Hot Yoga? What a load of nonsense! Or is it?
A recent newspaper article declared that Hot Yoga is no better for your heart than regular Yoga. The article is flawed however: it focuses on just measures around heart function and in Yoga or Hot Yoga, we always try to breathe full, calm breaths. This breath style activates our parasympathetic (relaxation) response. Instead of getting stressed by the effort, we learn to ease into it – and that’s a useful skill, fully transferable to many other life situations. Naturally, here isn’t a big change in heart measures! We’re calming the heart down all the time. Looking at heart measures is an ill-informed approach to quantifying the effects of Hot Yoga.
If no one is claiming that Hot Yoga is a cardio workout, then what are the benefits? I recently blogged about a natural substance called heat shock protein. The interaction between Hot Yoga and heat shock protein hasn’t been explored in a clinical or research setting, so my blog really just discusses what I found out from a literature search. Still, it makes interesting reading! So, is there anything really quantifiable?
The newspaper article triggered a strong response in Hot Yoga students. I feel that the strength of that reaction is pretty uniform across people, and I’d like to put forward some of their comments about Hot Yoga and their experiences with Yogafurie:
“I was facing a serious back problem and had poor flexibility not to mention a paunch for a long time due to a common “calorie rich, time to exercise poor” lifestyle. It’s the heat in combination with Yoga that makes it a necessity to focus on breathing, assisting a meditative state and a better, more demanding workout. I had to learn to listen, leave the day’s tribulations behind to cope, and did. Before long you are coming out invigorated and slowly more able… The lower key, varied and welcoming ethos Yogafurie have instead maintained in a hot setting has encouraged me to give everything a try and, more supple from the heat, I’ve had nothing go wrong. More power to you!” – John
“When I started with Yogafurie, I strength trained 3 times a week. Now I swim twice a week, cycle 1 hour+ everyday, BJJ twice a week, strength train 3 times a week and drop in at Yogafurie 5 times a week. If I didn’t have my yoga practice I wouldn’t be able to achieve my physical goals; I’d have taken too much out without giving anything back. If you put the cart in front of the horse you’ll soon find injury and a decline in consistency. The more I practice the more I’m able to do. Yoga isn’t the end goal it’s the essential practice that allows me to achieve my goals. Today, I’m closer to the best version of me and I so happen to practice yoga.” – Olly
“I’ve been a Yogafurie regular for 2 years. I noticed usual, expected benefits – more tone, flexibility, less back pain. But I’ve felt unexpected benefits too. I’m just less tense and wound-up in the weeks when I get to classes. Sometimes through work I can’t make it and I know I’ll be more agitated and stressed as a result. Also, my job is demanding and my mind is usually always thinking about what I have to do the next day. But in class, I switch off. I get a clear head. I didn’t expect that.” – Charis
“I love the community aspect here. I’ve done a lot of group exercise activities – crossfit, spinning, etc. None have been quite as friendly and social as Yogafurie, everyone supports each other in class. And it’s me-time. I get to concentrate on myself for 75 minutes after a busy day at work.” – Sophie
“You can’t look at heart measures alone. Anyway, I’ve never thought of Hot Yoga that way. It’s a holistic, whole-body exercise. I’ve suffered from depression that lead to eating disorders, from which I developed IBS. All I know is that as soon as I bring mindful movement into the equation, everything changes. I even sleep better.” – Jodie
“This place is my sanctuary.” – Chris
“Four months of this has made me think more about my body than 10 years in the gym. We do all the things I never did in other sports – breath, balance, flexibility. I’ve seen a surprising strength gain, and I sleep a lot better than I ever did.” – Tony
These reactions aren’t strictly measurable, but the strength of feeling is clear: the benefits of a Hot Yoga practice with Yogafurie extend far beyond measures of just one body part. Interestingly, a recent New scientist article shared research demonstrating Hot Yoga reduces levels of depression and emotional eating.
Yogafurie was very proud to host the Gloucester Cricket Club players over the autumn as part of their pre-season training. To complete the picture on the benefits of Hot Yoga, here is a sample of their feedback. You can read the full article on the web.
“The Yogafurie experience has been awesome. I didn’t know what to expect when I heard we were taking it on. But, although it proved very tough, and challenging, it has been really beneficial and rewarding.”
“There’s no doubt in my mind that I have come through much more flexible, mobile, and strong. Along with taking some helpful tips on coping when your body is under heavy amounts of pressure and stress. I would definitely recommend it!” – David Payne
“Yogafurie has been a great addition to our winter programme and I noticed the benefits from week 1. Hot yoga demands much more than just physical strength capabilities. It requires the mind to control its thoughts against the searing heat and focus on a steady breathing pattern, to push the body to its end range.”
“Ed was extremely helpful during each session, adapting each movement sequence to our individual needs and targeting areas which benefit us as cricketers. Yogafurie can benefit anybody of an ability and would recommend it to anyone looking for a new challenge!” – Craig Miles
“It has been an amazing 7 weeks. I’ve learnt a lot about my body through Ed’s expert guidance and have seen huge improvements in my posture and flexibility. I cannot wait to attend more classes in the future!” – Tom Smith
“Yogafurie has been one of the toughest fitness experiences I’ve ever had to do but I’ve really enjoyed it! It’s been so great for strength and flexibility but it’s the strength in that flexion that I think I will benefit in the most over a long season that’s ahead.” – Will Tavare
“Training with Ed has been hugely beneficial to me in many ways. My increased flexibility has helped me massively in the gym, I feel more stable when lifting weights in a variety of ways and I feel able to get more range and have better movements than before.”
“Secondly learning how to breathe properly, up into the chest-steady and consistently, has helped me on numerous occasions when struggling for breath during cardio training I feel I can get my breathing under control more quickly to be able refocus and recover faster.
I’ve really enjoyed our hot yoga training with Ed and would recommend it to any athlete as a great addition to their programme.” – Liam Norwell
“There is no doubt that the work we have done with Ed has been challenging and at times I have found it very difficult. He is a great teacher and was very patient with us all. His experience was shown throughout the six sessions we did. And now that it has come to a close I feel as if it has been a very beneficial experience, one hopefully that will continue.” – Ryan Higgins
We live in a very science-focused age, and many would say that research sometimes seems to contradict itself. For instance, it was felt for some years that cholesterol was a key indicator for heart disease. More recent research indicates that half of all heart attacks occur in people whose cholesterol is low, and that other factors have been ignored with fatal consequences.
As a result, direct experience is becoming – once again – the most valued source of knowledge. People are guided by doing and participating: in this sense, the comments from Hot Yoga practitioners speak more loudly than a poorly-planned research paper.
I feel that there is a shift in national thought and culture. Especially in Bristol, people tend to support local shops and traders over the national chains whenever they can. Is Bristol simply a more-savvy city? I believe it is, and that we can expect to see further positive changes in lifestyle exercise. Yogafurie will always strive to be both a part of, and a driver for that change.