Friday, November 14, 2014

Hot Yoga Isn't so Hot for your Health

 The "Hot Exercise" craze can be found everywhere from Yoga to Pilates classes.   However, do the high temperatures and sweat live up to the hype? According to recent research all that sweat might just be a lot of hot air.  Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise said that the benefits of heat are largely perceptual. “People think that the degree of sweat is the quality of the workout, but that is not the reality. It does not correlate to burning calories”. A study in 2013 conducted by the University of Wisconsin concluded that the effort required to do a Bikram-style yoga class was all but identical to that required to do a normal yoga class (the exercise intensity was on average around 56 to 57% of maximal heart rate, which would classify both as “light exercise not dissimilar to a light walk).  Some experts say that it only serves to raise heart rate and blood pressure which for some people will be a lethal cocktail.

Why are so many people under the guise that Hot Yoga has such great benefits?  Many tout that in the extreme heat the increased sweat aides in detoxifying your body.  In reality there is no evidence that sweat aides in detoxification.  Sweat comprises mainly water with some electrolytes. It’s the liver and kidneys that filter out the toxins, not the sweat glands. Research by the University of California found sweating eliminates less than 1% of toxic metals expelled by the body, so clearly sweating is by no means the most important.  It’s safe to conclude that sweat is just that, sweat, and nothing else. 

Others in support of Hot Yoga also express that they can stretch and go further within a posture  with the increased heat. Even though its may seem that there is a benefit to this heightened range of motion this actually endangers the body. The extreme heat makes the muscles flaccid and limp, and then the movement of the exercises hyperextend the joint beyond its normal range of motion. This stretches the tendons and ligaments, instead of lengthening the muscle. This creates instability and weakness in the joint. As a result the muscles have to over overcompensate to do the job that the tendons and ligaments would normally do. The body becomes bendy, but not truly open and flexible and strong.

 Another essential element to the practice of yoga is the breath.  In the ancient text, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, it is said, ‘the mind is the king of the body, and the breath is the king of the mind.’ So the breath is the master that controls everything – the body and the mind.  However, if you are doing postures in high heat, then the density and atmosphere of the environment will make the breathing techniques used in Yoga asanas impossible.

The benefits of a traditional yoga practice have been recognized for thousands of years all over the world, and the direct health benefits of yoga practice have been well documented and repeatedly recognized by American and global medical communities. From the Traditional  side of the argument many great yoga masters claim that Hot Yoga drains your adrenals and kidneys.  In Chinese medicine it is called your ‘Jing’ energy. You are born with this energy, and when you burn it up it is very difficult to get it back. When you drain it you get more paranoia, impaired energy level and quality. Actual Yoga is said to build this energy very slowly over years and years. 

At Sana Vita Studio we offer a yoga practice in a comfortably warm space that provides a safe and welcoming environment. “Yoga students should experience a peaceful, serene, non-competitive, introspective, reflective, embodied practice that unifies the body with the mind and the spirit. The practice is about listening to one’s self and understanding one’s own personal task.”  It is in this space that we begin to reveal our humanity and embody our passion to make a difference, to lead with excellence.

See our Schedule for Yoga Classes and join us for a wonderful yoga practice.