A small study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise is one of the first to look at whether hot yoga offers any more bang for your buck than traditional yoga. The study recruited 20 healthy men and women between 19 and 44, each of whom took a 60-minute yoga class in both a room heated to 21 C and one heated to 31 C. The classes were taken 24 hours apart and were led by the same instructor and featured the same poses.
Each subject wore a heart-rate monitor and swallowed an ingestible core body temperature sensor before taking part in the class. Core body temperature was recorded five minutes before the class, every five minutes during the class and five minutes after the class.
Heart rate was recorded every minute, with subjects also ranking their perceived rate of exertion on a scale from 6 to 20.
In the end, the researchers, who hailed from the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, noted very little difference in the core temperature and heart rate of the participants despite the difference in temperature between the two classes. Core temperature for the hot yoga participants was 37.6 C versus 37.4 C for the cooler studio.
As for the intensity of the workouts, both yoga practices would be classified as “light exercise,” with heart rate averaging about 56 per cent of maximum during the regular yoga class as compared to 57 per cent of maximum heart rate during the hot yoga class.
Many people hear “yoga”, and think Zen gardens, meditation, and free spirits. But you may be surprised to find that one recent study showed that those who incorporated yoga into their life had improved stress levels and lower blood pressure. Yoga was ultimately developed to combine controlled breathing and poses to achieve physical, mental, and spiritual strength and unity. In fact, Michelle Obama even attributes her sleek physique to frequent yoga sessions. There are multiple types of yoga, but Hatha Yoga is the most commonly practiced type in the United States.
Here are some surprising health benefits of practicing yoga that you may have never known!
Relief of Back Pain: More than 60 million Americans suffer from chronic back pain. Yoga is one of the best exercises to help alleviate pain. This is due to the increase in core stability (abdominal muscles) and the reduction of pressure across the lower back and surrounding muscles. Yoga also helps to release endorphins throughout the body that can calm inflammation. Practicing yoga for just two sessions a week may reduce or even eliminate back pain. Many individuals also report an increase in pain tolerance after attending sessions for only three weeks.
Heart Healthy: Further research also demonstrates that even one yoga session can produce a calming effect on the body, and individuals in one study showed reduction in their systolic blood pressure after only 12 weeks of two yoga sessions per week. Additionally, incorporating yoga into a cardiac rehabilitation program after a heart attack or bypass surgery has also shown promise in maintaining lower levels of stress and healthy blood pressure levels.
Increased Flexibility: You may be thinking, “No Duh”, on this one, but the benefits may be surprising. Practicing poses like downward dog, and tree pose can improve balance and flexibility. This can directly strengthen and protect your larger joints (knees, hips, back, neck) from injury and reduce inflammation in the smaller joints (fingers and ankles). This can also help reduce falls in the elderly, and ultimately avoid fractures in this age group.
Mood Booster: In addition to mental clarity and relaxation, yoga has been shown to improve depression, anxiety, and chronic stress. A small German study reviewed in the Harvard Mental Health Letter demonstrated that at the end of a three-month period, women perceived less stress, depression, anxiety, and fatigue. A few yoga classes could leave you happier and less stressed. Increased happiness alone is reason enough to give it a try!
As with any new exercise, always consult your physician before you begin. This is to ensure your body can safely complete the activity. I also recommend you attend a beginner class or view a video with some common poses. This will make you feel more confident during your first class and ensure you obtain the most benefit.