Exertion in high temperatures may be dangerous for people with certain health conditions, said Diana Zotos, a yoga instructor and physical therapist in the rehabilitation department at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
"If you have sensitivity to heat, if you've ever had heat stroke or tend to get fatigued, dizzy or dehydrated quickly, you should ask your doctor before starting hot yoga," cautioned Zotos in a hospital news release. "Anyone with osteoarthritis, any rheumatologic arthritis, pain in muscles or a joint, or any kind of previous injury should check with their doctor."
Zotos added that anyone with high blood pressure, low blood pressure or heart disease should consult a cardiologist before trying hot yoga.
Even if they don't have an underlying condition, beginners, particularly those older than 40, should take precautions before trying hot yoga.
"Yoga of any type is physically challenging, and the heated environment of hot yoga makes the practice especially demanding," Zotos said. "The heat makes people feel as if they can stretch deeper into poses and can give them a false sense of flexibility. This can lead to muscle strains or damage to the joint, including ligaments and cartilage."
Zotos recommended that anyone new to hot yoga become familiar with the 26 poses used in the classes before they start.
"The heat factor also puts more strain on the heart and challenges endurance. That being said, people should be of good cardiovascular health; have healthy hip, knee, spine and shoulder joints; shouldn't have balance or neurological issues; and should have a general tolerance for excessive heat," she noted. Zotos also offered the following hot yoga tips for beginners:
- Bring a mat, a towel and, if possible, a friend.
- Wear shorts and a tank top.
- Drink plenty of fluids well before class (no coffee or soda).
- Do not consume more than 200 calories two to three hours before class.
- Research the yoga studio and make sure the hot yoga teacher has the proper certification and experience.
- Arrive early to meet the instructor, get settled and adjust to the temperature.
- Start slowly. Do not try poses that are too advanced and do not hold poses beyond what is comfortable or to the point of pain.
- Take breaks when needed.
- Don't get discouraged if you can't reach a pose.
- If necessary, ask questions about how to perform certain poses.
- Stop at the first sign of dizziness, chest pain or feeling faint or overheated. Seek medical assistance if necessary.