On the Dangers of Heated Yoga ~ Shy Sayar

Via on Oct 19, 2011

Since I opened Yoga One in Petaluma CA, I have occasionally been asked if we ever offer any “hot yoga”. Though, as my dear friend Lisa Murray, who owns Yoga Community in Sonoma, likes to say, “nobody’s yoga is better than anybody else’s yoga”, we definitely do not and will not offer yoga classes in a hot room. Here’s why.

Multiple studies have examined the effects of elevated temperatures during exercise on performance, safety and recovery. Jentjens et al. demonstrated that the body uses more muscle glycogen and fewer ingested carbohydrates during exercise in a heated environment compared to a cooler environment. Midttun and Sejrsen (2002) have shown that dehydration, caused by increased respiration due to greater cooling needs while exercising in a hot environment, decreases blood and plasma volume, muscle strength and capacity, and liver glycogen. Moreover, as more blood is shunted to peripheral tissues to aid in cooling, less oxygenated blood is available for muscle tissues, the lungs, heart and other internal organs and tissues.

Multiple studies (Kabbara and Westerblad, Kaminski and Richmonds, Lamb, 2002) have demonstrated that the release and uptake of calcium, which is important in muscle contraction, is compromised by heat. McCully et al. (as well as Kabbara and Westerblad) have also shown that reduced blood circulation due to higher temperatures increases the rate of inorganic phosphate in the bloodstream and changes the composition of metabolites, interrupting calcium release and uptake and compromising normal muscle function.

I have spoken to many health and fitness professionals who share the concern. Cindy Tuck, owner and personal trainer at Main Street Fitness in Penngrove CA, has commented that when some of her clients suddenly started losing strength and actually regressing on their previous muscle gains, it turned out that the change corresponded to the clients starting to attend heated yoga classes.

I am even more concerned about the health and safety of connective tissue than I am about muscle function. “Practicing yoga in a hot room makes people feel like they are more flexible than they are, and they end up overstretching their tendons and ligaments,” says physical therapist Mitchell Kauk, Director of Petaluma Orthoapaedic and Sports Therapy. “The physiological effects of dehydration caused by heat leaves tendons and ligaments more vulnerable to injury.”

Since, as Tenforde has shown, the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is higher in a heated environment, it can feel like you get a hell of a workout (ok, pun intended) from heated yoga; but especially if instructors tell you to push the limits of your flexibility, as certain styles prescribe, you can leave the hot studio feeling like a million bucks every day for years, and one day hurt your spine or joints without ever knowing that it happened because you stretched the hell out of the connective tissue that was supposed to keep you together. Despite the low liability therefore involved in teaching heated yoga, I am categorically unwilling to compromise the long-term safety of my students just because they like it.

Warming up is good, but it doesn’t take heating the room to 104. I like my yoga room at around 70 Fahrenheit, and when I ask my students after a couple of simple breath and flow sequences whether anybody is cold, I regularly get laughs.

Tony Briggs, a 30-year veteran yoga teacher, owner of Turtle Island Yoga in San Anselmo CA and a faculty member at Yoga One Petaluma, shared a story with me about a visit that Patthabi Jois paid to an Ashtanga studio in the United States: “When he walked into the yoga studio, Patthabi said: ‘why is it so hot in here?’… We have these ideas in our minds of what the masters believe and have taught, but heating the room just isn’t it.”

In “The Effects of Cooling Core Body Temperature on Overall Strength Gains and Post Exercise Recovery” (Stanford University, 2003), Tenforde shows that “lowering core body temperature results in lower overall relative oxygen consumption during prolonged exercise,” arguing that “temperature is a limiting factor of exercise”.

“Professional bike riders are known to regularly cool themselves with ice applied during workouts,” explains Dr. Joel Erickson, a cardiologist with Santa Rosa Cardiology Medical Group and an avid amateur cyclist. “Formal research into the potential muscle-building effects of core body cooling during exercise is currently being conducted.”

Warming up is good, but so is cooling down. Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science of Indian medicine, has known for millennia that cooling areas such as the hands, ears and eyes releases pitta, “fire”, from the body; or, as modern science would word it:

The body core releases excess heat through areas consisting of arteriovenous anastomoses (AVA’s) and the subcutaneous venous plexuses found on hairless regions of the body consisting of the hands, feet, face and ears. These specialized vessels constrict and dilate as a response to higher and lower core temperatures, respectively. The result is a change in the venous temperature of the blood returning to the heart, impacting the core temperature. [Tenforde, 2003, citing studies by Bergersen et al., Grahn et al., Hales et al., Midttun and Sejrsen and Soreide et al.]

