

Getting hot hot hot!

Nov 19, 2012

Hot yoga is a great all around workout! It will increase the heart rate, strengthen muscles and improve balance and flexibility all at the same time. It is also really fun!

There are many different styles of yoga and all of them can be practiced in the heat. The most ‘hot’ type of hot yoga, figuratively and literally speaking, is Bikram Yoga, which is a set sequence of 26 postures, each performed twice, in a 40°C room (105°F). The temperature is meant to mimic the extremely hot and humid weather conditions of India. These postures however are static or isometric, and they are held for a set amount of time and then released. Therefore, the extreme temperature is made bearable by the fact that there is little movement required. However, just because the body is not constantly in motion does not mean it is any less of a workout. In fact a 90-minute Bikram Yoga class burns approximately 700 calories (similar to 90 minutes of jogging). Holding these postures will also build endurance, sculpt lean muscles as well as increase the heart rate. The only downside to the Bikram Yoga sequence is that there is not much of a focus on upper body or core strength. It is however wonderful for individuals who cannot bear weight in their upper body or hands.

There is also vinyasa style yoga, which can be even more of a workout because there is movement linking each posture to the next to create a sense of flow. This added movement helps raise the heart rate and oxygenates the blood and tissues of the body. This style of yoga engages the upper body and core quite a bit through the practice of the sun salutation, which is a means of transitioning from one pose to the next. It can also be done in a heated room, which adds to the intensity however the room should not be as hot as a Bikram Yoga room.  This style of yoga is almost always a mixed bag and can be a bit more playful. It keeps yoga fun and fresh, as every class will be different.

There is also The Barkan Method of Hot Yoga, which is a set sequence that combines the flow of vinyasa with some of the intense endurance building postures found in the Bikram Yoga sequence. This 90-minute sequence is a bit more comprehensive than the Bikram Yoga sequence in that it builds strength in the upper body and core. Also, because there is more movement, more calories are burned, approximately 800 calories per 90-minute session.

Heavy sweating is to be expected in hot yoga, especially with Bikram Yoga and The Barkan Method. This is because they are set sequences and are always the same (except for the last 15 minutes of The Barkan Method), which means a guaranteed workout! Vinyasa class can also be a heart pumping, calorie torching blast, however it depends on how hardcore your instructor is (I personally like to teach a strong class. It is always high energy and a student who once wore a heart rate monitor burned 800 calories in just a one hour hot class). Give every style, studio and instructor a try and figure out which one best suits your goals and personality.

No matter which style of yoga you choose all will help to increase flexibility by lengthening the muscles, increasing range of motion in the joints and improve balance. Both of these things become increasingly important as we age. Balancing postures like, standing bow and tree pose help to build up the stabilizer muscles in the knee, ankle and hip joint, preventing against falls and lowering the risk of a break or serious injury. Flexibility gives the muscles and joints more range of motion and eases tension around the joints. For example, an inflexible lower back can hinder a golfers ability to complete a full swing. Just like an inflexible shoulder can make it difficult to reach something overhead. Simply put, better flexibility, better life.

Many athletes find that the combination of increased flexibility and balance help their performance and reduce the risk of injury. Flexibility makes it easier to generate movement, and the more easily a contracted muscle can change length the better an athlete can perform and the less likely they are to harm a muscle. Balance training exercises the nervous system, increasing the body’s proprioceptive skills, meaning the body is more responsive to its external environment. For example, if an athlete lands on their foot on uneven ground, the body will be able to react quickly enough to contract the appropriate muscles to reduce force on the foot and adjust it into a less awkward position.

Benefits of the heat:

  • The heated environment increases the heart rate and metabolism.
  • Promotes better circulation and increases the efficiency of blood flow to the limbs.
  • Warms and softens the muscles for a deeper and safer stretch.
  • Raises the temperature of the body, which can help counter inflammation and improve immune function.
  • Due to the heavy sweating, toxins are removed from the skin cells and the pores are cleansed.

How to Prepare for a Hot Yoga Class

  • Come hydrated; make sure you have been drinking water consistently for an entire 24 hours before the class
  • Bring water and a towel with you, you will need to drink throughout class and have a towel to wipe up excess sweat.
  • Wear little clothing so you do not become overheated.
  • Make sure you consult your doctor before trying a hot yoga class, as you should do with any intense form of exercise.

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