I took my first hot yoga class about 2 years ago because I had a Groupon. Once a week for four weeks in a row I went into a hot room with 60% humidity and bent, stretched, and moved with 15 other sweaty strangers for 90 minutes.
Hot yoga really wasn’t for me. I only stuck it out because, well, I had a Groupon.
After hot yoga I felt dehydrated (even though I was drinking a ton of water), and extremely fatigued. I like coming out of my yoga class feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day, not like I need to go back to bed for a few hours. But I might be in the minority. People everywhere are loving hot yoga.
For the past few weeks I have done some research about the pros and cons of hot yoga, and here’s what’s up.
#1: Pro – Hot yoga can be good for your skin
Sweating is good for your skin because it causes your pores to open up as the sweat is released. It’s also believed that sweating can help fend off toxins. Some recent studies suggest that sweat contains a natural antibiotic known as Dermcidin that can kill bacteria, including E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus, on your skin.
#2: Con – Hot yoga is dehydrating.
Because you’re moving for 90 minutes in a hot room, hot yoga can be particularly dehydrating. You need to make sure to drink plenty of liquids before and after yoga class. The best way to do this is to drink more water than you need for the 24hrs before your hot yoga class, up to about an hour before class begins.
If you have a stomach full of water during class, you won’t be able to do many of the poses required of you. As soon as you leave class, drink at least 20oz of water immediately, and continue to drink lots of water for the rest of the day to help replenish your body.
#3: Pro – Hot yoga can help alleviate joint pain.
Anecdotal evidence from a number of different yogis I talked to indicate hot yoga helped them alleviate joint pain. Turns out, yoga might help joint pain, but whether or not the heat plays a role in this is unclear. “It’s important to keep muscles strong to support the joints, and movement is important to reduce stiffness,” Susan J. Bartlett, PhD, told WebMD.
In 2005, Bartlett did a study to see if yoga was safe and effective for people with arthritis and if they felt better when doing it regularly.
After 8 weeks of doing hatha yoga three times a week (twice a week with an instructor and once a week at home), people reported feeling much better, both physically and mentally. There were no bad side effects; no one had to stop doing yoga, and no one got worse.
#4: Con – It can be hard to find a normal yoga class.
With hot yoga becoming more and more popular it’s becoming more and more of a challenge to find non-hot classes at convenient times. If you’re fortunate enough to live in a city with a large density of yoga studios, you might have to trek across town, but you should still be able to find convenient non-hot yoga.
#5: Pro – You can get deeper into stretches.
When your muscles are cold, you’re not going to get as far into a stretch, and you even risk doing some damage. This is why runners warm up, and this is why we do a bunch of Sun Salutations at the beginning of Vinyasa. – We want to get our blood flowing.
When you do hot yoga, your muscles are already warm. You get to spend less time warming up and more time doing yoga. And with the heat in the room, you can get deeper into a stretch without hurting yourself.
#6: Con – There is a *lot* of misinformation about hot yoga.
People constantly spew hot yoga’s benefits ranging from weight loss to detoxing. There is no evidence to suggest that hot yoga gives you any more weight loss than non hot yoga because the increase in weight loss is usually water weight.
If sweating alone would make us lose actual weight instead of water weight, you can bet home saunas would be a lot more common.
#7: Pro – It’s harder to get distracted.
When you’re doing hot yoga, it’s much harder to be distracted by things like what you have to do when you get home and what you’re going to get at the grocery store. The evidence is anecdotal, but yogis across the board seem to agree when they’re in hot yoga they have to focus on their breath and movement more.
#8: Con – It can be nauseating.
Hot yoga can make people dizzy, and with this dizziness often comes nausea. It’s completely normal to feel dizzy and nauseous, but it’s definitely not pleasant. When you feel dizzy, take a few sips of water and lie in corpse pose until the dizziness passes.
#9: Pro and Con – Heat adds more difficulty
Having to focus on your breathing and balance adds a certain level of difficulty that a lot of people aren’t ready for. But if you are, it can be just the push you need to make you feel accomplished after class. This added difficulty is part of why hot yoga requires more focus (see #7).
#10: Pro – It can be refreshing.
A lot of people who do hot yoga think it’s more refreshing than non-hot yoga. While I’m definitely not one of these people, I don’t discount their post-hot-yoga euphoria. The only way you’ll know if it’s refreshing is to give it a go.
Do you do hot yoga? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.
Photo: Mike McInnis for Yoga Cup