So, not only do we at Yoga One not teach heated yoga, we offer our students moist towelettes with a drop of cooling essential oil to use on their hands and face, after and even during class. We serve water with slices of cucumber or melon. And even the hot tea we offer is cooling in nature – mint, lemon verbena, chamomile.

Ayurveda’s motto applies here as it does virtually everywhere: “To Whom and When”. What is right for one person is not right for another, or even for the same person at another time. Nobody’s yoga is better than anybody else’s. But I will not teach yoga in a hot room, and I urge people to educate themselves about the science and to make informed decisions.

And we’re okay with not being hot. We’re just happy to be pretty damn cool.

About Shy Sayar

Yoga Therapist Shy Sayar teaches classical Hatha yoga, underwritten by yoga's ancient scripture as well as by contemporary science. Shy believes in teaching people, not poses - as the practices of yoga are infinitely adaptable to fit the stages of a practitioner's development, and there is no need to push the body into arbitrary shapes. In his teaching, Shy tries to refrain from overstating esoterics, but his methods of training the body aim to recall classical yoga's stated end of freeing the practitioner from the illusion of identification with anything that was born and will die - the experience of immortality and unity with all of being. As such, he emphasizes the ease of the breath, the serenity of the musculature at work, and the peace of the mind over the postures of the body. At his Yoga One studios in Petaluma and Santa Rosa, CA, Shy teaches classes, trains yoga teachers and sees Yoga Therapy patients. He also teaches literature courses at the University of California at Berkeley, including coursework on the classical literature of India. He holds a degree in music and will at times chant for students in savasana. Shy is revered and admired by two wonderful (albeit unreasonable) cats. He loves practicing yoga on his living room carpet while his cats jump on his back to provide added resistance. He also delights in writing bios in the third person. Lastly, he prides himself on being nobody's guru. www.LoveYogaOne.com www.YogaTrainingInThailand.com

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56 Responses to “On the Dangers of Heated Yoga ~ Shy Sayar”

  1. freddie mckenna says:

    Thank you for that. I can't stand hot yoga. It stresses me out and I feel like I can't breathe. The worst is a Bikram room, where you're doing yoga on a carpet that's been macerating in gallons of sweat. Gross. The resulting anxiety is not conducive to focusing inward. Especially when rivulets of perspiration are running down your nose and pooling onto your mat. We ladies in our middle years are overheated half the time anyway. The last thing we need is a 104 degree room.

  2. Katie says:

    Thank you for this article. Bikrim yoga made me so sick for about two to three days afterward. I could not replenish myself from the dehydration quickly enough. However, after going to that class I went to a room temperature class at a different studio to rebalance myself and fell in love with yoga. I am thankful for that!

    • Shy Sayar ShySayar says:

      Katie, thank you for your comment – I am grateful that you did not give up on yoga because of a bad experience with one style – I often have to fight an uphill battle with people when I mention yoga and they say something like: "yoga? no way – I went to that hot studio and it was absolutely awful…"

    • MarieMastrup says:

      I had the same experience with a Bikram studio. At the time, it was my first introduction to the practice and art of Yoga. I could not replenish for days, I was exhausted, and I could not eat much. Additionally, the studio where I had this experience had the room temp at 104*—definitely far beyond that of Bikram style, and even then, too much heat.
      Once I found a naturally-cooled and/or heated yoga studio, I fell in love and have never returned to Hot or Bikram style yoga. To each is own, but if scientific research suggests poor benefits to health, it's no wonder why based on my experience.
      Thank you Shy for this article (and your classes).

  3. Andy says:

    Good article for sure. It makes me ask, how come kajillions of people practice at heated studios like Corepower every day and have been for years, and absolutely LOVE it, and have not suffered, or injured themselves? In fact the profuse perspiration is very pleasurable for people. You make it seem like it downright deludes people into overstretching, but personally I never experienced that. I knew my "edge," as they say, and so do most.

    I'm not knockin your findings, nor do I believe I am 100% right. Great discussion though for these times we live in.

