December 07, 2015

Hot Yoga: Sweating your way to Success

I braved my fears and took a hot yoga class last weekend. Let's face it, yoga on a good day can be challenging enough but trying to pose and breathe in a balmy 37 - 40 degree studio can be down right impossible!

The room felt like a hot day in Singapore, when the air is thick with steam and the heat promises an afternoon rain storm. I dressed in appropriate sweat-proof yoga gear; something that would absorb moisture but not show any evidence of the impending sweat session. I once wore light purple tights to the gym once and it was not a pretty sight.

Strangely you get used to the warmth in a way that never seems to happen in the real world. As we went through a series of poses and stretches, I forgot about the temperature all together. We were all sweating but the air is so warm you can barely feel the wetness on your skin. Holding poses is a bit tricky when you are drenched in sweat; you can't hold on to your own limbs as they slip from your grasp. Downward dogs can be face plants and your palms slide around on the mat.

I thought I would only make it to 60 minutes but as the instructor finished the class at 90 minutes I couldn't believe how fast the time had gone despite the challenging nature of the class. It was a refreshing and energising way to start the morning.

More about Hot Yoga

Hot yoga is also called Bikram yoga. It can burn as much as 2500kj in one sweaty session. The 90-minute workout is scientifically designed to systematically work every part of the body – from massaging the internal organs, flushing out the cardiovascular system and stimulating the endocrine and nervous systems, to toning and stretching a range of ligaments and muscles in the body.

Not only are the health benefits plentiful and the warmth of the environment a welcomed bonus from the numbing cold outside, it can also help protect you from catching a nasty cold or flu. Studies show the raised temperature in the room and the sequence of poses can assist in stimulating the thymus gland which improves T-cell function and the proper functioning of your immune system.

Even if you take it easy, Bikram yoga is not for everyone. It isn't recommended for pregnant women in their second to third trimester, unless experienced. Bikram Yoga can be practiced by all age groups, young and old. Though if you have concerns or other medical conditions like high blood pressure or a heart problems, it's recommended you get the go-ahead from your doctor first.

You also need to double your water intake (about four liters) to compensate for fluids lost through perspiration in class.

Avoid eating two hours before class and hold off on drinking more than a glass or two of alcohol that day as it dehydrates. And don't be afraid to show a little skin: wear light stretchy workout gear and leave the tracky pants and heavy t-shirts in the locker room.

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