Hot yoga is hot in more ways than one. Since the advent of Bikram Yoga in the 1970s, numerous spin-offs have evolved to offer yoga classes with the heat cranked up to as high as 110 degrees Farenheit and 40 percent humidity.
It's like a free trip to India without leaving town! It is, however, reasonable to question whether literally sweating your buns off in a hot yoga class is safe. The short answer is that for most people it is -- provided that you're careful to rehydrate and take certain other precautions. But there are other considerations, so let's review the evidence.
According to a review of scientific data in the journal, Evidence-Based and Complementary Medicine, people who experience problems in hot yoga suffer from a loss of electrolytes, leading to dizziness, muscle cramps and nausea. Although there are no documented cases of heat stroke stemming from hot yoga, it's not out of the question.
If you're healthy, that means you should drink plenty of fluids during and after hot yoga sessions. If you have certain risk factors, hot yoga is better avoided unless it gets a thumbs up from your doctor. People with heart conditions and high blood pressure, for whom dehydration can be dangerous, should be particularly careful.
Not if You're Pregnant
Pregnant women are generally advised to avoid excessive heat because it increases the risk of neural tube defects and may cause other complications, according to the College of Family Physicians of Canada. So if you're pregnant, hot yoga probably isn't such a hot idea.
Not if You're on Drugs
A review of 76 studies found evidence that hot yoga may not be the best way to get drugs out of your system. In a rare case of hot yoga-related death, the person who died had high levels of barbituates in their blood stream. There was also found one case of nerve damage when a practitioner under the influence of opioids fell asleep in a seated forward bend. As common sense might suggest, it is probably better not to do hot yoga when you are drunk or stoned, and that includes sweating out a hangover, when you may be dehydrated already.
Risk of Hyperextension
While the intense heat of a hot yoga session may actually facilitate deeper stretches than you can attain in a cooler class, caution is advised because it's easier to overextend muscles or hyper-extend joint. This can cause later problems with the joints, including inflammation or even arthritis. When doing hot yoga, be sure to take the same precautions as in a regular yoga class. In other words, be careful about overdoing it.
Hot and humid environments are a breeding ground for germs and fungus. You may not get a tropical disease, but it's good to be aware of cooties. Avoiding sharing mats and towels with others and bandage all wounds. And for the benefit of yourself and others, it's a really good idea to bathe after doing hot yoga. Going au natural won't win you points when you're in closer quarters with others.