    • RealAmerican says:

      Not exactly sure how you know that "kajillions" of people who practice in heated studios have not injured themselves or gotten sick.

  4. Aubrey says:

    If you're breathing properly with a vinyasa style asana practice you'll build internal tapas which is part of the Raja Yoga system in which Hatha Yoga is based. The tapas create the transformation and transmutation of prana and toxins. If you're heating the room up, this breath is nearly impossible and thus no internal tapas are created even if the body is super hot. So if it's truly yoga that you're interested in practicing- ditch the hot classes.

  5. Andy says:

    "If you're heating the room up, this breath is nearly impossible and thus no internal tapas are created"

    Wait really? It was in heated classes that my ujayi breath matured, lengthened and got strong.

  6. Spot on! I'm also a Yoga Therapist and Ayurvedic Medicine Therapist, and I teach/practice Ashtanga. I'm always trying to get my friends and students to choose a room-temperature (or maybe slightly above, but not heated above 85-90 degrees) classes instead of Hot Yoga. Unfortunately 'Hot Yoga' is one of the most recognizable type of classes to non-yogis, and that's usually the first thing out of peoples' mouths when they hear I teach yoga.

    Also, I'd very much like to point out that we do not 'detox' by sweating. Yes, maybe there are small amounts of toxins in and on our skin, but we primarily detox through the digestive system by cleansing, eating right, and practicing Asanas that support digestive health. People claiming that they feel the 'detoxing and cleansing effects' of Hot Yoga must be feeling something else.

    • Also, one of my students made a really interesting analogy… think about what happens to meat when you stew it in a crock pot for many hours – it still holds together for the most part, but it looses all strength and becomes really stringy. I similar effect happens to our muscles when practicing Hot Yoga regularly – we may get really bendy, but we lose our strength and firmness.

      • Ishpa says:

        Are you a piece of dead meat? i don't know about you but i'm not. I teach hot yoga, however our rooms aren't as hot as Bikrams and we don't use carpets. In my own experience hot yoga has helped me clear my asthma, my skin, has helped with pain when I injured my hamstring biking, given me the courage to wear short sleeve (I use to be a cutter), helped with vata imbalances and has greatly improved my strength, stamina and overall health. It hasn't hurt my ligaments or tendons in any way, only improved it and i've been doing this for five years. All this makes me think about living in the tropics, which i do for half the year. The area will always be at least 34 degrees celcius and I sweat buckets. Are people living in these places supposed to practice in dehydrating air conditioning? I think that's what it all comes down to: people aren't hydrated enough!!!!! people drink coffee, tea and eat salt. I know I wouldn't make it in the heat if I was consuming this. Know your limits and hot yoga can be beneficial, push yourself past your limits, it'll be detrimental……its not complicated.

  7. Barbara says:

    Thanks, Shy for explaining the science and Babs for adding the Ayurvedic points. I find it interesting how Bikram practitioners will sometimes reveal how very sick they felt in that first class – to the point of nearly throwing up or passing out. But then they endured, found a positive feeling from it, and so returned. Everyone wants to set themselves apart in yoga here in the US – BIkram took it to an extreme with extreme heat. A new twist on 'no pain, no gain'. I can personally testify on the effects of heat. I passed out from heat – not from hot yoga. Became dehydrated on a hot humid day back east. And as I slumped down, I heard my voice answer my friends, "I'm fine" when I knew I wasn't. It was a scary moment of disconnect! Then I blacked out, fell backwards over some steps indicating to my friends I was not fine at all.
    Yoga tells us to listen to our bodies. Heated yoga seems to me more outwardly than inwardly. I appreciate the 70 degrees and cooling towels at YogaOne. Much prefer Yoga Heaven to Yoga Hell!

  8. YogiBootcamper says:

    I did hot power yoga for a while. At first I got hooked because it gave a similar high like the one I'd get after running in the Summer heat. I noticed though that it would take be about 2 days to fully recover. Right after class I would see black dots and feel very light-headed. At the studio the teachers would tell us that our bodies were simply detoxing. Little did I know that what was actually happening were the initial stages of dehydration and heat stroke. I pulled and strained a few muscles as well since the heat gives the illusion that you're more flexible than you really are. Once I joined a bootcamp group that met outdoors I realised that the hot power yoga workout was basically bootcamp in a sauna. That's when I decided to practice a classical style in a non-heated environment and get the benefits of outdoor bootcamp workouts where I could actually BREATHE. According to Ayurveda a heated yoga practice is not suitable for my body type and I feel much better doing a non-heated style. In addition, the chronic sinus infections I'd get are gone since I'm not exposed to the stale, moldy hot yoga studio environment anymore.

