A lot of people have a very strong preference for the temperature of their yoga class. From around 2006 onwards, hot yoga and Bikram yoga classes began increasing in popularity especially in America. Since then, hot classes have expanded across the world, with some classes reaching over 40 degrees celsius! On the other end of the spectrum, you have non-heated classes which sit at usually around 23-25 degrees. Depending on personal preference, practicing in a cooler room is often a lot more comfortable and sustainable for longer periods, but there are some serious health benefits to doing downward dog in the heat.
So, what’s the yoga style like?
Bikram yoga (which can also be in the style of flow, hot or vinyasa yoga) traditionally came from Hatha yoga postures and techniques. In the fitness world, its popularity came from the results it delivers. That is, toned arms, strong legs and an impressive core to name a few. These styles of classes run from 60 to 90 minutes and follow the routine of 26 different full body postures. Breathing exercises are extremely important in these sessions, so the incorporation of 2-3 slow and fast breathing routines will almost always be part of the class.
So, what’s the heat like?
Ideally, hot yoga classes should be between 38 – 42 degrees celsius, with an intense humidity of 40%.
For years people have known that this fast paced and sometimes overwhelming style of yoga is fantastic for tone and flexibility, but what’s going on on the inside that makes it so good for you?
In a study done by Dr Brian L. Tracy, an exercise scientist at Colorado State University, she looked closely at the effect of Bikram yoga on a number of participants. After 8 weeks, and 24 sessions in the traditional Bikram yoga style, the participants “showed some modest increases in strength and muscle control”. In addition, their overall balance and blood pressure made markable improvements, not to mention the small but notable drop in body weight.
Tracy did note that the surprisingly small changes in body weight was an unexpected result of the study for most people, but after looking deeper, she found there was very little change in the patients’ metabolic rates during the class. Instead, the metabolic stimulation was closer to that of a brisk walk than anything else! Though, the heart rate of all patients did climb significantly as well as a substantial rise in core temperature, which results in the feeling of a hard but successful workout when you finish.