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Do’s and Don’ts of a Safe Hot Yoga Practice

March 3, 2014

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When it comes to heated yoga practice, differing opinions abound. Some experts agree with Douglas Casa, chief operating officer of the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut and a leading expert on heatstroke, who warns against exercising in extreme temperatures for those who are overweight or out of shape. This school of thought asserts that the added strain a high temperature puts on the cardiovascular system can pose serious heart risks. Yet other authorities, like Chicago yoga instructor Linnea Schlegel, believe that heated yoga can provide tremendous benefits in terms of strengthening, stretching and general health. They argue that the increase in temperature increases flexibility, allowing yogis to stretch a little deeper The heat can also help to bring people more into their bodies, which adds to their focus and forces them to practice in the present moment, a challenging mental exercise. So with potential mind, body, and soul-nourishing results, hot yoga is certainly worth a try. If you’re pregnant, nursing, or have blood pressure issues, be sure to check with your physician before beginning a hot yoga practice. For everyone else who is ready to turn up the heat, follow these expert tips to help make sure your hot yoga practice is as beneficial as it can possibly be:

Do:

  • Do drink plenty of water. Any form of yoga in a heated environment puts you at risk for dehydration. Drinking extra water an hour or two before your practice and sipping it throughout class can help avoid this. After class, try drinking electrolyte-replenishing beverages like natural energy drinks or milk, and eating foods like bananas, peanut butter, and leafy greens. You lose a lot of electrolytes through sweat, so this is super important.
  • Do increase heat slowly. If you’re new to heated yoga, try beginning with a class at a relatively lower temperature, such as 85 degrees. Slowly increase the temperature every couple of weeks so that your body can gradually adjust to the new extreme temperature.
  • Do listen to your body. No one knows your body like you do. If you feel dizzy or sick, return to child’s pose. Remember, you are always your own best yoga instructor.

Don’t:

  • Don’t chug water during class. Instead, take tiny sips. Drinking too much water too quickly, especially while twisting your body around, can cause nausea. To rehydrate, drink small sips of water consistently throughout class, rather than gulping down a water bottle halfway through practice.
  • Don’t forget to breathe. Oxygen is a key component to any yoga practice, especially heated. Try breathing through the heat, just as you’d breathe through a painful pose. If you feel the need to release heat, breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
  • Don’t push yourself beyond your limits. Challenging yourself is great, but pushing your body too far could result in injuries, like pulled muscles or heat exhaustion. Feeling dizzy, noticing sloppy form, and having difficulty breathing are all signs that it may be time to take a break. Simply return to child’s pose and wait for your breath to regulate to begin again..

The bottom line

Heated yoga practice offers a tremendous range of benefits, including more flexibility and an increased physical challenge for both your mind and body. Make sure that you listen to your body and respect its limits during any exercise, especially those that involve increased temperatures. That said, when approached in a safe way, with an open mind, heated yoga has the potential to take your yoga practice to the next physical, mental, and spiritual level.

What are your tips for practicing heated yoga in a safe way?