  9. Zach says:

    In addition to all of your excellent points, I would rather do something that feels hard hard because it IS hard, rather than something that feels hard because the room happens to be excessively hot.

  10. mariabowman says:

    oh…and thanks for the well-presented article that talks about the science, and integrates it with the philosophies and history of yoga and ayurvedic traditions.

  11. Scott says:

    I'm tired of hearing people vilify Bikram or Hot yoga, when it's obvious that it really works for Millions of people. Maybe you prefer something else, but ARE YOU so arrogant to purpose that all these millions of students around the world who love it and extol their gratitude for the many benefits they've gained, are somehow just delusional, or temporarily sucked in by peer pressure!? There are just as many or more studies and medical official's statements claiming the many benefits of practicing in the heat. The truth is "you generally find what you're looking for, " and you can find opposing experts on any subject. Staying true to the form of the asanas is what is most critical to health benefits. I'm sure you know
    that one of the major goals of any yoga practice is to release tension, not only physical, but mental, emotional, and spiritual as well. So why then, do you make such judgmental opinions about Bikram or Hot yoga? Doesn't this just cause more polarizing, justifying, ego-biased opinion, which takes you further away from your true nature? What if all of us as yoga practitioners just shared our love for Yoga, and teachers focused on becoming better teachers, not on why "My way is the only right way"?

    • Shy Sayar ShySayar says:

      Hi Scott, I respect your perspective and have never once told anyone that they should not go to heated yoga. I just feel a responsibility to educate people about the potential dangers. As yoga therapists and physical therapists, my colleagues and I have first hand experience that the majority of people we see for yoga-induced injuries were practicing heated yoga – and that does not even account for everyone who is injured in other ways due to lengthening connective tissue by overstretching. And it does not seem to me that instructing people to push beyond their flexibility is staying true to the asanam.

      • Scott says:

        If students never pushed beyond their current flexibility, how could they ever gain more?

        The better teachers I know will always stress Form before Depth in a posture, and to maintain the mind/body connection to read how your body is responding to the pose.

    • Real American says:

      Scott what evidence do you have that hot "works" "for millions of people". What does "works" mean exactly? That's like saying water will boil at different degrees for different people. There are absolute truths in the world, not everything is "relative".

  12. Andy says:

    "Hot" does not have to refer specifically to Bikram. I think Bikram sucks for reasons like: the teachers are all dicks, the whole push-beyond-your-limit thing, etc. There are other places like Corepower that use heat but don't use the dickhead Bikram method.

    Just wanted to throw that out there.

    Also it seems like a lot of people that got sick/passed out from the heated room were not drinking water. You should arrive plenty hydrated, drink during and after class. That will alleviate the "black spots." I thought that was commonly known.

    Not saying heated yoga is for everyone. It certainly is not, and I totes respect anyone who doesn't like it. But it is loved by a crap load of people who practice it daily without problems.

    • Shy Sayar ShySayar says:

      Never tried Corepower – how hot do they keep the room, Andy?

    • scott says:

      I'm a Bikram teacher Andy, and I've never been called a dick. In fact, quite the opposite. I'm sorry a few bad experiences caused you to lump all Bikram teachers in the "dick" category.
      My intuition tells me you're a Corepower teacher, which is interesting because people tell me they don't notice any difference between the two.

      What is the true meaning of yoga, and do you think you are living that meaning through your comment?

      I do agree with your other comments, and I would also add that more effective breathing will help alleviate black spots.

      • Andy says:

        I am not a yoga teacher at all, but have practiced at CPY a lot. I'm sure all you Bikram teachers are wonderful people in real life. You certainly are very warm and welcoming at the front desk. But then the class begins and you become some sort of loud-mouthed auctioneer/dickhead who shames people for trying to leave the room.

        I've always been a 'proof is in the pudding' person, meaning that I feel awesome after heated yoga classes, and it works for me. But after a few months of going to 2 different Bikram studios and noticing the commonalities, I am done. I don't know how people deal with the Bikram teachers every day. They are intolerable to me.

