Frequently this question degrades into an argument of “yogier than thou” (mad props to Sadie Nardini for coining that phrase) as each side argues that their practice is better and more yogic than another. [Reality check here: that very argument isn’t “yogic” and what the hell do we mean by “yogic” anyways?]
Fabulous Boston yogi OM GAL answered a reader’s email the other day about heated yoga studios which is what got me thinking about this topic. Check out her post here. She gives a great breakdown of some of the reasons the heat can be good for you.
My own experiences have been varied with the issue of “hot or not”. When I first started practicing yoga, it was at a gym and the room was freezing. It took forever to warm up and there was always a lingering sense that I could have done “more”. Of course, this was before I had experienced a heated studio so I didn’t know what that more was.
I resisted the idea of a heated studio for a long time. First of all, I hate the heat. I’m from Maine and I’m a cool/cold weather gal. Heat makes me grumpy. Second, I hate sweating. That weird mid-way damp where you’re not entirely wet, but just kind of in really awkward places has never appealed to me. Ugh. Even thinking about sweating makes my skin crawl. If I wanted to sweat, I’d rather go swimming. Then at least I’m all the way wet.
However, I knew I couldn’t really judge the heated studio if I didn’t give it a fair shake. So I checked out Prana Power Yoga, conveniently located two blocks from my apartment. I barely survived. The class was intense: the heat was about 90 degrees and the humidity was about 40%. I was awash in sweat and my arms and legs felt like jelly. My core felt like it had been wrung out. And yet I was happier and lighter (massive water-weight loss?) than I had ever felt before. I finally understood what was meant by the post-yoga glow.
I tried other heated studios: Baptiste in Porter Square, Karma in Harvard Square and a Bikram studio. Bikram was my Papa Bear: it was TOO HOT! But I enjoyed the heat levels at Baptiste, Prana and Karma. I could feel the heat working on my muscles and with the breath, helping me get a deeper opening, a bigger stretch, and a cleaner rinse and detox.
But the heat’s not for everyone. If you are under age 16 or are older and experiencing hot flashes. you stand a much higher risk for dehydration and other issues. Pregnant women who do not have a dedicated heated studio practice can also be at risk by making the jump to the heat.
In the end, it’s your call. If you haven’t tried the heat, give it a shot!