The hot yoga I do is not Bikram. It’s an offshoot and it’s offered in a room heated with infrared heat. This is a large part of why I decided to try it. Infrared heat has detoxifying effects on the body that surpass any other form of heat. My logic went something like this: It doesn’t even matter if I do any of the poses – I’ll be getting a health benefit simply by being in the room. It worked. It got me in the door to try something new.
I have come to enjoy these classes very much and every class I go to reinforces for me why I will never recommend hot yoga to any of my patients:
1. There is very little attention to form.
What mention there is on occasion is often misguided. Many of the instructors are young and likely unfamiliar with injured and aging bodies. I spend much of my time focusing on pulling back – keeping my movements small and calculated and often doing something different from the rest of the class – something that I know is mechanically more sound for my body.
2. The heat is extremely seductive
It takes a very self aware person with much experience with biomechanics to know where the limits are to keep from pushing too far into the postures. Not only does the body become more pliable but there is less feedback from the warmed muscles and tendons about what is truly safe.
3. Heat tolerance is simply very individual
Even people who like to be warm don’t necessarily take well to increasing their heart rate in 105 deg. Farenheit. I am a good sweater. The moisture on every inch of my skin helps keep me cool during these workouts. Many people don’t have the same capacity for sweat over every inch of their body and people with that sort of constitution risk over heating.
I will continue to go to hot yoga when I can – it amounts to one day a week, two days at the most, and that’s interspersed with the mainstay of walks with my dog and visits to the gym where there’s swimming and resistance training…and only when the weather is perfect there’s a bicycle and a promise of wind on my face that calls my name.
For me it will always be about balance – whether that’s a one legged pose or juggling sufficient sleep with adequate nutrients with demands of life and the expectations or compassion we extend ourselves.