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Staying safe during hot yoga

May 17th, 2012
Zoë Sophos
Photo credit: wikimedia commons

Hot yoga has earned a devoted following in recent years, but it's not without risks. This form of extreme yoga involves practicing poses and flows in a heated room to allow for greater flexibility. Although hot yoga provides all the benefits of traditional yoga, including increased mindfulness and strength, the added physical stress of intense heat has some dangerous implications.

The most popular form of hot yoga is Bikram, during which students practice for 90 minutes in a classroom with a heat index of one about 149 degrees Fahrenheit (105 degrees with 40 percent humidity). The Bikram website claims the benefits of the heat are increased oxygen flow, improved joint mobility, synergistic muscle movement and the flushing of toxins from the body.

Yoga Journal points out that while excessive sweating can take yoga to a new level of challenge, the potential health risks include dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat stroke. Yogis can get the most benefit from the practice of hot yoga by paying attention to their bodies and following a few suggestions from

  • Drink at least 16 ounces of water in the two hours before class. Drink ice water often during class, and drink up to 40 ounces after for every hour exercised.
  • Wear clothes that show bare skin to allow the body to release heat and sweat effectively. 
  • Be aware of the signs of heat stroke, including dizziness, nausea, headache, confusion, cramps, fatigue, weakness, vision disturbances, elevated pulse or decreased sweating.
  • If the above symptoms occur, don’t hesitate to lie down on your back on the mat or leave the room.
  • If you feel the room may be heated improperly, check with the teacher.