Hot yoga, or Bikram yoga, has become quite popular over the past decade. It's typically done in a room with a temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit, with high humidity. But is it really worth the hype, not to mention the discomfort? Lets take a look at the benefits beyond regular yoga or other workouts.
Proceed With Caution
Hot yoga is not for everyone. Heat increases cardiac output, meaning the heart is stressed more than it would be in a cooler environment. Raising body temperature also increases the risk of injury, since the body works harder to keep running smoothly. And heat can make the body more flexible than usual, which can make overstretching a high risk.
On the plus side, researchers for the American Council on Exercise who compared the same set of students in hot yoga vs. regular yoga conditions found that hot yoga produced no additional rise in heart rate and no significant rise in core body temperature. The participants rated hot yoga sessions harder to complete, despite the fact that they presented no increased physical demands on the heart or core temperature.
For healthy athletes, hot yoga could be a good addition to off-season conditioning. In-season athletes may benefit as well, but they need to make sure to rest their bodies within their existing routines of practice, competition, training and other activities. If they are fully recovered and have the time, hot yoga could help them recharge and relax, both mentally and physically.
Hot Yoga Benefits
A study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that eight weeks of hot yoga sessions increased flexibility in the trunk, hips, hamstrings and shoulders, while improving Deadlift strength. Fat loss also occurred, likely because of the intensity of the workouts for new participants in yoga training.
A 2012 study suggested that in younger adults, arterial stiffness was reduced after hot yoga training. This condition, associated with aging, can significantly alter cardiovascular health. Insulin resistance was also reduced, leading to overall healthier cell function. However, insulin resistance is a benefit conferred by other types of exercise as well. The improvements to arterial function may result from an increase in body mass and hormonal activity.
Researchers from Boise State University found an increase in participants' mindfulness and a decrease in perceived stress levels. Stress relief is a huge benefit of many workout programs. Increased mindfulness and stress relief can increase productivity at work, in school and during athletic competition, and can improve sleep patterns.
A University of Oregon study of cyclists showed that working out in the heat can train the body to adapt better to changes in temperature.
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