Hot yoga uses the form of yoga known as Bikram. Hot yoga is yoga practiced in a heated environment. The theory behind hot yoga is that it helps the body to sweat out toxins while allowing the practitioner to safely achieve deeper poses.
While the practice can offer health benefits and a sense of well-being, people practicing hot yoga, especially beginners, should take certain precautions. According to Diana Zotos, a certified yoga instructor and physical therapist in the Rehabilitation Department at HSS, “The heat makes people feel as if they can stretch deeper into poses and can give them a false sense of flexibility. This can lead to muscle strains or damage to the joint, including ligaments and cartilage.”
Diana offers these tips to keep you safe while practicing this increasingly popular yoga form:
1. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids well before class (but not coffee or soda). Don’t eat anything too heavy (more than 200 calories) two to three hours prior to class.
2. Start slowly and learn the basics. Never push yourself to the point of pain while stretching or assuming a position.
3. Listen to your body. Stop at the first sign of discomfort. If you are extremely fatigued, take a break. Do not try yoga poses beyond your experience or comfort level.
4. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t reach a pose. It’s not a competition.
5. If you get dizzy, lightheaded, overheated or experience chest pain, STOP immediately. Seek medical assistance if necessary.
Diana Zotos is a physical therapist and certified yoga instructor at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Rehabilitation Department.