As temperatures still linger on the chilly side and New Jerseyans count down the days to spring, some have decided to warm up without Mother Nature’s help. Health enthusiasts have turned to hot yoga in increasing numbers for its accessibility to all fitness levels, physical and mental benefits, and the fun challenge it presents.
Hot yoga is a form of the exercise performed in high heat and humidity. Some hot yoga studios seek to replicate the heat and humidity of India, where yoga originated centuries ago. The increased temperature promotes sweat production and is said to draw toxins out of the body and reduce stress. According to Sun Moon Yoga and Healing in Tinton Falls, yoga can increase flexibility, strength cardiovascular function, improve circulation, improve breathing, aid weight control, strengthen the body, decrease pain and bring inner peace. Hot yoga rooms are heated through a ventilation system or infrared lights centered over the participants in class.
“We do not use infrared heating systems,” said Ginna Turnamian, owner of Hot & Soul Yoga in Middletown and Colts Neck. “We use traditional heat and humidity systems, so hot, moist air is being pumped into the room. We keep the humidity around 50 percent, and the room is over 100 degrees. The infrared system is more of a direct heat source on you rather than circulating hot air.”
At Hot & Soul Yoga, different classes are offered including the popular Hot 26 variety. Hot 26 yoga takes participants through 26 postures and two breathing exercises with the goal of building strength and stamina. This therapeutic class is said to detoxify the body and foster mind/body healing.
“Interestingly enough, it was actually designed as physical therapy for everyone,” said Jennifer Portman, owner of Synergy Hot Yoga in Little Silver. “Years ago, people in India would go to a ‘yoga guru’ instead of a doctor, who would diagnose their injuries or illnesses and prescribe yoga poses for them. This practice was created to include all those postures, so theoretically, if anyone practiced it, it would cure or prevent any problems.”
Those looking for a strengthened sense of well-being still turn to hot yoga for its health benefits.
Portman continued, “Hot yoga is so popular because it is accessible to anyone of any age or shape or fitness level. But that does not mean it’s easy! The heat makes it challenging, but it also makes muscles more pliable so stretching is safer and easier, and it dilates the blood vessels, making it a more effective cardiovascular workout.”
According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Medicine & Science, striking poses in high heat can work out the heart, lungs and muscles more so than doing the same exercises in a lower temperature. Hot yoga increases metabolism “within several minutes and [it remains] elevated during the standing postures.”
With the proper equipment, adequate preparation and a positive attitude, virtually anyone can excel at hot yoga and reap all its benefits.
“We recommend coming in on an empty stomach, so moves that require you to be on or stretch your belly are easier,” Turnamian said. “We offer rentals of mats and towels, but bringing your own is best. Make sure you always have water. Hydration is the key. If you come really well-hydrated, you’re going to have a great experience.”