  13. veloyogi says:

    As for hot yoga and Ayurveda, and which Ayurvedic types, adding heat is indeed contraindicated for Pitta types, and in my observation, there are *a lot* of Pitta types who are *drawn* to hot yoga, due to their inherent tendency toward competitiveness (and yes, competitiveness happens in yoga!). We are often drawn to that which keeps us imbalanced. I've seen it over and over again, that an "intense" practice can happen in a room that is not heated, and in which the approach is not at an aerobic pace. Intense concentration on effortlessness has profound effects that last a lot longer than the endorphin rush that people swoon for–literally. Barbra

  14. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    I'm with you Shy. It's not for me; I feel it's not in keeping with the Indian roots of Yoga (let's face it, over there they try to keep COOL!); and I agree that it can't be healthy in the long term.

  15. The same idea has been brewing in my consciousness for a while now, but I couldn't find the words to express how I was feeling about hot yoga (including, but not limited to, Bikram). Hot yoga felt like something I was enduring, rather than experiencing, and I am happy to no longer practice or teach in a hot room. Your words have helped me to clarify how I felt and why I felt that way. I thank you. Namaste, ~Temple

  16. I think that having an extreme reaction in either direction is excessive. This article is extremely informative and provides a clear, scientific and philosophical basis for practicing in a non heated room. I believe that we (as yoga teachers) have a responsibility to educate but not to preach or devalue other forms of yoga. We may feel strongly about the health benefits of certain practices but our students need to come to their own conclusions and do what feels right for them. This practice is ever evolving and we need to be a little more accepting and less judgmental … check out the dhauti kriya … modern medicine would have a field day with this little practice but it remains a choice if we want it. Temple … I totally get what you're saying and agree with the feelings of "enduring rather than experiencing" but you would never judge a student who chooses to practice in the heat … that's my point. Thanks.

  17. Joe Sparks says:

    Exercising in the heat makes positive changes in your body that improves fitness. you increase blood volume, improve cooling ability,make changes in sweating, increase the vasculature that helps circulation, cooling and exercising at the same time, increase specific chemical compounds in the body that improve health and ability to exercise. When you exercise and increase body temperature, your body produces more of an interesting compound called heat shock protein. Heat shoch proteins are families of proteins that do several things including preventing other proteins from damage by infection, ultraviolet light, stravation, heat, cold, and other harsh conditions. Heat shock proteins are thought to mobilize immune function against infections and diseases, even cancer

  18. Joe Sparks says:

    .Improved ability to tolerate heatwithout discomfort, called heat adaption, occurs fairly quickly-with large improvements within the first week of exerting in the heat. Exercising in the heat is more effective to produce heat acclimatization than heat exposure without exercise. Aerobic fitness is a major factor in heat tolerance. It is a myth that you must avoid sweating to stay healthy. Exercising enough to sweat makes you more flexible, increases many chemical reactions in your body that are healthy. Sweat itself has compounds beneficial for your skin and body. Don't worry that you must exercise only indoors in air-conditioning in order to do healthful exercise. A protective environment does prevent intial discomfort, but reduces benefits and the ability to be comfortable in the heat.
    This all does not mean to go and cause yourself heat injury by overdoping without thinking. It is to gain many benefits of exercising safely in the heat.

  19. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  20. Liz P. says:

    I find it deeply disappointing that someone on this thread would go so far as to say all Bikram teachers are dicks. The kindest and most compassionate yoga teacher I have had was a Bikram teacher. It is also a drastic oversimplification to say that Bikram is the "whole push-beyond your limit thing". When I first started Bikram, I had very similar feelings about the style of teaching. I was angry with the instructors. I thought they were mean and rigid. The room was hot. I was uncomfortable. With time, however, I learned that it was my reaction to the method that was the problem, not necessarily the method. Now, I understand that the dialogue is itself part of the philosophy of the Bikram method.

    I understand Bikram isn't for everyone, and I respect that reasonable people can disagree about the purported risks/benefits of different styles of yoga. I am cognizant of the risks that being in a hot room presents – including over stretching and dehydration. What I don't understand is why practitioners of other yoga styles constantly feel the need to hate on hot yoga? It seems, well, judgmental. Clearly there are studies which suggest there are dangers associated with exercising in a hot room. I am not a health professional so I don't know how many studies have been conducted on the subject. I am a bit dubious, however, of the attempt to use science to support the thesis of this article i.e. hot yoga is bad for you. The studies seem a bit dated (is no one researching hot yoga these days?) and I wonder whether there any contrasting studies?

