With a 5,000-year history in ancient Indian philosophy, yoga combines physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. Its popularity as a form of physical exercise based upon poses that promote improved control of the mind and body and enhanced well-being has expanded to all corners of the globe.
Much like the martial arts, yoga has its fair share of variations that allow you to choose the best one with regards to your overall health and fitness goals. Two such examples are hot yoga and normal (non-hot) yoga. Whether you’re just getting started or looking to try a new type, here’s a breakdown of their benefits:
This is a vigorous form of yoga performed under very warm and often humid conditions. The purpose for the heat in hot yoga varies depending on the practice or the individual, but profuse sweating, along with its many benefits, is a key feature.
There are many different types of hot yoga today, with the most popular being Bikram yoga. This program consists of 26 different standing and stretching postures which require forceful and sustained contractions of all major muscle groups, this is done under specific conditions: room temperature of 40 C (105 F) room with a humidity of 40% humidity. Be to drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout!
Benefits of Hot Yoga
More flexible muscles
Less toxins in the body due to profuse sweating
More lung capacity through breathing pranayamas
Can aid in weight loss because you’re sweating a lot
Great cardiovascular workout for better circulation and stronger immune system
While it is certainly beneficial, hot yoga is not for everyone. The warm and humid conditions, along with the intensity of the workout may seem a bit too much, especially for newbies. You should also make sure to check with your doctor if you have any health concerns or if you are pregnant, before trying hot yoga.
If hot yoga is not for you, but you’d still like to enjoy the many physical and mental benefits of yoga (who wouldn't?), you can always stick to regular yoga. With a range of different types from more gentle Hatha to more energetic Vinyasa or Power yoga, there is likely to be a variation to suit your style and goals. This ancient practice has been linked to numerous health benefits, including:
Lowered stress levels
Improved focus and memory
Better balance and flexibility
Beneficial for your lymphatic system
Greater lung capacity
Relief from chronic pain
Over the years, modern yoga has evolved with a focus on breathing, strength, exercise, and flexibility. One of the reasons it is so popular is that anyone can do it.
Nevertheless, if you are pregnant or have an ongoing medical condition, such as high blood pressure, glaucoma, or sciatica, make sure to talk to your healthcare practitioner before practising yoga, and inform your instructor as well so they can alter or avoid some yoga poses as needed. If you’re just starting out, avoid extreme poses and difficult techniques, such as lotus position, headstand, and forceful breathing.
At the end of the day, your style of yoga is a very personal thing. Luckily there is a type and a temperature for everyone - we recommend trying as many types as possible to see what does it for you. Either way, the most important thing is that you enjoy it and are reaping the benefits.