A Warning About Bikram Hot Yoga & Electrolyte Depletion

Sweating is natural, but loosing excessive fluids and electrolytes is unhealthy.
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Bikram yoga has become a popular practice. It's known as hot yoga because it is preformed in studios heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. While Bikram yoga devotees sing the praises of the benefits of practicing yoga in a sweltering setting -- such as improving circulation and joint mobility, enhancing stretching capabilities and flushing toxins from the body -- it is a practice that must be performed with caution.

Importance of Electrolytes

Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals such as calcium, sodium and potassium that your body needs in order to function properly. Medline Plus reports that you take in electrolytes from foods and fluids you ingest. Your body needs the right balance of electrolytes -- not too much or too little -- for your brain to operate, your muscles to move and your organs to work correctly.

Sweating and Electrolyte Depletion

Sweating is your body's natural defense against overheating. When you sweat excessively, such as when exerting yourself in a super-hot environment when performing Bikram yoga, you lose more fluids and electrolytes than is normal or healthy. Undue mineral and fluid loss can lead to a dangerous heat crisis.

Symptoms of a Heat Crisis

Attending a hot yoga class without taking precautions can lead to dehydration and eventually a heat crisis such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Pay attention to your body while practicing Bikram yoga so that you are aware of the symptoms of a heat emergency. Medline Plus breaks the symptoms down into early symptoms (profuse sweating, fatigue, thirst and muscle cramping) and later symptoms (headache, dizziness, weakness and nausea) of heat exhaustion. If you ignore these initial symptoms, you run the risk of experiencing heatstroke which can bring on fever, seizures, unconsciousness and potentially death.

Treatment and Prevention

Participating in a Bikram yoga class doesn't mean a guaranteed health emergency. Many people practice hot yoga without any adverse symptoms or effects, but that is because they take preventative measures and listen to their bodies, acting when noticing even a slight abnormality. In her article for "Yoga Journal" Shari Waxman lists things you can do to ensure a safe experience with Bikram yoga including drinking plenty of water before, during and after class and to avoid wearing clothing that is too concealing as it may inhibit your body's ability to release heat. If you notice that you have signs of an impending heat crisis, leave the classroom, if possible, and lie down, elevating your feet about 12 inches. Medline Plus also advises that you apply cool, wet cloths to your skin, drink water or electrolyte-supplemented sports beverages and massage any muscles that may be experiencing cramps.

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