Hot Yoga’s Benefits

by / Wednesday, 09 July 2014 / Published in Health News

Bikram yoga, involves completing a strict series of poses over a period of 90 minutes in a room heated to 104 or 105 degrees.  An experiment that included healthy, but sedentary, young adults with no yoga experience found that after eight weeks and 24 Bikram sessions, the participants showed some modest increases in strength and muscle control, as well as a big improvement in balance. They also achieved a slight drop in body weight.  It was surprising that they participants didn’t drop more weight.

Then experienced yogis were hooked up to equipment designed to measure their heart rates, body temperatures, and energy expenditures during a typical Bikram session. That new data helped explain some of those disappointing body-weight findings, while heart rate and core temp climbed significantly during the 90-minute session, the participants’ metabolic rates, or the amount of calories their bodies burned, were roughly equivalent to those of people walking briskly.  Research shows men burn an average of 460 calories, while women work off about 330 calories in Bikram yoga.  Heart rates are quite high though during the exercises, due to the heat and the positions.

When you’re hot, your heart pumps large volumes of blood to the vessels in your skin where, through a process called convection, sweat is produced.  And it’s actually not the sweat, but the sweat’s evaporation that helps cool you off, but sweat does not evaporate efficiently in the heat conditions of Bikram, so the high heart rates could be a concern.  As the humidity climbs and your heart keeps working to cool you off, you’re sweating out minerals like potassium and sodium, along with H20.  It’s the same for athletes working out in the middle of summer.  You have to be mindful of the heat and humidity.  So hydration and nutrient replacement is very important with Bikram yoga.

Left unanswered are questions about the long-term effects of hot yoga practice, or how people with heart defects or other health conditions might react to the strenuous conditions.  Sweaty bodies aside, most hot yoga fans also praise the activity’s mental and psychological benefits. And a growing pile of research on yoga suggests the practice, and not just the hot varieties, may help lower stress while improving pain management and emotion regulation in ways similar to meditation.

It seems there are benefits to yoga, but hot yoga is not necessarily better except perhaps it focuses the mind.

Manhattan Wellness Group promotes health and well being through chiropractic care, physical therapy, massage and acupuncture.