Decide whether turning up the heat on your yoga workout is the best thing for your body.
It's easy to fall prey to the thought that hot yoga is a better workout than regular yoga. You sweat more, so you have to burn more calories. You're pushing your body harder, so that has to bring faster results. Heat is detoxing, so you have to feel much more refreshed after a hot yoga workout. All fair points, but to tell you the truth, none of them bear too much weight.
If you are thinking about turning the heat up on your yoga workouts (up to 105 degrees and 40-60% humidity), good for you! An extra challenge could be just the thing you need to bust through your plateau and leave you feeling sweaty, yet accomplished. Here are some real benefits to working this type of yoga into your practice and some potential drawbacks to consider before jumping headfirst into the heat.
The higher the temperature and humidity, the more fluid your body will feel. You will be able to reach farther, stretch deeper, and push yourself harder as you increase your flexibility and range of motion. You may find yourself easily bending into a backbend when you normally can't get yourself all the way upside down.
A lot of people choose hot yoga over regular yoga because of the extra push. You will get your heart pumping for longer and harder, edging the workout closer to a cardio-type of exercise than a relaxing yoga stretch sequence.
Your bodily stress may increase in the heat, but your mental stress will slide right off of your shoulders and into the growing pool of sweat below you. The heat will force you to focus on your workout alone and leave everything else at the door. This streamlined focus can push you forward into a more calm state of mind. You won't feel so scattered and overwhelmed by external elements. Similar to entering a sauna, the steamy heat will instantly slow you down and pull you out of the day's stressors.
You don't want to speed past "challenging" and find yourself in "taxing." The sweltering heat might stifle you into low blood pressure, dizziness, and/or nausea. This might not have anything to do with your physical strength, but instead help you realize that exercising in this heat is not what's best for your body. You may not need to sweat this much in order to detox your body and enjoy the post-workout glow.
Have I mentioned that you will sweat a lot? Oh, yes I guess I have. Well, this much sweat means you must hydrate before, during, and after your hot yoga workout. Without enough water, you will quickly become dehydrated and might suffer from muscle cramps, headaches, and even fainting.
While the extra stretch and flexibility in your hot yoga flow is a definite pro, it can also lead to a potential con. It's more possible for you to push yourself too deep into a pose and stretch past your limits, which will lead to an injury. You may not feel it during class, but the strain might present itself after your body cools down. Be aware of your limits in a cooler room so that you can be careful not to reach too far past that normal stretch.