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Sports & Fitness
June 23, 2015

Everything You Should Know About Hot Yoga

Text by Simone Louis

Endorsed and trashed equally by A-listers and fitness experts across continents, hot yoga is taking the world by storm. Verve decodes the practice to see if it’s really hot, or not

Yoga, practised by myriad people across the globe, is a deeply personal experience.  It can be a powerful and stimulating workout, or a time to reconnect and get centred. Hot yoga, however, is a different ball game. Most often associated with the style concocted by Indian yoga champion, Bikram Choudhury, hot yoga is currently used to define a number of newer forms of yoga which make use of intense heat and humidity.

BIKRAM YOGA AND ITS OFFSHOOTS
Created in the early 1970s by Choudhury, Bikram Yoga — the original hot yoga — comprises a sequence of 26 postures derived from hatha yoga. It is practised in a room set to the recommended temperature of approximately 105 degrees Fahrenheit and about 40 per cent humidity. So hot yoga isn’t just a moniker for Bikram Yoga, it is literally a description of the practice! Choudhury himself calls his studios ‘torture chambers’.

As mentioned, today one can find a number of hot yoga practices besides Choudhury’s style — which uses a different sequence of postures and a specific temperature — like power yoga, TriBalance yoga and the moksha style of hot yoga.

WHAT’S SO HOT ABOUT IT?
Well, Hollywood superstar Jennifer Aniston claims it made her legs leaner, and arms stronger, and even resulted in her growing half an inch due to it aligning her spine! Demi Moore, on the other hand, says that the heat helps her body to detoxify. Those who are devoted to the practice declare that it has all kinds of benefits, claiming that it enables the muscles in your body to stretch and contract at a cellular or biochemical level, allowing better circulation, the healing of old injuries over time, enhanced oxygen absorption, improvement of focus and a safer way to approach otherwise-difficult postures.

TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY
Of course, a practice like this is sure to face flak for its unconventional approach — in this case, for a number of good reasons. It is not unusual to get nauseous, dizzy or disoriented during or after a hot yoga class, and most instructors will tell you that it’s ‘your body thanking you’ even when you feel physical pain…which is also not uncommon. These kinds of alarming manifestations have raised red flags among experts all over the world.

Hansaji J Yogendra, director of The Yoga Institute in Mumbai, the oldest organised yoga centre in the world, opines, “Yoga comes from nature; it takes a holistic approach to the furtherance of the human body in natural conditions…and the practice of hot yoga is, essentially, unnatural. Yoga also teaches self-reliance, and with hot yoga, one becomes dependent on certain conditions to be able to do certain things. It is fine for those who want to be pleased about the fact that they can touch their palms to the floor in a heated room…the practice serves the ego more than it does the body. If someone is doing hot yoga and feeling content, I’d say something is better than nothing, but I wouldn’t recommend the practice to anyone who asked me.”

VERDICT
Knowing all the facts, if you feel you are fit enough to handle the extreme intensity of a hot yoga session, or are knowledgeable enough about your body to know when to stop, go for it…but proceed with caution. Don’t blindly give away all power to your teacher; question what’s right for you. If you have a history of irregular blood pressure, heart disease or any such medical condition, speak to your doctor before even considering a class. Lastly, don’t go into a hot yoga session expecting to sweat out all those extra inches or pounds — that’s not how weight loss works!

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