There is an ongoing discussion in Yoga as to what temperature the room should be during practice. Some students swear by their hot yoga practice, while others suffer in the heat. Some students crave ventilation while others are wearing several layers. Certainly in our Canberra winters it can be a challenge just to get to room up to ‘room temperature’. And there are the discussions about the ‘detox’ effects of sweating during practice, and the traditional guidelines about minimal perspiration. So, how do you decide how hot or cool to keep your yoga space?
Check Your Dosha
From an Ayurvedic perspective, each unique constitution, or ‘dosha’, has different preferred temperatures. Vata types do best in a warmer environment, free from excessive wind (ie: fans, air con). Pitta types do best with moderate temperature with lots of ventilation. Kapha types fair well in moderate to warm rooms. Which type are you? Check out the Vata, Pitta, and Kapha articles and see what resonates with you.
In colder climates/seasons you might consider warming the room a touch more than usual as it helps to warm the muscles and connective tissues, and this makes for a bit less stiffness. This is also beneficial for students with arthritis.
In warmer climates/seasons, you might stick to room temperature. Resist the urge to practice in air conditioning, as the cool air may cause stiffness the tissues of the body, and the excessive movement of air can be a destabilizing element for some.
On really hot days, take care with a strong practice, when you heat up and can’t cool down this can cause dizziness, difficulty breathing, and even heat stroke.
Style of Practice
You might have noticed in most ‘hot yoga’ styles there isn’t as much Vinyasa (flow) and the postures are held, then there is a rest between. If you are practicing in heat, this might be preferred over doing lots of Sun Salutations in extreme heat. Blood pressure issues are first and foremost when considering whether to heat up your room – the hotter the temperature and the more often you are putting your head below your heart, the greater the risk of increasing blood pressure, or for those with low blood pressure, experiencing dizziness or fainting. If it’s really hot, a steadier practice with rest breaks might be recommended.
I was trained in both Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga, and in both traditions the guidance I received is to practice at ‘room temperature’ and never heat the body to the point where sweat is dripping. So a good glisten tells you that your practice is strong, but dripping sweat is perhaps a sign that your effort is excessive.
Although you can find a lot of websites that tout the benefits of practicing in a hot room, a recent study by the American Council on Exercise was published on the effectiveness of practice yoga in a hot room on calorie burn and found that there was not a significant difference in calories burned between a hot room and a ‘normal’ room.
If weight management is one of your reasons for attending an asana class, it’s nice to know that another study by the American Council on Exercise found that people who practice yoga (any form of yoga) regularly do not gain as much weight year to year as those who do not practice yoga regularly. Why? Well the answer may lie in the mindfulness that comes with you off the mat and into the kitchen.
And, for those of you who love your hot yoga, I have experienced nothing more motivating to eating healthy then having to stare at myself in a mirror for 90 minutes a day in my tiny hot yoga clothes!