Is hot yoga bad for you? And if so, how bad is bad?
Hot yoga boasts many benefits. From increased flexibility and enhanced lung capacity to improved bone density and stress reduction, heightened cardiovascular fitness, muscle recovery, a greater sense of calmness, improved mood, and more.
Yet, many people will claim that hot yoga is bad for you.
And they’re not totally wrong.
Despite the benefits, there are many risks associated with practicing yoga in a hot, humid room (typically 90 to 105 F) – and some are surprising and unexpected. But don’t let this scare you! many are uncommon and can be avoided with some mitigations.
In this article we’re diving into the question ‘Is hot yoga bad for you’. We’ll cover the science behind 10 risks of hot yoga, plus tips for how to minimize them, including:
- Prescription medications
- Muscle Spasms
- . . . and many more!
Is hot yoga bad for you? 10 risks of hot yoga
Hot yoga’s elevated temperature and intense physical exertion are designed to lead to profuse sweating. While the goal is to flush out toxins, this sweating can result in significant fluid loss.
And you guessed it, this is a risk factor for dehydration. With all the exertion and heat, the onset of dehydration can sneak up on you quickly, and this poses various risks.
When dehydration sets in, the body’s blood volume decreases, affecting its ability to regulate temperature. This can lead to symptoms like dizziness, and nausea, and in severe cases, can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.But luckily, this is one of the easiest risks to minimize.
To avoid dehydration, we recommend practitioners should drink water before, during, and after their sessions. And even better than water – try supplementing with electrolyte-rich fluids can also help replenish lost minerals and maintain hydration.
#2: Poor Physical Fitness:
The demanding nature of hot yoga, combined with the high room temperature and humidity, can place a lot of physical stress on even the fittest individuals, let alone those with low levels of physical fitness.
This increased stress may result in various issues including muscle strains, joint injuries, overexertion, and many more.
To mitigate this risk, we recommend that those with lower fitness levels should consider gradually building their stamina and strength through regular yoga practice in a standard-temperature environment before diving into the intensity of a hot yoga room.
When you’re ready to begin with hot yoga, start with beginner-level classes and gradually progress at a manageable pace that lets your body adjust to each intensity notch.
#3: Certain Prescription Medications:
Some medications, such as diuretics and medications that affect thermoregulation, can interfere with the body’s ability to handle the heat, which can be a real problem during hot yoga.
For example, a side effect of many medications is that they also act as diuretics, which can exacerbate fluid loss through increased urination, intensifying the risk of dehydration and associated complications.
To minimize this risk, anyone taking prescription medications should consult their healthcare providers before committing to a hot yoga session.
These professionals can provide really helpful guidance on safe practices when it comes to whether hot yoga is bad for you. In many cases, they may not prohibit hot yoga completely but simply recommend adjusting medication timing or dosage as necessary.
#4: Using Illegal Drugs or Alcohol:
The consumption of illegal drugs or alcohol before a hot yoga session is something to be super wary of, as their ability to impair judgment, coordination, and cognitive function can pose serious risks when practicing hot yoga.
For example, impaired cognitive function may lead to accidents, poor decision-making and poor coordination during the practice that can also put others at risk, as well as yourself.
Furthermore, various substances can disrupt the body’s ability to regulate temperature, making it challenging for the body to acclimatize to the heat and humidity.
To minimize this risk, we recommend that practitioners should avoid from mind-altering drugs and alcohol before hot yoga sessions to ensure they can maintain focus and coordination to keep everyone safe.
#5: Lack of Experience:
Is hot yoga bad for you? Well, if you’re new to hot yoga, the risks are a little higher.
This is because novice practitioners may lack the experience needed to manage the high temperatures and humidity levels in a hot yoga studio. This can lead to discomfort, overheating, exhaustion, or just an unenjoyable time.
Working out in high heat is significantly different from standard indoor exercise, so even if you consider yourself fit and healthy, don’t underestimate hot yoga if you haven’t tried it before.
