What's the deal with the heat? How does heated yoga differ from non-heated, and why does it matter? Learn the science behind this 'hot' trend.
Not All Heat is Created Equal
The major difference between a great heated class and a stuffy heated class is the type of heat your studio uses. When resorting to Forced Air to get the temperature up, the class will inevitably dry out and feel like an oven. To get all of the best benefits of a Hot Yoga practice, ensure that your studio is equipped with Far Infrared Heat capabilities. The difference may seem subtle, but the results are vastly different. With traditional (convection) heat, the air temperature in the room rises and the heater must work to keep that temperature constant. Infrared Heat, however, heats the objects in the room...i.e. you and me. We become our own radiators as our core body temperature rises and emanates heat out into the room. For many classes, the Forced Air is used to get the room up to temperature, then turned off as the body heat from each practitioner radiates out.
Benefits of Infrared Heat Therapy
Beyond the benefits you'll already be reaping from your yoga practice, spending time in infrared heat has been proven to enhance the following:
General Detoxification: Infrared Heat is composed of lightwaves on a spectrum that our eyes cannot see. This light is absorbed in the body and recognized as heat- much like you would feel the heat of the sunlight compared to sitting in the shade. Mid and Far Infrared lightwaves are able to (safely) penetrate the surface of the skin, reaching deeper tissues and fat cells where heavy metals and unwanted chemicals are stored. Sweating is our body's primary form of detoxification, and infrared heat allows us to reach these deeper tissues. (Still not convinced that infrared is superior to a good green juice? Check this out)
Pain Relief: Inflammation in the joints and tissues is one of the leading causes of discomfort and pain in the body. Infrared heat warms the tissues to improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and stimulate blood flow- which in turn delivers fresh, oxygenated blood to replenish the joints. Whether you feel chronic aches and pains or are experiencing acute muscle soreness, studies indicate that infrared can help pacify the pain.
Skin Purification: With all of the detoxification going on, your skin will receive the benefits of a deep cleanse across all pores. With regular practice, skin will feel more soft and clear, especially if you are able to take a cold shower immediately following your practice.
Metabolic Function: Regular exercise will help support metabolic function, and practicing in the infrared heat may compound the benefits of this exercise. Regular contact with infrared heat can activate and increase levels of ATP, a chemical crucial to energy transfer between cells. This boost in metabolic health in turn keeps energy stores high and combats unhealthy fat gain/retention.
Immune System Booster: The Journal of Human Kinetics recently studied effects of infrared heat therapy on the immune system by measuring white blood cell profiles and cortisol levels amongst other physiological indicators, finding that immune function was enhanced in those exposed to infrared heat.
More Bang for you Buck
Choosing to attend a Hot Yoga class, when heated by infrared light, is not only an excellent option for those looking for a rigorous workout, but also for those just starting out or on the mend who are not otherwise able to work up a sweat. At the end of the day, this is still yoga, and you are deeply encouraged to listen to your body. The heat can be intimidating (especially if you are new to yoga and are still learning the basics) but keep in mind that just being exposed to the heat provides a plethora of health benefits. So, take it easy. The breath will come, the postures will come, all in good time!
Keep it Classic
Although Hot Yoga is well known in the western yoga world, there is little to no evidence of a historic past beyond that of the infamous Bikram Choudhury, who began heating classes in the west to resemble his hometown of Calcutta, India. Though the history of using heat ceremoniously (sweat lodges, saunas, etc) is vast, choosing to practice yoga in the heat is a decision that is completely up to the practitioner and offers no shortcut to peace, spirituality, or all-around enlightenment. In non-heated yoga, there is a higher emphasis on using the breath and body to create an internal fire, in turn heating the body. Some practitioners even find that a heated class takes away from focusing on the breath, arguably one of the most important factors of the practice. When push comes to shove, the best yoga to practice is the yoga YOU practice- so don't sweat it....or do!
Weigh in with your opinion- to sweat or not to sweat? Take our survey here to let us know what heat options you'd like to see offered at TRIBE!