Why the HEAT?!
Have you ever wondered why on earth Hot Yoga is so HOT? As in 105 degrees hot?!
Struggling with the heat in the beginning is very common. I am from a hot climate (Santa Clarita!), love the heat, and still found it challenging in the beginning to deal with the heat and humidity along with everything else!
If you feel intimidated by doing yoga in a hot room, or if you’re unsure whether you can do it at all, you’re not alone! Being anxious about the heat and confused about why it’s there are some of the most common questions I hear from new yogis or people thinking about starting this practice.
All yoga uses heat. The heat is the best tool we could offer to help you succeed, especially as a beginner. It’s not meant to be oppressive.
Your body is designed to deal with heat. That’s why we sweat. Sweating is one of the most important necessities of a health routine, so it’s really something that’s quite pleasant.
The more you practice, the more you appreciate it because it facilitates movement safely in the body, so you’re not going to cause any jarring or high tension pressure.
When you practice in the heat, you get some huge added bonuses that are otherwise difficult or not possible to achieve, such as super deep detoxification, an incredible cardio workout and vasodialation effecting the body on a cellular level.
Below are some key reasons for and benefits of the heat in Hot Yoga, although there are certainly more!
Just as a blacksmith uses heat to transform iron, we use heat to make your muscles more malleable, so that they can be reshaped without damage or stress. The heat enables your muscles to stretch and move safely to transform your body from the inside out, allowing for a greater range of motion and confidence in your practice.
Sweat and Detoxification
The heat will make you sweat, which is your body’s natural cooling system and its way of flushing toxins. As your body absorbs infrared heat, water molecules begin to vibrate, which causes them to wring out impurities from the cells. These impurities will then be released by perspiration of toxins like sodium, alcohol, cholesterol, nicotine, and possibly carcinogenic heavy metals like lead, nickel and cadmium. Toxins escape through pores in the skin, leaving a glowing, cleaner skin, often with better tone, elasticity, texture, and color, and creating a deep, detoxifying cleanse on the cellular level.
In the hot room, your veins dilate, and freshly-oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood flushes through them. In Hot Yoga, we practice what we call the “tourniquet effect”–compression, static hold and then release in postures. When that release happens, the high-speed blood then flushes areas of your body where it otherwise may not flow so well (joints and organs). The heat can help lower blood pressure, help oxygenate organs, and rid the body of toxins.
Did you know that yoga can be considered “cardio”? The heat helps your heart get a workout at the same time your joints and ligaments receive therapeutic benefit.
TIP: To manage your heart rate, make sure you breathe more controlled breaths in and out of your nose.
Our infrared heat directly penetrates tissues, muscles and joints, allowing them to heal and regenerate through a combination of the aforementioned increased circulation, oxygenation and detoxification. The yoga and heat together help to alleviate muscle pain, stiffness, and increase balance and mobility.
The heat is one more thing added to the challenge in class. Working in the heat while learning how to pace yourself builds tremendous mental concentration, focusing the mind completely on what you are doing RIGHT NOW.
So many of us feel in our day to day lives like we are all over the place, at a million miles an hour. This process of single focus on the practice calms the nervous system down, lowering cortisol and stress levels and improving concentration and getting the constant “monkey chatter” out of our heads (or at least getting it to take a back seat for a while!). This makes us feel calmer, more patient, leading to more mind clarity and confidence in our decisions and in our own abilities. You will feel more alert, less lethargic and better able to focus. As you regularly practice the meditative yoga poses, you will also develop the ability to clear your mind to attain to the state of mindfulness. In this state you will be better able to deal with all of the challenges that life throws your way.
Diaphragmatic breathing will allow you to bring far more oxygen into your body. This will provide you with more nutrients to supply to the muscles and organs of the body.
Dry air can exacerbate asthma, but deep breathing in our humid, hot room relieves asthmatic symptoms immediately. If you suffer from asthma, you only need to push yourself as much as you’re comfortable. You’ll still get so much benefit simply from doing a little bit.
The human body has an impressive temperature regulation system to keep the body at a consistent temperature. As the body heats up, the heart rate goes up because the body is increasing its blood circulation in order to cool itself down with its natural cooling systems, which take energy and burn calories. The longer you hold and focus on a certain pose, the greater this effect becomes. As a result, your metabolism will increase between the blood and tissue, which also burns more calories.
The yoga and heat also lead to stronger flexibility in the muscles and increased fat burn and help to reduce weight by balancing hormones, thus decreasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and many other weight-related illnesses.
The biggest thing to keep in mind with the heat in Hot Yoga is that it is one of the most challenging things at the beginning.
And it’s also one of the most healing and beneficial tools to help you in the beginning of your yoga practice.