Hot yoga -- a variation of hatha yoga, the branch devoted to physical postures or asanas -- was popularized by Bikram Choudhury when he brought his yoga brand to the United States in 1994. Though the two heated practices are different, the terms hot yoga and Bikram are sometimes used interchangeably. The benefits of yoga are well documented, though hot yoga specifically is to be practiced with caution.
Hatha Yoga Benefits
Yoga is a form of strength training that with regular practice can result in increased muscle strength, coordination and flexibility. Yoga is also said to stimulate and massage the lymph system, which speeds up the body's infection-fighting and waste-filtering process. According to a report published by Vanderbilt University, practicing hatha yoga on a regular basis can benefit people with asthma, arthritis and high blood pressure. Hot yoga holds the poses longer, with the participant pushing deeper into stretches. Traditional classes of this brand are known for their "no pain, no gain" mentality, so some critics say hot yoga can lead to overstretched and torn ligaments.
Heat and Muscles
Muscles are less likely to become strained when they're warm, which is why all exercise calls for a warm-up first. The temperature may go up to 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity in a hot yoga studio; these high temperatures are thought to enable the body to be more supple and flexible.
Exert yourself for 90 minutes in a hot room and yes, you'll sweat. Bring a towel or two. Hot yoga enthusiasts say this is one of the benefits of their practice. Sweating, according to Bikram.com, flushes toxins and impurities from the body. Dr. Dee Anna Glaser for The Los Angeles Times says trace amounts of impurities might be released when you sweat, but that heavy sweating can be a bad thing by stressing your kidneys and leading to dehydration if you don't drink enough water to compensate.
Breathing, or pranayama in Sanskrit, is integral to hatha and hot yogas. During a yoga practice, you use diaphragmatic breathing, which links the body's movement with the breath. The practice of conscious inhalation, retention and exhalation is said to increase your body's supply of oxygen and more fully oxygenate the tissues. According to the American Medical Student Association, regular diaphragmatic breathing can increase stamina, increase blood flow and create an overall sense of well being.
Aline Lindemann is a health, food and travel writer. She has also worked as a social worker, preschool teacher and art educator. Lindemann holds a Master of Liberal Studies in culture, health and creative nonfiction writing from Arizona State University.