Five Benefits of the Heat
People have talked about it for decades. Bikram Yoga works. From type-2 diabetes to obesity, depression to insomnia, people have accredited their healing and renewed sense of wellbeing to the practice of Bikram Yoga, the original hot yoga. While it is hard to separate the heat from the practice of Bikram Yoga, today we are going to look at some of the physiological benefits that just the heat provides.
- Increased Flexibility. Studies have shown that, while all yoga will increase a person’s level of flexibility, Bikram Yoga seems to have an edge when it comes to developing flexibility. This is because the heat allows the muscles to become more pliable (which was the original purpose of adding heat to the class), and this, in turn, results in developing more flexibility faster than doing yoga without the heat. The heat causes flexibility increases, and the force needed to move your joints decreases.
- Increased Cardiovascular Workout. Heat escapes your body in several ways. One of your body’s natural cooling mechanism is through radiation. When your core temperature begins to rise, your heart begins to pump blood to the surface of your skin as a means of cooling itself off. This results in an increased heart rate. This increased heart rate boosts the cardiovascular effect of the yoga practice, ensuring that you get that heart healthy fast.
- Increased Oxygen Absorption. As your body temperature rises, the hemoglobin (a red protein responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body) separates more efficiently from your red blood cells. This means that you are transporting more oxygen more efficiently throughout your body.
- Decreased Heart Rate. As your core temperature rises, your arteries, veins and capillaries begin to expand. This means less pressure, and it is no wonder why Bikram Yoga has been associated with lowered blood pressure. The heat causes arteries to expand, lowering pressure and decreasing arterial stiffness. Say hello to a happy, healthy heart.
- Faster Recovery Time. While stretching will increase the amount of oxygen your muscles receive, due to the aforementioned benefits, during Bikram Yoga your muscles receive an extra boost of oxygen, and the oxygen is transported more efficiently. This means you will recover faster from other activities. As a rock climber, I have always looked to different ways to increase my recovery time. Once I found Bikram Yoga, I looked no further. You will lower your recovery time from your other workouts. Stretching will always help with this, but the heat helps the stretching and your oxygen absorption.
The heat can sometimes be a challenge, although it provides many benefits. The key to withstanding the heat and getting to a point where it does not bother you is replacing electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals that carry a positive or negative charge and are vital to proper hydration, muscle function, and a healthy nervous system. These are Sodium and Chloride (forming salt), Potassium, Magnesium, and Calcium (to name a few). You need to replace these in order to maintain proper muscle function (cramping is a sign of improper muscle function associated with an electrolyte imbalance) and keep well hydrated. Here is an “at home” recipe if you do not have electrolytes on hand.
- Lemon. Contains trace amounts of Potassium, Magnesium, and Calcium.
- Salt. Comprised of Sodium and Chloride.
This will help if you do not have access to other forms of electrolytes. Talk with your instructors about how you can get electrolytes through your food, and what electrolyte products are good for maintaining a healthy electrolyte level and proper hydration. It will be a game changer to your practice.
I hope this was helpful. Don’t fear the heat, come in well hydrated and nourish yourself. We will see you on the mat.
Be cool, Stay Hot.