While most people get along just fine in their first class, it’s essential to listen to the body and prioritize personal comfort and well-being.
For these reasons, we recommend beginners should ease into hot yoga gradually, starting with shorter sessions and taking unembarrassed breaks if it feels necessary. These can help the body adapt to the elevated temperature more effectively.
#6: Pre-existing Conditions:
Pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney problems, and heart issues, can affect an individual’s body in various ways, including the ability to regulate body temperature and blood pressure amongst other things.
These conditions can increase the risk of running into various issues and adverse effects during hot yoga. For example, diabetes can impact blood sugar regulation, while heart problems can affect cardiovascular response to heat.
For individuals with neurological conditions such as migraines or balance and coordination disorders, the combination of heat and physical exertion in hot yoga can also cause problems and exacerbate symptoms.
To minimize this risk, individuals with underlying medical conditions should consult their healthcare providers before attempting hot yoga. Healthcare professionals can offer personalized advice and may recommend specific precautions or modifications to ensure safety during practice.
7: Muscle Spasms:
Dehydration and imbalances in electrolyte levels are a biggie when it comes to the question is hot yoga bad for you?
These factors can contribute to muscle spasms, cramps, and pain during hot yoga. This is because when the body loses excessive fluids through sweating, it can disrupt the normal function of muscle cells and nerve impulses, leading to uncontrolled spasms and cramping.
While these aren’t necessarily dangerous in themselves, they can make you more likely to slip, lose balance, or fall which could cause injury.
But luckily, this can largely be avoided by prioritizing hydration and drinking water before, during, and after hot yoga sessions. Consuming foods or drinks rich in electrolytes, such as potassium and magnesium, is also important to give the body what it needs to prevent muscle imbalances and cramping.
Also, ensuring that you carry out a good warm-up and stretch properly before diving into demanding yoga poses or sequences can also help to reduce the risk of muscle spasms by promoting blood flow and waking up the body.
#8: Cardiovascular Issues:
It’s no surprise that the combination of high temperatures and strenuous physical activity in hot yoga can cause our heart rate and blood pressure to elevate.
This elevation can put additional stress on our cardiovascular system, which can be intense and possibly cause complications, particularly for individuals with pre-existing heart conditions, low fitness levels, or poor general health.
This means that our hearts have to work harder to pump blood to cool the body and support exercise. While uncommon, this can increase the risk of overexertion, palpitations, or even heart attacks in susceptible individuals.
For this reason, those with cardiovascular issues should consult with their healthcare providers before engaging in hot yoga to get some guidance on recommended modifications or advice on alternative forms of exercise that are safer for their condition.
#9: Respiratory Issues:
Up next on ‘Is hot yoga bad for you?’ is the risk of respiratory issues.
Hot yoga studios are characterized by high temperatures and humidity levels, which can pose challenges for individuals with respiratory conditions like asthma. The hot, humid air can trigger or worsen respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath.
To mitigate this risk, we recommend that those with respiratory conditions should choose hot yoga studios with adequate ventilation and inform their yoga instructors about their condition to get advice.
And don’t forget to keep necessary medications, such as inhalers, readily accessible during your classes.
Pregnant individuals are generally advised to avoid activities that can lead to overheating, as it can potentially harm the developing fetus. The high temperatures and intense physical activity in hot yoga may elevate core body temperature to unsafe levels during pregnancy.
Amongst other risks, elevated body temperature during pregnancy has also been shown in studies to increase the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) in the fetus, which are birth defects that affect the brain, spine, or spinal cord, and can cause lifelong disability.
To minimize this risk, we recommend pregnant women should consult with a qualified prenatal yoga instructor for safe pregnancy-specific yoga practices, and avoid hot yoga, especially in the early stages of pregnancy.
Now that you know a little more about why some people claim hot yoga is bad for you, why not check out our other hot yoga guides: