At the end of 2013, I found an article that highlighted the best and worst fitness trends of the year. In reading it, I stumbled across this:
As you may know, I am a partaker in the hot yoga. In particular, I used to do Bikram style at least a few times a month... up until about Thanksgiving, where I ended up having a little shake up in my schedule, and had to temporarily eliminate it from my routine. (I'm filling in for another aerobics instructor out on maternity leave, and am also working on a few other fitness related things, so I had to let something drop ... or risk serious injury / burnout ... hopefully I'll get back at it soon).
Side note before I continue - yes, I know Bikram is an giant ass hat. I mean, just look at these photos (rape accusations and a multitude of lost copyright lawsuits aside). Who does he think he is, Jesus Christ Superstar? And what is up with the stupid man panties?!
Please know that I didn't seek out Bikram, but rather hot yoga in general. It just happened that a Bikram style studio was the most reasonably priced local option I found when I first started looking for hot yoga a couple years back, and this studio offered great pricing on a package that locked me in. So I've hung with it... for now. I have to say, though, after taking lots of classes - I don't really dig Bikram. It's too limiting. Part of why I liked yoga when I first started it was that it helped me treat what was ailing me, and that meant asking the teacher to incorporate stretches to hit those areas during each new class. In Bikram, there's no changing the flow of each class, so it's the same every time. Personally, I don't think that's really the point of yoga (consistency). I thought yoga was supposed to be more like flow/change? Anyway, enough said. Back on point.
Upon reading the above health.com snippet, I felt a little something drop in the pit of my stomach. Not gonna lie.
Honestly, I've always wondered if hot yoga was really "good" for you. I get the theory behind hot muscles being looser, and thus being able to achieve a deeper stretch. But I never really knew if there was additional benefit to adding so much heat (versus just doing yoga in "normal" conditions).
And, I have to admit, doing Bikram in a 100+ degree studio with 30-40% humidity didn't always seem "right" to me. I mean, when I can roll up my towel afterwards and it weighs 3 pounds sopping wet... and I can still be down a few pounds when I weigh myself the next morning, even after hydrating... well, it makes you wonder what you're doing.
Not to say that there were no benefits. After all, if it didn't make me feel good, I would have kept going back. Hot yoga did wonders in helping me build strength, flexibility and concentration. I also 100% believe that learning to endure an extremely sweaty 90 minute class helped me transition into half marathoning with greater ease. I truly see it as mental conditioning and preparation for extended physical endurance.
Plus, now that I've been skipping out, I notice that I feel much tighter in my muscles than I have in years past. That can't be a coincidence.
No to mention, I do kind of miss it.
So, what to do?
Well, here's the thing. The above article says heating doesn't do anything to make you work harder or burn more calories. And personally, beyond yoga, I think heated environments are flat out dangerous. Why in the world would you want to risk passing out with dumbells in your hands, or while on a bike mid-cycle?
But when it comes to yoga, I'm torn.
I definitely see the benefits of loosening up the muscles. And I've felt the rush of feeling a full body release/decompression post-class. Not to mention, I don't do heated yoga for the increased calorie burn - that's what running and high intensity aerobics do for me.
In the end, I think I will continue to do hot yoga. It has never, and will never, be the core of my workout. Nor will it be a workout where I expect to have a huge calorie burn or an opportunity for big physical gains. It will simply be a way to help with flexibility and mental focus.
And for that reason, I think it's problably OK... as long as my body tells me so.
What do you think? Do you hot yoga, or do anything else heated?
Let me know in the comments below.