Hot yoga classes are soaring in popularity. Lady Gaga, Madonna and other celebrities swear by it. So do legions of yoga practitioners. But is exercising in extreme heat and humidity healthful? Consumer Reports medical experts have a caution.
Julianne Pepe has been taking traditional yoga classes like this one for years. But then she decided to try a Bikram hot yoga class.
Pepe said, “During the class I felt lightheaded, fatigued, weak.”
Normally, Julianne feels energized after class, but not after hot yoga.
Pepe said, “I was completely exhausted, just depleted.”
Julianne had taken a Bikram yoga class like this one, which requires heat of at least 105 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity around 40 percent.
Consumer Reports Dr. Orly Avitzur suspects Julianne became dehydrated and was beginning to suffer heat exhaustion.
Dr. Orly Avitzur, Consumer Reports says, “While there is little specific research on hot yoga, we do know that exercising in extreme heat can cause a number of uncomfortable and even dangerous symptoms.”
Some warning signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke are
feeling lightheaded or dizzy or experiencing nausea or muscle cramps.
“If you suffer more serious symptoms either during or after class such as unusual weakness, fever, vomiting, or confusion, you should go to your nearest emergency room.” said Dr. Avitzur.
Bikram practitioners say the high temperature and humidity promote health. Studio owner Rich Pike says he hasn’t had complaints of heat exhaustion and touts the benefits.
“Heat allows you to bend safely and be more flexible. What the sweating does is it eliminates toxins through your sweat.” said studio owner Rich Pike.
“While the heat may help you stretch further, it can also cause you to overstretch, leading to possible joint or muscle damage.” said Dr. Avitzur.
Whatever exercise you do, stop if you feel pain or heat exhaustion. And be sure always to drink plenty of water.
If you do yoga, hot or otherwise, Consumer Reports says there are steps you can take to avoid picking up viruses or bacteria. Bring your own mat and towels. Cover any cuts or scrapes with a bandage and use alcohol wipes to wipe down mats and other surfaces