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When it Comes to Yoga, Some Like it Hot
The recent rise of extreme sports
is transforming exercise and competition. From bungee jumping to parkour to ultimate fighting, the shape of athletics in the 21st century is
trending more and more towards pushing boundaries and maximizing thrills.
Even yoga, long regarded as a low-intensity exercise, is getting an "extreme makeover" as hot versions like Bikram and Moksha are amping up the heat and testing the boundaries of those willing to give it a try. When temperatures climb above 40-degrees Celsius, Bikram studios in particular, challenge both your ability to execute and endure your poses. Heated studios ensure a loose and limber starting point that helps yogis maximize flexibility. But if you have never experienced Bikram and you're considering giving it a test drive, there are a couple of basic facts you need to know first.
To ensure a positive first experience, Damon Davies, an instructor at a local Bikram yoga studio, says it's important to hydrate beforehand as well as bring plenty of water to class. "Don't eat for two to three hours beforehand to avoid stomach cramps, and have an open mind,” he says. “Given that it's hot yoga, it's also a good idea to wear clothing that allows you to move around, with fabric that breathes."
Regarding the heat and its potential to help with greater flexibility, Davies warns about the dangers of not recognizing your body's limits. "Just as with exercise not in the heat, a person can push too hard. The heat is a tool that can assist stretching, so it must be used wisely. A student should never attempt to stretch too far," he advises.
Davies insists he and his fellow instructors always encourage students – new or seasoned – to take breaks whenever they need to by sitting down or resting on their back. "We do encourage students to attempt to stay in the room for the entire duration, but this is mainly to help acclimate faster to the heat." He notes that tell-tale signs of over-exertion include dizziness, a racing heart, and an inability to hold the postures for the full time.
Ewelina Studzinska has practiced Bikram for more than a decade and insists the heat allows her an opportunity to go deeper into her postures. "At the end of a class you leave feeling like a million dollars, all limber and light and physically renewed," she explains.
But she also notes it is essential to know your limits and to remember you don't have to keep up with the rest of the class. "Ultimately, it's not a competition. Rather, the goal of Bikram is to keep your joints lubricated and limber."
If Bikram sounds too intense to you, other hot yoga options are also available. Each studio can offer varying temperatures so it’s important to do your research beforehand.
Ultimately, hot yoga, like Bikram and Moksha, may be an acquired taste, but given the rave reviews from yoga enthusiasts like Studzinska, it’s at least worth a try!
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