The Benefits of Hot YogaJanuary 3, 2011
In this technological maelstrom of fast food and even quicker fixes, the growing practice of yoga continues to offer shelter from the constant barrage of hustle and bustle. Even those who don’t practice yoga, have at least heard that it may be good for them; whether or not they have the energy or believe enough to commit to laying on a mat once a week is a whole seperate matter. Our Western medicine, has yet to fully incorporate yoga and other alternative therapies for that matter including pilates, acupuncture, aromatherapy etc. and the beliefs in treating the symptom rather than the human being and popping pills as a cure-all continues to prevail. Despite this there have been studies conducted that have affirmed the viability of yoga as a healing mechanism that can assist with terminal diseases, psychological issues, depression, anxiety, reducing blood pressure, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, fatigue, cholesterol, maintaining blood sugar levels, insomnia, increasing muscle strength and respiratory endurance, and the list goes on.
Some of these studies were chronicled in a Time Magazine article I stumbled upon “The Power of Yoga”:
- 2009 a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health studied a group of adolescent girls, some with bulimia and others with anorexia; one group had regular treatment, and the other treatment and regular yoga. The findings showed that the girls not in the yoga group were more likely to have symptoms return at the end of the treatment period.
- 1998 Dr. Ralph Schumacher at UPENN School of Medicine along with yoga instructor Marian Garfield published their findings on the study of patients with carpal tunnel syndrome in the Journal of American Medical Association basically summing up that ” a yoga regimen is more effective than wrist splinting or no treatment in relieving signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.”
- 1990 patients with heart disease were prescribed a vegetarian low fat diet and yoga regimen. At the completion of the study it was found that their cholesterol levels were about the same as if they had taken cholesterol lowering drugs. A follow up report was published in 1998 in the American Journal of Cardiology showing that 80% of the patients were able to avoid bypass by maintaining their prescribed lifestyle changes.
As much as the Western medical world tends to avoid prescription of yoga, for now the testimonies of regular practitioners continue to point to yoga as a viable option. Tonya Zavasta, one of my Anti-aging Sheroes has two titanium hips and through the regular practice of hot yoga and consumption of raw foods, she not only healed herself, she’s also more flexible than the average person with hip bones in tact.
Hot yoga has a long list of benefits, many of which perfectly compliment a raw or vegan lifestyle, because of course all true “yogis” are vegetarians and observe nonviolence and incorporate all five principles of yoga into their lifestyle including proper diet. Some of these benefits include:
- Release of built up bodily toxins. Yoga practice stimulates and promotes the drainage of our lymphatic system which carries the waste from cellular activities.
- Improvement of flexibility and range of motion.
- Increased weight loss and muscle toning. (One of the only workouts that makes me believe attaining Michelle Obama arms is possible.)
- Builds up the immune system and reduces the symptoms of chronic illness.
- Improves blood circulation.
- Promotes healing through relaxing and centering of the mind or mental chatter. As our heart beat slows, and we breathe at a slower rate, our blood pressure also drops, and the body literally goes into healing mode. Not to mention it’s also easier to be warriors in our daily lives when our minds aren’t going helter-skelter.
So why isn’t the use of yoga as a healing modality studied more or prescribed for that matter? There’s no money in it. At least not for the insurance companies or the pharmaceutical industry that usually profits from studies that confirm viable use of a range of medications. These days, it is up to us, the consumers, to take ownership of our health before we become a part of the machine that continues to feed the greed of capitalists who have no concern for America’s well being.
Last year I took on the regular practice of hot yoga in a big way, and then unfortunately I was in a car accident that led me to go through physical therapy pretty much the last half of the year. To my dismay, part of my prescription was absolutely no yoga, because it could aggravate the healing of my neck and back. With the help of ongoing pilates classes and physical therapy sessions, raindrop therapy sessions, and advice from holistic practitioners for natural alternatives to taking my prescribed blood thinning medications (ew), I am ecstatic to say that my back is finally healed! During that time I did visit my doctor, but when I mentioned some of the alternative therapies to him, I remember him actually chuckling to himself and saying some version of “Yea, whatever…” and then handing me a prescription for a high dose of pain killers. Thank heavens, I stuck to my guns and followed my instincts.
To celebrate, on New Years Day, I got down and got sweaty with two hours of Hot Yoga, and seriously felt like new money afterwards. For all of you that cringe at the thought of stretching in a sauna-like room, I feel you. I tried Bikram at one point and I used to want to run out of the room screaming. Bikram is however, an entirely different practice. It was founded in 1974 by Bikram Choudhury and classes incorporate specialized breath exercises. Hot yoga is practiced in a heated room, with the temperature set anywhere from 80-105 degrees. Some versions of hot yoga are practiced in the hatha style of yoga, my studio teaches the vinyasa flow style of yoga (my favorite) in a heated room. When I started to practice Hot Yoga, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the room was a little cooler and more manageable for me than Bikram. The temperature was hot enough to get a deeper stretch, but not so hot that you might hurl. Whether you choose to get down with the down dog in a hot room, in your bedroom, or in a quiet studio, the time is now. Everyone can benefit from a little asana in their lives and I hope you will find what works with you and get moving. Namaste. -XoXo Raw Girl
For more on the 5 Principles of Yoga, check out this previous post: