Don’t Waste Your Money: Hazards of Hot Yoga

Hot yoga classes are soaring in popularity. A number of celebrities, including Lady Gaga and Madonna, swear by hot yoga. So do legions of yoga practitioners. But many of the hot yoga classes require heat of at least 105°F and humidity around 40 percent. Is exercising in extreme heat and humidity healthful? Consumer Reports medical experts have a caution.

Though there is little specific research on hot yoga, we do know that exercising in extreme heat can cause a number of uncomfortable and even dangerous symptoms. It can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Warning signs include feeling lightheaded or dizzy, or experiencing nausea or muscle cramps. If you suffer more serious symptoms either during or after class, such as unusual weakness, fever, vomiting, or confusion, Consumer Reports advises going to the nearest emergency room.

Bikram hot yoga practitioners say the high temperature and humidity promote health. Studio owner Rich Pike says he hasn’t had complaints of heat exhaustion and touts the benefits. He says, “Heat allows you to bend safely and be more flexible. What the sweating does is it eliminates toxins through your sweat.”

Consumer Reports says that though the heat may help you stretch further, it can also cause you to overstretch, leading to possible joint or muscle damage.

Consumer Reports’ advice: Whatever exercise you do, stop if you feel pain or heat exhaustion. Be sure always to drink plenty of water. And with any type of yoga, Consumer Reports says there are steps you can take to avoid picking up viruses or bacteria. Bring your own mat and towels. Cover any cuts or scrapes with an adhesive bandage, and use alcohol wipes to wipe down any surfaces, such as mats or blocks.

4 comments

  • Nicole Wilshire

    Why would you headline this as a Don’t Waste Your Money when it is a consumer report caution? You say yourself that there is no research. I think it’s ridiculous to scare people from an excellent form of exercise. There are several excellent hot yoga schools in the area that are very responsible.

    • Doris Taylor

      This is the actual name of the Consumer Reports segment that we run on weekdays. The name of the series is indeed “Don’t Waste Your Money.” It is not a reflection on the research at all, just simply the name of the series.

  • JL Sanchez

    Poorly chosen title and absolutely no useful information here. If it’s a series name, it shouldn’t be used as it’s misleading. Not even enough material here to justify an article. As a practitioner of this yoga I will tell you there are both benefits and warnings, as with any type of exercise. This article will do nothing but unnecessarily turn away people who may have tried and eventually benefited from this practice.

  • Jack Bolsen

    In December 2012 a friend recommended that I check out Hot House Yoga. I weighed 290 pounds.

    I now weigh 210. I not only took the weight off but I have kept it off despite all the snow and bad weather we have had. I attribute this change to my involvement with my yoga studio. The teachers helped me every step of the way not just in terms of my yoga practice but in terms of suggesting diet changes.

    The reality is that yes, if you walk into a hot yoga class without preparing beforehand, you can get dehydrated and dizzy. Preparing for a class is every bit as important as what you do in the class itself, and common sense should dictate that if you know you are going to practice hot yoga, you should drink a lot of water several hours before the class (in fact, hydration is important to good health overall, not just where yoga is concerned). I remember when I signed up for classes initially, I was cautioned to do this and I took it seriously.

    Every teacher I have ever had in hot yoga stresses that students not go too deeply into poses and that we listen to our bodies. Paying attention to what the body is feeling is a big part of yoga. That said, I have never injured myself in a hot yoga class. In fact, I have discovered that my yoga practice has had a therapeutic effect on old injuries. Others report the same thing.

    I really wish that the folks at WTKR would give hot yoga a second look. I am living proof that it is a wonderful practice.

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