A new study by the American Council on Exercise has found that hot yoga is bad for health.Thankfully there are some tips you can use to make it healthier
If I told you that Hot Yoga (Bikram Yoga) is not healthy and is potentially fatal, how would you feel.
Yeah. That is totally what was afraid of. You’re not happy, are you? And I feel bad giving you this bad news. But it is kinda my responsibility to share the truth with you. So here it is.
A new study has shown that Bikram Yoga is unhealthy (potentially). Bikram (hot yoga) could actually lead to death (thank goodness there are 13 other yoga styles to choose from).
But, let’s go grab a pinch of salt and toss it all over this news. Because in truth all exercise is potentially fatal, right? When I ran the London marathon a few years ago a 24 year od guy died because he drank too much water. Which is absolutely horrible and I truly feel for his family. I actually said a prayer for his family when I heard the news.
It does go to show, however, that all exercise is dangerous and that you could potentially die from practicing any exercise. And that includes yoga.
So here’s the deal.
A new study from the American Council on Exercise has shown that hot yoga is dangerous (potentially) and could lead to death.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin—La Crosse’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science had 20 healthy men and women aged 28 to 67 practice hot yoga for 90 minutes. The participants were all practitioners of Bikram yoga, so they knew what they were doing. And the room was 105 degrees.
In case you’re wondering, 105 degrees is about the right temperature for hot yoga.
The researchers wanted to test the internal temperature of people doing hot yoga. So they had subjects swallow a core body temperature sensor (doesn’t sound very tasty to me, but there you are). And they also gave them a heart-rate monitor to wear.
Every ten minutes the team of researchers took the heart rate and internal body temperature of the hot yoga practitioners.
The results? Well, unfortunately they show that hot yoga is unhealthy (potentially) and could be fatal. Because one man’s internal temperature rose to above 104° F. None of the group showed any of the symptoms of heat intolerance. However, at such an internal heat a person is susceptible to heat stroke which can be fatal. The researchers also discovered that the average heart rate of men in the group hit 80% of the recommended maximum (which is dangerously high) and 73% for women.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Of course the heart rate rose. They were exercising. If the heart rate didn’t rise at all it would not be exercise”. Good point. And the fact of the matter is that raising the heartbeat during exercise strengthens the heart. But there are safe situations and there are unsafe situations. And the seriously raised heartbeat combined with the temperature of the room makes Bikram yoga unsafe.
“There are potential benefits associated with practicing Bikram yoga,” says the study authors. “However, the potential for heat intolerance among some students, including those who may not yet be acclimatized to the heat, should not be entirely overlooked,” the study authors wrote.
“The dramatic increases in heart rate and core temperature are alarming when you consider that there is very little movement,” says Emily Quandt, M.S. “Therefore, little cardiovascular training, going on during class,” says Quandt. She goes on to explain that, while the excessive perspiration that participants experienced during class is often cited by those who practice this style of yoga as a benefit in terms of the release of toxins, the results of this study show that this sweating was insufficient to cool down the body.
Now. My main ambition here is to help you practice Bikram Yoga (hot yoga) safely
So there is good news. And the good news is that you can still continue to practice hot yoga (like you would ever stop, right?). You can make a few changes to make hot yoga safe.
For instance, drink more water. Stopping yourself from having water achieves absolutely nothing. “Nothing is gained from withholding water in any setting,” says Dr. Porcari, head of the University of Wisconsin’s Clinical Exercise Physiology program. “Exercise leaders must actively encourage hydration, particularly when classes take place in extreme environments like those seen in Bikram yoga classes.”
Probably the most important thing is to be aware of the danger signs
Listen. Hot yoga can be risky. And you need to stay safe.
I know I sound like your mum. But let’s just agree to make a couple of changes for everyone’s benefit. We can make hot yoga better by making it safer. And we can keep you safe If you follow a few guidelines.
And one of the guidelines is that you should always keep an eye out for warning signs during hot yoga.
You will know when hot yoga is unsafe for you because you will experience symptoms. For instance, if you are feeling chest pain when practicing hot yoga you must stop immediately. And if you feel light headed you should stop too. Dry mouth should be answered with a drink of water.
You know all this stuff, I know. But it bears repeating.
Your hot yoga teacher should also be keeping an eye out for warning signs and making their hot yoga classes safe. “Bikram teachers should recognize that participants’ thermoregulatory systems will be challenged in this environment,” says Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer at ACE. “It is essential that they are aware of the early warning signs of heat intolerance.” Of course, anyone who has ever practiced Bikram or hot yoga, has likely experienced one, a few, or all of these symptoms which include: cramps, headache, dizziness and general weakness.
We love yoga. You love yoga. And we’ll continue to practice hot yoga. Let’s just make sure our hot yoga classes are safe.
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Check out these videos and infographic about hot yoga.