Introduction to “Hot Yoga”
As many of you already know, there are many different types of yoga to enjoy. Not only are there different styles and philosophies practiced in the art of yoga, but another difference is the temperature in which one practices their yoga — this is called “Hot Yoga.”
Hot yoga is performed in a studio with an air temperature (up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit), whereas neutral yoga is performed in a typical indoor environment in the mid-70s. Hot yoga can indeed provide an advantage when it comes to promoting the body’s flexibility, because when muscles and connective tissue become warmer, they become more flexible.
Before attempting Hot Yoga, you have to take into consideration your health and your ability to do yoga (which is already difficult) in such hot temperatures safely.
The high temperatures cause the cardiovascular system to pull double duty. First, there is the demand to supply adequate blood flow to your active muscles to ensure an ample oxygen supply. Second, the hot environment requires a lot of blood flow to the skin in an attempt to lose heat into the surrounding air. Of course, because you will be sweating heavily, rapid dehydration is possible, which could reduce your blood volume. Combined with the double duty, this could overwhelm the cardiovascular system precipitating a heart attack.
Please make sure the demand that Hot Yoga has on the body before trying it.
There is another angle associated with hot yoga that is advertised as a plus. That is because the heart rate is elevated to a much greater degree in the heat, those who swear by hot yoga claim that this increased heart rate promotes aerobic fitness, similar to jogging.
This claim is not true.
Heart Rate and Oxygen: How They Correlate
When you exercise vigorously (for example, in jogging), you create a high need for oxygen in your working muscles. In turn, the extra oxygen is used to produce the energy needed for continuous muscular contractions in the legs that propel you along. With me so far?
Well, a major challenge when exercising like this is the need to transport a lot of oxygen to working muscles. This process begins when we breathe air into the depths of our lungs. From there, oxygen diffuses into the bloodstream.
The amount of oxygen transported to working muscles will be determined by how fast the blood can get it there. This depends on how rapidly the heart is beating. The faster the beat, the faster the blood will flow through vessels.
So, you can see the relationship that exists between oxygen consumption and heart rate. If oxygen consumption is to increase, the heart rate must increase in a very close linear relationship.
Now, here is the misconception. It’s possible to uncouple this relationship. This is because you can easily increase your heart rate without ever increasing oxygen consumption. Have you ever been scared by someone on halloween on during a prank? Your heart rate goes through the roof! Stressed or upset? Your oxygen consumptions doesn’t always increase with your heart rate.
Putting this another way, if hot yoga increased aerobic fitness as “claimed,” it would mean these other approaches would increase fitness as well. Therefore, instead of jogging to increase fitness, you could hire someone to jump out and scare you several times a day, or you could take stimulant drugs. Pretty ridiculous, isn’t it?
The Bottom Line on Hot Yoga
Proponents of hot yoga are not the first to misinterpret that an elevated heart rate translates automatically to an increased oxygen consumption. To be absolutely clear, the elevated heart rate during hot yoga is because you are hot, not because oxygen consumption is increased.
Now that you understand the underlying physiology that drives the heart rate and oxygen consumption relationship, keep your eyes open and you no doubt will see this bogus claim made again elsewhere.