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Why The Hot Yoga Hype?

My first yoga class in the 1970’s opened my mind and body into unchartered territory. I had no idea that this seemingly simple practice could instill a sense of calm, confidence and composure. To this day, I feel as if I am walking on clouds afterwards and when I now lead a class, I always hope that I can inspire a sense of pure bliss too. Practicing hatha yoga for several years, my curiosity peaked when I heard about ‘hot yoga’. Grabbing my mat I entered the room topped out at about 100 degrees Fahrenheit with an open mind and heart. For years I was accustomed to tuning into breathe and body and tuning out all that lie beyond my mat and me. In this hot, humid, overly sweaty environment I struggled to keep from slipping, staying with the poses trying to focus and concentrate. After a few more classes, I decided this is not how I wanted to practice.

When I became dedicated to my yoga practice as a young woman, it was not popular, not a fad, nor highly embraced. So I did not understand the rationale for hot yoga but always respected my intuition to guide me in my life’s journey. Why so many dedicated followers? As an instructor I cannot teach or advocate a style of yoga I personally would not practice and one that has so much potential for adverse reactions. What I have learned is, it is not prudent to do something just because so many people are doing it without first understanding how it might benefit you or not. Let’s explore the origins…

The origins of hot yoga go back to the 1970’s about the time I began hatha yoga classes. It sought to replicate the heat and humidity found in India. Practiced on the banks of the Ganges, it aligned with practicing extreme self-denial in order to transcend suffering intentionally being uncomfortable. If you seek an extreme, ascetic, hardcore form of yoga, know the risks in advance. Know that if you feel dizzy, nauseous, light headed, stop and leave the studio. If you are a novice to yoga or have not exercised in a good while, consult your physician beforehand. If you are pregnant, diabetic, have cardiac issues or high blood pressure; you should not add the element of extreme heat to your exercise regime. Perhaps this is why before entering a sauna or steam room, signs alert you to be cautious and set timers to have you leave sooner than later.

An ideal yoga studio is warm, not hot, well ventilated so you can navigate the pose mindfully and feel the heat building from the inside out. Being able to measure your reaction to the pose stretching pure muscle, not subjecting the body to extreme heat. This sensible approach avoids overstretching ligaments that can lead to injuries often experienced in overheated rooms. If you are led to believe toxins will be released with copious amounts of sweat, know there is no scientific basis for this notion. Our brilliant bodies possess kidneys and the liver for toxin elimination. Burn more calories? No more than taking a brisk walk, just more sweating and pushing yourself too hard. If losing weight is a goal, you may be disappointed when working so hard results in water loss alone. If it is your intention to practice yoga that is conducive to a sensible, sustainable practice, join a class that permits you to stretch and recover, relax in mind and body and realize your true potential in a nurturing environment. Rather than leaving overheated, irritated, and light headed, feel energized, invigorated, and blissful!

Ready to move away from the hype? Try taking a class here at Joy Yoga Center!

Barbara Strax

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