If you’ve never tried hot yoga because you’re afraid of sweating profusely or wussing out halfway through the class, we can understand. But if you’ve sidelined the idea simply because you’re concerned that it might be too tough on your heart, then get in the studio, man…new research indicates that a little hot air isn’t gonna kill you.
In the study, sponsored by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), 20 healthy adult men and women took an hourlong basic yoga class in a room heated to 70°F. Participants’ core temperatures were recorded five minutes before exercise, every five minutes during the class, and five minutes after the session ended. Researchers also recorded heart rate and perceived exertion. Within 24 hours, participants took another 60-minute class with the same instructor and series of poses, only this time, the room temperature was 22° hotter, a balmy 92°, and noticeably more humid. (It’s important to note that this study did not look at the risks associated with Bikram yoga, a more intense practice based on 90-minute classes at temperatures of 105° or higher.)
Researchers found that increases in core temperature and heart rate were similar for regular yoga and hot yoga, which suggests that the risks associated with hot yoga—heat stroke, exhaustion, and fatal increases in core temperature—are unwarranted.
Where things did differ was in rates of perceived exertion. Hot yoga was perceived as more difficult, but since study data show that the higher temps didn’t send heart rates soaring, this means that participants dialed down their efforts due to the heated environment. So, why pick hot yoga over a more comfortable class? Heat helps loosen your muscles, extends your range of motion, and better situates you to take on more challenging poses, says Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., ACE’s chief science officer.
Still, even though hot yoga has been deemed safe, exercise caution, Bryant warns. If you feel faint, leave the room and go to a cooler area where you can grab some water and cool off with a moist towel. People with cardiovascular conditions, high blood pressure, or diabetes should consult a doctor before jumping on the hot yoga bandwagon.