Let's Get Physical
The physical benefits of hot yoga echo those of other yoga traditions—strength, flexibility, alignment, improved posture and injury prevention.
Hot yoga can also physically prepare your body to run in warm weather. When seasons change, runners often notice a decline in performance. Running coach Jenny Hadfield says, "If you're going from a cold to a hot environment, the body has to work a lot harder to cool itself."
Whether you're gearing up for a seasonal change or training for a race in a warm climate, hot yoga can help you prepare. "Bikram yoga teaches your body and mind how to deal with the heat," says Hadfield, who notes that it will take four to eight weeks of regular practice to properly acclimate.
Training in high temps may even increase your speed if you're currently running in chillier conditions. Scientists at the University of Oregon's Human Physiology Department discovered that cyclists who trained in a 104-degree room performed anywhere from 4 to 8 percent better when tested in a cool room, while the control group did not improve at all.
Additionally, the heat flushes more blood through the body's system, encouraging detoxing through heavy sweating combined with postures that stimulate internal organs. This is one reason new participants feel less than well after their initial classes. It's also why hydration is key before, during and after class.
Laugh it Out
Because hot yoga can be highly taxing, it's crucial to stay in tune with your body. During class, take breaks if you feel lightheaded. After class, drink plenty of water, and abstain from tough workouts until you feel recovered.
Hot yoga isn't for everyone. If you have a health condition, you should consult your doctor first. Hadfield explains, "The key is to listen to your body and to go with your own flow." If you giggle rather than cringe when you lose your balance, you're in the right place. No matter how you do it, you can't go wrong laughing and sweating every day.