    I am not saying the author isn't entitled to his opinion, and for the most part the opinion attempts to be thoughtful and respectful. It is always a worthwhile conversation to have – discussing the potential risks/benefits of different styles of yoga. However, it seems to me that there is a responsibility to discuss these things in as balanced a manner as possible – recognizing also that other styles of yoga present risks too. I originally practiced ashtanga yoga which was much harder on my body than Bikram has ever been.

    Thank you Jennie Wilson for your comments. They echo my feelings exactly.

    • Shy Sayar says:

      And thank you, Liz, for your thoughtful reply. I have refrained from participating in the conversation about "dicks".

      I honestly have beef with all the contemporary, popular yoga styles and their obsession with sun (susumna nadi, or central/spinal column) practices. However, while certain heated styles and teachers are blessedly less aggressive, as a yoga therapist I observe the most injuries in heated yoga refugees, and so have become very interested in the dangers of practicing in the heat. Plus, I have found no traditional or classical justification for it.

      Lastly, I have based my studies off of a physician's review of the existing research. If there are any contrasting studies – I would love to read them!

  21. David says:

    All of this research is related to exercise, not yoga. Most hot yoga sequences are very "beginner" level, slow and gentle. It's not like training for a marathon in 100 degree heat. I also get nervous anytime people start saying "this is the right way to do things" or "this is the wrong way to do things". Even if such proclamations came from Patthabi Jois himself. I LOVE yoga (in many forms) but I really HATE all the bullshit dogma that goes with it. It's just yoga. Relax and do whatever works for you.

    • Shy Sayar says:

      Beyond right and wrong, David, my concern is not with dogma but with education on the potential dangers and liberation from a sense of obligation. I can't tell you how many people have told me that they felt/were made to feel like they were a failure if they didn't persist with the heated style. I am not presenting the "right" way – just a permission to walk away from the popular, corporate style if it doesn't work for you. Plus, how do you know if it "works for you", if there is evidence that you might hurt yourself years down the road in an unrelated activity because the heat (and certain scripted instructions) caused you to overstretched connective tissue?

  22. [...] This article summarizes some of the research on stretching in a heated room, presenting the research and [...]

  23. Mimi says:

    Who cares about the hot yoga discussion? Let's discuss the sexist picture of heaven & hell….could we also show two sexy guys please?

  24. Carmen says:

    Love Moksha (Hot) Yoga. It's very user friendly, teachers don't push you and nothing like the 'other' popular Hot Yoga most people are referring to in this column. I've been practicing yoga for 10 years now and then tried Moksha. The studios are eco friendly, no carpeting and they have fresh air exchange systems, so you don't get that stuffiness and or body smells in class.

    • Shy Sayar says:

      Sounds nice, Carmen. How hot do they get the room?

      • Ishpa says:

        Thanks Carmen!! I teach Moksha! The room temperature I guess depends on the the teacher, but I never let it get hotter then 37 degrees celcius, which is usually due to body heat. I start the room at about 34 and have gotten lots of feedback that it's a comfortable temperature. The reality of relesing toxins only being done by the digestive system is only partly true. We have fat blood cells past the layers of skin that hold toxins that have been absorbed through the skin. The most effective way to release these are by profuse sweating. There have also been studies on people who had heavy metal poisoning and other similar conditions be cured from radiant heat therapy (which is the kind of heat we use by the way). Obviously factors such as past injuries, eating disorders and chronic dehydration will make a heated room uncomfortable. What i find interesting is that in the hot room, I can't lie to myself about how healthy I am. The hot room makes me reveal right away if I havn't been good to my body the night before. This is probably what I love the most, it makes me get real with my state of health and gives me the drive to eat right, drink enough and sleep enough…..my ten cents….

      • Carmen says:

        37 degrees celcius.

