Is Hot Yoga Safe?
If your opinion of hot yoga involves hundreds of spandex-clad yogis pushing and twisting their bodies to the point of heat exhaustion and dehydration in some sort of mystical sweat lodge somewhere, you aren’t alone. Hot yoga, usually practiced in a room heated to between 90 and 105 degrees F, has been steadily growing in popularity, but the jury’s been out on it’s safety…until now.
A recent study published by the American Council on Exercise finds that with proper hydration, hot yoga is just as safe as its less sweaty counterpart.
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse researchers recruited 20 healthy, relatively fit people between the ages of 19 and 44 and measured their core body temperatures after a 60-minute Vinyasa yoga class in a 70-degree F room, and then again after another class where the temperature was jacked up to between 90 and 95 degrees F with 35% to 40% humidity.
Surprisingly, no difference between the core body temperatures after the two classes was found. After both, the student’s core temperatures rose to an average of 99 degrees, well below the unsafe 104 degree level when you start seeing trouble, says John Porcari, PhD, an exercise and sports science professor at UW-Lacrosse and one of the study authors.
“When you’re exercising it’s almost like your body shuts down if you get to that level,” he says. “It’s considered dangerous, and heat related illness is almost impending.”
Dr. Porcari says the results were likely similar because the participants were well hydrated. The yoga teachers encouraged students to drink plenty of water before and during class.
“If you go into the class dehydrated or don’t drink during the class there is potential for problems,” says Dr. Porcari. He suggests starting to hydrate at least 30 minutes before a class, drinking 6 to 8 ounces of water immediately before class, and more as necessary during class.
He says another study would need to be done to test the safety of Bikram yoga, a popular and very regimented, 90-minute practice where students hold 26 poses in a 105-degree room.
Video: Dr. Zorba: Is Hot Yoga Safe?
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