By Jessica Schmidley
I’m hot. I always have been. My body temperature always seems to run a little on the warm side. I never liked to sweat or feel warm, and as the years went by I found myself growing more and more heat intolerant.
I’m 37 years old at the time of writing this, and ever since I was young I’ve always preferred a cooler atmosphere. I would actively avoid activities outside as the temperature and humidity rose in the summer months.
A few years ago I wondered if I could “train” myself to tolerate the heat. I decided to run a little experiment, I spent the summer taking Hot Yoga classes once or twice a week. You read that right, it was above 80 degrees outside and I took classes in a hot humid room for 90 minutes at a time, at times taking classes in studios that reached 105 degrees.
What is Hot Yoga?
Hot Yoga, by definition, is Yoga performed in a heated room. The exact heat and humidity level will vary based on the style of yoga being taught and the specific studio.
The benefits of Hot Yoga itself can vary from physical to mental; increased blood flow, improved flexibility of muscles and mobility of joints, improved mood, focus and less anxiety.
The Benefits of Heat Acclimation
The following physiological benefits stated in this article from Spartan Training can apply to both heated cardiovascular and non-aerobic activities.
A Word of Caution
Any heated activity can pose potential risks, including dehydration. It’s very important to rehydrate during and after intensely sweaty activities, preferably with water containing added electrolytes. Electrolytes are essentially salts and taking in salt with your water allows it to be pulled into your cells and tissues and utilized where needed. Without electrolytes in your water, you will expel or urinate most of the water out without absorbing it. In extreme cases, you can experience hyponatremia, where the sodium levels in your blood become too low as a result of drinking excessive amounts of water. Without sodium or electrolytes, the ratio of water in and around the cells can become imbalanced and could potentially be dangerous. Sports drinks are often recommended, however a pinch of sea salt added to your water will also do the trick with less added sugars and artificial ingredients.
Always check with your doctor before performing activities in excessive heat, and avoid if you have any contraindications to heated exercise.
My Own Personal Case Study
By the time we reached August, I found that I was more tolerant of the heat outdoors. I could sit outside on a hot day without feeling overly uncomfortable, or do outdoor activities requiring fewer breaks. My joints also felt better and I had less pain and stiffness in my back and hips with just one or two Hot Yoga sessions per week.
Every individual is different, I’d encourage you to listen to your body and find a frequency, duration, and heat level that works best for you.
“Don’t be a hero”, was the catchphrase of one of my favorite Yoga instructors. Meaning, listen to your body and monitor yourself during class. Take breaks, leave the room, or sip water as needed. Your tolerance will build up over time, but like everything else, acclimating to Hot Yoga is a form of training. Inquire about heat and humidity settings at your studio, start slowly, and give yourself the grace and patience as you progress in your hot practice.