  25. ted grand says:

    I am one of the co-founders of Moksha Hot Yoga, and wanted to thank you Shy, for taking the time to write this article. While the benefits of hot yoga are massive and people's lives are being affected in a tremendously positive way through practicing yoga in a heated environment, I think it is very important that we understand that, as with any 'style' of yoga, there are risks in how it is taught. The more science and research that comes out around yoga, the better off we will be.
    I also come from a yoga therapy perspective, both through my personal study, and through my passion. Slow, mindful movements are essential, as is being aware of what our motivations are in any given posture/moment. We are challenged daily by teachers and students, in our own community and outside of it, that propose that good yoga is hard, fast, and fancy yoga. So we do everything we can to see that all students are unique, that modifications are important, that breath awareness informs all movements, and that we try to move together as a community within each class. This approach prevents any overheating, and in fact offers up the conditions for our classes to be beautiful, responsible and inspiring events, in contrast to the hyperactivity of our culture's day-to-day routines. We also train our teachers to look for the signs of overheating.
    Moksha Yoga is a community of 55+ hot yoga studios that has eco and socially conscious principles at it's heart, and we worry at times that we get lumped into this overarching description of 'hot yoga' and as a result, misinformation spreads. I think Shy has gone a long way in trying to be apolitical about it, but it is the residual ripples that have the effect. Just as I don't think all Bikram teachers are bad, I don't think that all hot yoga is bad. In fact, having seen what I have seen in 12 years of teaching, it is obvious that hot yoga can be the best approach for many people. My hope is that we start to see more and more studies demonstrating this – alas, the quote when we tried to get a study done was $400,000!
    Check out http://www.mokshayoga.ca if you want to learn more. In the meantime, thank you for the article – for allowing us to be more informed about what the risks are and having us be even more determined to offer safe, inspired, and life-changing experiences.
    'Many paths lead from the foot of the mountain, but at the peak we all gaze at the single bright moon' – Ikkyu

  26. HappyNilda says:

    I had a dedicated and consistent practice at a hot yoga studio for almost 2 years, 5-6 days per week, (not Bikram, because I just could not stand the stinky carpet, just not for me…) At first I had trouble adapting to the heat, and kept wondering why does the room need to be so hot? but after while, it got easier and easier, to the point that I not only LOVED IT but CRAVED IT…!!! I needed my hot yoga!!! :) I thorougly enjoyed the experience SO much!

    My journey has taken me elsewhere and I now practice at a non-heated studio, and I absolutely love it! This article helped me understand how why even after my dedicated practice I still felt like I wasn't gaining enough strenght in my legs, and besides my skin kept breaking out horribly during that time, until I stopped the hot practice. Now after practicing traditional Yoga for less than 1 year at a traditional studio, my strenght is much greater and my practice has improved, and my skin is beautiful and clear. :)

  27. Eric says:

    At age 54, after 9 months of yoga, I may be leaning more towards cool studio yoga (I’m doing both instructor led) because I’m better able to determine my limits of flexibility. In room temp while doing yoga, when my body hits a stop I stop. In a heated room, you hit a stop, but that stop is further past where you should stop because the heat acts a bit like a steroid – making you go further than perhaps you ought to go. It is difficult to know when to stop because you’re at a significantly elevated heart rate, the adrenalin is pumping, you’re working up a good sweat, the music is playing, and the instructor is encouraging you – mindfully of course, but it goes to my head, and I am compelled to “go for it.” I believe my mental discipline is not as strong in a heated environment, which often times gets me in trouble. I believe mental focus and control is a major contributing factor on whether heated or cooled is best for the individual. Perhaps it explains why some users swear by hot yoga, while others swear at it.

  28. Joachim says:

    As long as the heat is in moderation and the student gets gradually acclimatized to the heat – Bikram yoga is absolutely fine.

  29. Real American says:

    Friends, yoga is not about "flexibility" — it's about awareness. And if you are not aware that an artificially heated room, lack of fresh oxygen, a moist warm breeding ground for bacteria and viruses, people's stinky bodies and sweaty and slippery floors are the anti-thesis of yoga (connection) then please stick with your calisthenics, but don't call it "yoga".

  30. Shy Sayar ShySayar says:

    Wonderful, @Barbra Brady, thank you. I learn from your comments and appreciate your extensive and growing knowledge – you are an asset to the community. I can attest that shifting my emphasis in recent years from sun to moon (or shadow) practices has had tremendous benefits to my health.

  31. Shy Sayar ShySayar says:

    Hey Maria – Groupon will give you credit for it if you call and tell them you shouldn't do it for medical reasons. Which would be true. You can even get a note from your yoga teacher =)

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