Hot Yoga or Bikram Yoga is yoga performed at higher room temperatures between 90° and 105°F and at even higher humidity ratio between 40 and 60 percent.

A typical class lasts up to 90 minutes and the session involves a series of poses specially formulated by Bikram. Hot yoga is a draining practice even for fit young people that can leave them with puddles of sweat.

Even the founder of this strain exercise, Bikram Choudhury mentioned the hot yoga rooms to be a chamber of torture. Most of the people consider the torture to be worth it and are pleasantly addictive. 

Benefits of Hot/Bikram Yoga:

What exactly we do in a session of Hot Yoga?There are 26 Hatha postures and two breathing exercises called Pranayama breathing. 

Many benefits were revealed by researchers and one such research published in the Journal of Exercise Science and Fitness in 2011 confirmed that the Hot Yoga improved balance, flexibility, and increased mindfulness, lowered perceived stress. 

Another research in the Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies in 2013 found improvements in glucose levels of middle-aged obese people who had practiced Yoga for eight weeks. While a study published in the Journal of Exercise Physiology in 2012 came to a conclusion that Bikram yoga has little to no effects on the pulmonary function or maximal aerobic capacity.

The latest is the study by the Journal of Behavioral Health that assessed people who participated in a 60-day Bikram yoga challenge. The study found that the people came out happier and more confident with an increase in core self-evaluation and life satisfaction after the 60-days of Hot Yoga.

Apart from this unproven reports of skin glow, increase in libido, ease of back problems, cure of asthma, heart disease with improvement in flexibility and strength are also claimed by Bikram devotees after practicing Hot Yoga.

Lady Gaga and David Beckham are two main celebrities who have benefited the most from Hot Yoga and are influential in supporting Hot Yoga across the world. 

Risks of Hot Yoga:

The first thing you need to be clear is that Bikram yoga is not for the timid. You need to prepare your body to sweat at 105°F (41°C) temperature and 40% humidity, in order to reap all the benefits of hot yoga and this too, while wearing as little as you can get away with.

It can be overwhelming for the body if you exercise in the heat. Ensure that you drink lots of water and if you have any pre-health concerns, consult your doctor.

If only you are declared physically fit and healthy, and your doctor has cleared you to go ahead, then only you can try this.

Keep the following advice that is applicable to all major yoga training and especially to the strenuous sessions:

1. Ensure that the instructor is a qualified and certified Bikram instructor. 

2. Don't work out beyond your capacity.

3. You need to stop the exercise if you feel lightheaded or unwell in any way.

4. Bring your own mat with good traction

5. Stay well-hydrated. Drink at least two hours before the class. Sports drink is effective for replacing sodium electrolytes that are lost in sweat.

Try to avoid hot yoga if you have preconditions of high blood pressure or a heart condition or are pregnant. Even a study published in PLOS ONE in 2013 cautioned that hot yoga may be inappropriate for older adults and people with medical conditions in general.

 

Tips for Beginners:

You are new to yoga or have recently started doing hot yogas or any yoga then below are some tips to guide you through the first session safely:

 

Before class:

1. You should start Hot Yoga only after 3 hours of your last meal. If you feel hungry, you can always go for light snacks. Please avoid filling up your tummy as that may make you feel dizzy and uncomfortable during the session.

2. Always pack two large towels, one for the shower after the session and other to put on your mat.

3. Always arrive 10-15 minutes before the class and change to light, comfortable tight-fitting clothes.

 

During class:

1. Avoid wiping the sweat from the entire body in between the session. Just wipe off your hands and feet.

2. Some poses may be hard for you in the first session. So don't stress yourself and understand that with time and effort, you'll definitely get there.

3. Always take a pose at a time and try to understand the technique, and aligning the new poses with your breath.

4. Lighten up in between. Don't go into judgemental mode if you are unable to do some poses and the person next to you does it beautifully. 

5. In the case of any dizziness in between, you need to abort the session and quickly drink some water. Try to lie on your back and restore your breath.

 

After class:

The first thing you do is to refuel your body with water and sports drink as after the session, your body will have lost a lot of water. Regular filtered water, a coconut water drink, and bananas are great energy boosters after a strenuous session. Avoid caffeine and alcohol that may add to dehydration. 

Hot Yoga Myths Busted:

There are many reports that hot yoga cleanses the body of toxins through sweating. Is it true? Well, the argument lacks any substance in science as sweating can't detoxify the body even though perspiration removes some bad toxins but it is the function of the liver to collect the toxins which are excreted through urine and stool, not sweat.

Remember that other styles of yoga also give you the same psychological and physical benefits of hot yoga but without the added physical stress and risks associated with exercising in extreme heat. Above all, don't just believe claims by people that hot yoga cures certain heart disease, asthma, or other chronic illnesses blindly.

So Sweat out with caution!