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Students love hot yoga because it’s challenging, increases their range of motion, and helps them eliminate toxins in the process of turning their mats into sweaty slip-and-slides. But despite its growing popularity, critics have long warned that practicing yoga in a heated room could potentially be dangerous.
A new study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise found that it is safe to practice yoga in a room heated up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit as long as practitioners stay hydrated. Though, it’s important to note that this study did not test the safety of yoga in hotter rooms, such as the rooms used in Bikram Yoga, a yoga style that heats the room to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
The study measured the core body temperatures of participants after a 60-minute vinyasa yoga class in a 70-degree Fahrenheit room and again in a room heated to between 90 and 95 degrees. At the end of both classes, the students’ core body temperature was in a safe range below 104 degrees Fahrenheit. When a person’s core body temperature reaches 104 degrees, it can lead to heat-related problems and fatigue.
Hydration is key to staying safe in any yoga class, said John Parcari, PhD., the study’s author and head of the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He hypothesized that there was little change in the participants core temperature in the heated class because the students stayed hydrated.
Researchers also looked at the difference in the participants’ heart rates and found little difference between the the heated and non-heated classes. While students felt they were working harder in the heated class, their heart rates indicated otherwise, researchers noted.
“Normally if you go out and walk 3 miles per hour and then you do it again on a day that’s really hot, your heart rate is going to be higher,” Parcari said. “So, because the heart rate was identical, this tells me that somehow people must have down-regulated how hard they were pushing themselves in the heated environment.”
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