As a wellness coach who practices and recommends many forms of exercise, I get this question asked almost weekly: “What do you think of hot yoga?” Usually they can guess my answer before I open my mouth. “Not so good huh?” is there response.
Before I can say it is bad, allow me to give you a short history of this ancient practice. Yoga is so old, we are not even sure when it started, but the guess is about 5 to 6,000 years ago. According to Wikipedia: “Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, originating in ancient India. The goal of yoga, or of the person practicing yoga, is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility while meditating on the Supersoul. The word is associated with meditative practice in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga
Many believe it is a form of religion. Not true, but it is a way to become more aware of your own spirituality. The practice allows for you to gently let go, or should I say, release all negativity within the body and also the mind, paving the way for your higher voice (Supersoul as they say) to be heard.
The greatest physical aspect of yoga is the breathing. It forces the body to take in more oxygen and with that comes all sorts of terrific benefits, but it also does something else really important; it allows a person to generate internal body heat. And what is another way to describe internal body heat? If you remember high school biology, your answer is, “Calorie burn!” Hopefully, if you have ever done yoga, you had a great instructor who really stressed this aspect, because it is one of the most beneficial attributes to this ancient practice. Without it, you are just stretching, which is great, but not nearly as powerful.
So why then am I against doing all this in the heat? Because it goes against all basic principals of yoga. After all, what is the first thing your body wants to do when it walks into a 114 degree room? Answer: cool down! In order to survive the drastic change in temperature, your body goes into survival mode and will not respond the same way as it would in a semi warm room of say 80 degrees. If your body is trying to cool down, it is being robbed of its power, and more importantly, how are you getting the internal burn and the best benefit out of the practice? In addition, the hot atmosphere allows for a slimy body and sinewy muscle that makes one think they are a lot more flexible than they really are. Getting flexible in a hot room for an hour is in no way to be considered a genuine form of muscle elongation. That comes with constant practice and an authentic stretch just like any other form of exercise.
Heat exhaustion, dehydration, artificial elasticity of the muscle, bacteria-ridden environment: All reasons I don’t applaud the practice, and in most cases, turn my clients back onto the traditional form of yoga, done in a warm or temperate room with a varied routine to keep it interesting and safe. I will admit to not being the most experienced yogi in the world, but I am definitely gifted with common sense. Hot yoga, not so hot if you ask me.