What are the benefits and risks of hot yoga?

A lot of my friends are into hot yoga. Are there benefits to heating up? What about risks?

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Tanya Edwards, M.D.
ABOUT THE EXPERT

Tanya Edwards, M.D.

A family physician, Dr. Tanya Edwards is passionate about using nutrition for the prevention and treatment of chronic illness.  She... Read more

Hot yoga, or Bikram yoga, which is named for the Indian yogi Birkram Choudhury, who popularized the practice some 40 years ago, involves a series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises that are done in a room where the temperature is around 105 degrees and has 40 percent humidity. The claim is that the heat helps facilitate a deeper stretching with less chance of injury. The belief is also that hot yoga restores health to every joint, muscle and organ. Many of my patients say they love it. Research is mixed regarding the benefits of heat or stretching an exercise-induced muscle injury. It’s also not uncommon to have side effects, with dizziness and nausea being the two most common ones reported. If you’re already pretty fit and healthy, then Bikram yoga is probably a safe workout as long as you make it a point to hydrate before, during and afterward. On the other hand, if you have any medical conditions where strenuous activity is discouraged, such as uncontrolled high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, obesity or pregnancy, then this isn’t the workout for you.

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