Hot yoga can be too hot for some
WHAT'S the hottest new work-out taking the world by storm? That would be hot yoga or Bikram yoga.
Conducted in a heated room with sweltering temperatures of about 40 deg C and 40 per cent humidity, it is guaranteed to make the body sweat a lot. Hence, many believe this helps detoxify the body and burn calories big time. But is it true?
Principal physiotherapist Suelyn Chan from the Department of Physiotherapy at Singapore General Hospital tackles this and other burning myths about hot yoga.
MYTH 1: SWEATING WILL DETOX YOUR BODY
Hot yoga can really make you sweat buckets - up to two litres during a single session, according to reports.
However, sweat is 99 per cent water combined with a small amount of minerals, such as sodium, potassium and magnesium, as well as trace metals like zinc, copper and iron. Real toxins like mercury, alcohol and most drugs are eliminated by the liver, kidneys and intestines, not through sweat.
MYTH 2: HEATED ROOM, BETTER WORK-OUT
Raising the temperature of the room you are exercising in does increase heart rate as your heart needs to work harder to cool your body down.
But this does not mean that hot yoga puts greater physical demand on your muscles, hence offering a more intensive work-out. Neither does it guarantee greater calorie burn or consumption.
MYTH 3: HOT ROOM PREVENTS INJURIES
It is true that heat enhances vasodilation of the blood vessels so more blood is delivered to the muscles, making muscles more elastic and less susceptible to injury.
However, certain people are just generally less flexible than others.
So even within a heated environment, advanced yoga postures might prove too difficult for a participant and pushing to achieve these poses can still result in injuries.
POSSIBLE DANGERS OF HOT YOGA
Apart from possible injuries arising from over-stretching, intense sweating also brings about the risk of heat exhaustion and dehydration.
Those not used to exercising in a hot and humid environment may also experience sluggishness, dizziness or nausea during their initial lessons.
Ms Chan said: "Patients with conditions such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and some cardiac complications can develop a unique sensitivity to heat.
Plus, those taking medication for depression, nervousness and insomnia should check with their doctor prior to participating in hot yoga to ensure the heat does not interplay with their medication."
GET YOUR BODY READY FOR HOT YOGA
Most people need a minimum of two litres of fluids daily to stay hydrated.
When doing hot yoga, it is important to hydrate throughout the day rather than immediately before your class.
This way, you will not be bothered by a full bladder and will be able to concentrate fully on each yoga pose.
Ms Chan said: "You can take along a bottle of water with you and take sips during the class. After class, continue to rehydrate and supplement with electrolytes or an isotonic drink - replenishing minerals like sodium, potassium and magnesium, which were lost through sweat."
BENEFITS OF HOT YOGA
As with any form of exercise, there is always the risk of injury.
However, regular practice of yoga has been proven to:
Build strength, endurance and muscle tone
Improve posture and circulation
Increase balance, coordination, focus and discipline
Strengthen the immune system
"When it comes to hot yoga, the key is to know your limits," said Ms Chan.
If you are halfway through a session, and you feel light-headed, dizzy or experience any discomfort, take a break or step out of the room.
You should always listen to your body.
This article first appeared on the website of Health
Xchange, an interactive health-and-lifestyle resource
portal by SingHealth. Visit www.healthxchange.com.sg